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Meeting the children we sponsor in South Africa - a memory which will last forever, by Gerry and Heather
15 Dec 2015
Looking to sponsor a child in Africa, top of a Google search came SOS Africa and within minutes I was convinced this was what I was looking for. Having worked in a township children's home in South Africa many years ago, I have an affinity with this beautiful but challenged country and the opportunity to sponsor an individual child from a similar background was for me, ideal.
A quick phone call later, Matt (incidentally, how many charities enable individual sponsors to speak to the director so easily) introduced me to Whynolan, then a seven year old boy in the Western Cape project. Over the following months, I really enjoyed receiving regular up-dates on his progress. Not only that, the children’s blogs are great at keeping everyone aware and up-to-date with what all the children are doing on a regular basis.
I certainly didn't imagine that in a little under 18 months I would meet Whynolan in person. The opportunity arose as part of a road trip to South Africa that I had planned. Heather had also started sponsoring a child from the same project, eight year old Elvino.
So, how did the visit go? What a sheer delight it was. Not wishing to interfere with the afternoon's activities, we were nevertheless given a warm welcome by all the children who sang, danced and lined up to present hand crafted flowers they had made along with a short, well-rehearsed individual message in English, not their first language. Our own small gifts of stationery were very well received, particularly the bench pencil sharpener, difficult to obtain we were told and top of the request list.
Anna introduced us to Madeleine and classroom assistants Abigail and Erica and we watched for a while as they engaged the children in learning and play, before we were encouraged to mingle and talk with them. Heather was particularly touched that Elvino's parents had made the effort to attend to thank her in person for the support given to their son.
Initial shyness at two strangers entering their classroom was overcome and in no time; several of the boys were showing off their martial arts moves and Heather had been dressed in a cloak and crown for some role play! We both managed to have one-to-one chats with our respective sponsored children and were treated to coffee (made by the children) and biscuits.
Anna's enthusiasm for the project shone through and it was lovely to see the interaction between staff and children in a safe learning environment. The dedication of Madeleine and her team was plain to see, as was the affection the children have for them. The children were obviously thriving and it was great to witness at first-hand what our sponsorship money was helping to provide. A few photos rounded off our visit before everyone left for the day, the children in their own transport provided by the project.
The visit really was one of the highlights of our trip and the memories will last forever. It was a real privilege to visit and we would thoroughly recommend anyone given the opportunity, to do the same. You'll be warmly welcomed by everyone. You'll also be delighted, charmed and humbled in equal measure with what you'll witness in this corner of the Western Cape.
Gerry and Heather (SOS Africa Child Sponsors since May 2014)
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