Background

Our children reside in the local Township, Smutsville, situated on the periphery of Sedgefield on the Garden Route.  The Township has many troubling issues. Many homes are ‘shack dwellings’ with no services, clean water, sewage system, electricity etc. The effects of HIV/Aids, TB and drink / drug abuse is devastating. Education is problematic and a gang ‘culture’ is often a way of life.

 

Through this Learning Centre, we are able to discover and promote each child’s individuality and talents we enable them to become successful, employable members of society. 

 

The Rondevlei Learning Centre is the perfect place to facilitate this learning process. The Centre is located at the old Rondevlei Primary School and although it had been standing vacant for almost 4 years, and was run down we were convinced that it was perfect.  The school is a farm school owned by the Anglican Church and is surrounded by farms and SAN Parks,  (South African National Parks) making it perfect for our kids.  Negotiation began and we opened our doors and hearts on 14 January 2019.    

Vision

To provide alternate and stimulating forms of education to children struggling with mainstream education by fueling each child's creativity, individuality and talents. It is our mission to create the perfect environment where children develop their own solutions, are excited about the curriculum, grow their imagination, towards a better future for themselves.  

Why we do what we do

While working in Sedgefield Primêre School over the past 4 years, we discovered that many children were unable to learn and cope with mainstream education. 
This is due to many factors, like;

 

  • Overcrowding in classrooms.

  • Children with learning challenges being left behind with almost no chance of catching up, and may drop out.

  • Children graduate to the next grade due to their age or laws and not merit, and fall further behind.

  • Children coming from abusive and dysfunctional homes.

  • Children living on or below the poverty line.

  • Children suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome and drug syndrome.

  • Schools for children with special needs have long waiting lists and it’s virtually impossible for them to be accepted or the cost of transport to an appropriate educational facility is prohibitive.

  • Children are under nourished and not well cared for which compounds their problems. Some are HIV positive.
     

Simply put, we know we can and do make a difference to children at risk and if we don’t do it, too many will simply fall through the cracks.

What we Do

All of our children come from disadvantaged and/or dysfunctional homes.  Most suffer from at least one of the following; foetal alcohol syndrome, drug syndrome, physical and sexual abuse, HIV and malnutrition. They are not able to learn or cope in mainstream education.  We therefore teach them practical skills like gardening, cooking, art, music etc.  Our volunteer remedial reading teacher takes each child one on one and goes back to the basics.  We teach them basic computer use but more importantly, we use computers and technology as tools to teach.    We have an awesome team of volunteers who either assist in classes or spend fun time with the children dancing, singing, reading, yoga etc.   We use all manner of educational games and tools and hope to make each child a happy, stable and employable adult. 
 

Each child gets three healthy meals a day.

 

Until recently the children were collected every morning and dropped off in the afternoon.  This was because we only have space for 9 children (in 2 cars).  Our hostel opened on 4 November 2019, so now the children are transported to school on a Monday & they return home on Friday.  In 2020 we will gradually take on extra children up to our capacity of 20 children. 

 

While the above explains physically what we do, we believe more than anything that we offer LOVE & HOPE !

Do we make a difference?

YES! Many things indicate we are, for example:

  • One of our little boys attended our computer classes at the primary school in 2017 and we thought he had not made any progress (he suffers from drug syndrome).  When we started computers in January this year he was asked to assist the new children as a method of building his confidence and giving him some sense of importance.  Only when we compared him to the new children did we realize just how much he had learnt.  So while he was very far behind his peers in 2017 he had moved forward! We rejoiced!  But that’s not all.  This beautiful child really has it hard.  He is beaten, abused, goes without food, his clothes are seldom washed and is HIV positive.  Yet with love he is transforming and growing and becomes more and more confident every day.  A child who was once on the side-line, silent, introverted and appeared unteachable, perhaps even unreachable, is engaged, talkative, beginning to read and a good brother figure to his younger peers.

  • One of our girls started with us for the first time this year.  She came to us malnourished, very shy, quiet and withdrawn.  She seldom looked one in the eyes and spoke in a whisper if at all.  She is now the class clown and a real tomboy!  She prefers playing with the boys, regales us with stories including different voices for effect and loves imitating all sorts of people.  She often has us all belly laughing.  Her skin and hair are so much healthier but she is still very thin (she eats like a horse!) – We are on a mission to remedy this!  Her health has always been a big worry and she was instrumental in pushing us forward and opening our hostel at all costs.

  • Another young man of 11 comes from a loving and good foster home.  While we have not had a full assessment done on him it appears he has severe FAS and more.  He is mixing with the wrong crowd and we strongly believe that he runs drugs after school and weekends.  Social services (DSD) has been involved but has not made any progress as yet.  He is incredibly honest and admits to smoking cigarettes and marijuana. He has an incredibly loving heart but anger management issues.  He has a fantastic general knowledge while being unable to read or even recognise numbers.   His foster father agrees that our hostel is possibly his last chance and if not helped will almost certainly land in jail.  Our journey with him is hard but along the way we discovered that he has a natural talent to play drums (we have a donated set).  We are currently trying to find someone to nurture this talent and thereby ensure that he does not follow his current path to addict and/or criminal.

