Thursday, June 25, 2009

St Mary’s and Holy Cross

Here’s a little look into the premises of the 2 after-school programs we’re working with. First is St Mary’s Day Care Centre. I've talked a little about them in my last post, but here's a little more official description from the centre:

There are 87 children between ages 6 to 18 at present. The children are with the Centre for about 10 years and the secret of the Centre’s success is that they remain in its care for so long. They are selected from the most under-privileged homes and are provided with a second home in which love, care, food and warmth are provided. Most come from homes where the only income is a child support grant, a disability grant or grandparent’s pension. Most are poorly fed at home, live in crowded conditions and have alcoholic parents who have no time for their children. A growing number have been physically and sexually abused. Almost all of the children at the Centre are affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic with either a family member who has contracted the disease or has died as a result of it. A smaller minority of our children are also HIV positive.
The children arrive between 7:00 and 8:00 am each school day and immediately wash, tidy up and change into school uniforms and shoes which the Centre provides. After a nourishing breakfast they go to school and return for a nutritious lunch, organized afternoon activities and supervised homework. After a snack at 4pm they return to their own homes. It is firmly believed that children should continue to be part of their families despite alcoholism, poverty and all the other disadvantages. We do not want to alienate them from their roots and
The Centre was established in 1982, and approximately half of the income comes from Kindernothilfe, an organization whose funds come from ordinary German Christian families. The balance has to be privately raised.

View from the front

View of a bit of the township from the main doors

These are some of the many kids whom I got to know and who motivated me to come back!

The second is the Holy Cross After-school Program of Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery (more pics from their website). When I first got to Grahamstown in 2007, I thought it was a little town, only because all the ‘essentials’ for a student were within walking distance. In time, there was a lot more to my new home that I discovered. The Mariya Monastery is one of many hidden gems that I wish I knew about earlier. The drive takes a bit of effort in itself by car, but it’s because this haven is tucked away in a little valley away from the city centre. The absolute definition of a sanctuary, this space immediately fills you with smiles, sunshine and peace as soon as you walk in. Run by about 7 Benedictine Anglican Brothers, the monastery also has a guesthouse as they continue centuries of tradition in welcoming all who pass their way. In 2005, the Brothers saw a need within the rural community and focused on the children in nearby farms. Thus, the after-school program began as a way to allow the kids to catch-up in their studies and offered them a true opportunity to succeed in the classroom. Right now, there are 16 kids in the program. (The inequality in the education system is something I’ll have to get into another time).

Here are a few pictures of the monastery grounds from their website, so you get a little idea where we are!

Main entrance

Kid you not, view from the grounds

Hills and valleys...

Some of the kids!

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