  •  Each child has been allocated a cash account with records kept in a book.  At the start each child had to indicate what they were saving for and this was written in their ledger.  They are saving for; shoes, clothing, toiletries, and bikes.  They are rewarded R10 every Monday if they have 100% attendance for the previous week and have completed their chores well (the children are responsible for cleaning certain areas of the school daily).  Funds are deducted for bad behaviour.  Given the option to draw their funds for a shopping day, 7 out of 9 voted to continue saving.  For any child of this age this is amazing and yes we were so proud!

  • As Ascension Day is not an official public holiday but most schools close, we asked our children to decide.  7 out of 9 voted to come to school and 8 arrived on the day.  All those who attended school got a R5 bonus in their account.

  • Because our children cannot read or write well we do not do any written tests.  However during the 2nd term they were given a verbal test where 25 questions were asked relating to what they had learned since January.  Each child was given an opportunity to answer and they could deliberate amongst themselves.  They answered 24 correctly. 

 

One needs to understand that many of these children were basically written off and most had already given up on themselves.  Each week we make a little more progress, not just with our children but also on the property. 

Our successes inspire us and our community and we believe we are going from strength to strength.

Our Achievements so Far

  • In 2017 we began fundraising and raised enough funds to purchase much needed furniture, kitchen equipment, classroom furniture, garden tools etc from a college that closed down. 

  • In 2018 we opened and ran a charity shop to continue raising funds to repair and ready the school grounds and buildings.

  • We cleared a large portion of the garden at the school and began vegetable and flower gardens.

  • In 2019 so far we have completed renovations on 5 classrooms.  One became the school kitchen and the other a fully equipped classroom.  Another has become a fully equipped house mother’s flatlet.  Our other two classrooms have become a girls and boys dormitory. 

  • Built veggie gardens and used our produce.  We plan to sell our produce in the near furure as well.

  • Re-erected a nursery for our plants.

  • Installed a borehole & pump.

  • Paved pathways that were hardly navigable.

  • Purchased enough paint to paint the school inside and out.

  • Repaired all the toilets.

  • Converted old toilets into storerooms.

None of the above would have been possible without the help from our Heavenly Father.  At one stage our bank balance was less than R5000, we believed our hostel would not open until sometime in 2020.  Not long afterwards we got two great donations of non-perishable food and an anonymous donor cover most material costs of the house mothers flatlet.  Hands and Heart provided the labour and Garald the expertise.  The Lions Club of Sedgefield donated a gas geyser.   We call it GODCOIN!
 

Is it always moonshine and roses?

 

Most certainly not!  We have to deal with all manner of things and can end the day physically and emotionally exhausted.  When things have gone wrong at home we see it play out at school.  Bursts of anger are common.  Even the smallest girl is ready with her fists.  Hurting animals is also common with most being taught that animals are only good for protection, food or money (dog fighting).  Our children have often come to school in summer clothes on a cold winter’s morning or in clothes that are torn and dirty.  We have clothes for them at school but cannot send them home as they are sold for drugs and alcohol.  We worry about weekends and holidays because we know they don’t eat as well. We worry that those on chronic and HIV medication aren’t getting what they need when they need it.  We worry that they spend too much time on the street even late into the night.  We worry about those in abusive homes.  But while there is always worry and concern, it simply cements the fact that we are doing the RIGHT thing and have faith in our journey.

Long Term Goals and Needs

 Long term Goal: While our hostel accommodates our children from Monday to Friday we find some children do not want to go home on weekends and we will soon be faced with the first school holidays after opening the hostel.   We are also fully aware that we are not able to extend our hours as this will certainly result in burn-out.  We would one day like to have a cottage on the school grounds (either a mobile home or old site office and convert it into accommodation) that could house weekend and school holiday ‘parents’.  This would only be for those children not wishing to go home.

  • What do we need?
     

  •  As an NGO and non-profit organisation, we are dependent on  donations - gifts; time; money.  We are also proactive in raising funds commercially.  We have a veggie garden and will soon sell our organic veggies to our community.  We receive donations of clothes, household goods, furniture etc, which we sell if we cannot use it (with permission from the donor).
     

  • Our needs through 2019 have changed as we progressed with our renovations to the property.  We were very blessed with donations of materials, labour and funds to see our vision of a hostel become a reality. 
     

  • Our greatest needs in order of importance are:

    • Funds to continue to run the school and hostel

    • To get our playing fields (or should we say weed fields) levelled and grassed so the children can play freely without disappearing down a mole hole or can run barefoot without stepping in thorns.

    • A cottage to house care givers for weekends and holidays.