When you visit a squatter settlement in South Africa, you immediately realize how devastatingly unfair the world can be, especially for kids. These communities can stretch on for miles and contain thousands of children — all of them at risk for HIV/AIDS, TB, abuse, malnutrition, poverty and hopelessness.
It would be easy for ER’s South Africa staff, volunteers and partners to be overwhelmed by the scale of the need. Yet the size of the challenge has instead driven our team to think more creatively and strategically.
Could we give these kids a real chance to break out of the vicious cycle in which they tumble? Could we provide enough nutrition, security and structured early- and after-school learning opportunities to allow them to prosper? Do we dare dream that their lives will be filled with hope and tangible opportunities for a better life?
Yes, Yes, and Yes!
We are pleased to announced that our dreams are turning into reality with the launch of the ER South Africa Dream Centre near Cape Town. The Dream Centre will serve alongside God’s Little Lighthouse (GLL), with support from ER partner ATAIM, to provide a safe early and primary learning environment for children at risk for falling behind academically. We want to help children learn to dream big dreams and reach their potential.
“The Dream Centre is a dream come true for ER as well, as for the parents and kids we serve,” said ER President and CEO Jerry Carnill. Although the need is great, we have the right staff in place and a strong legacy to follow. This will be life changing for everyone involved.”
Currently, kids fall behind as they leave GLL to attend a local public school. Now the Dream Centre will provide a safe after-school tutoring and homework help program to enable these kids to succeed academically. The Dream Centre also will partner with schools and parents to ensure the children remain on course with his or her academic studies and provide opportunities for them to develop their talents.
The Little Things Matter
Take the example of Mbali* a very quiet and shy little girl. The youngest of four children, her parents have struggled recently with the loss of a job and had to move into Masiphumelele. At the beginning of the school year, it was obvious that Mbali needed glasses. During story time, she would squint and eventually lose interest in the story. She could not color in the lines or print her name. Teachers sent several notes home, but there just wasn’t money to have her eyes checked.
That’s when ATAIM, GLLH teachers and ER worked together to get her an eye exam. Now Mbali has some wonderful glasses that help her see things more clearly. Her school work improved immediately and she no longer struggles to see. Caring teamwork gave Mabil a chance for a better future.
To get started, the Dream Center will focus on meeting the needs of 15 children from the nearby settlement of Masiphumelele. The kids are mostly older children who attended God’s Little Lighthouse, so they are familiar with ER staff and volunteers. They are primed and ready to learn.
Funding the Dream Centre After-School Program
A new report from researchers at the University of San Francisco reveals that sponsored children are more likely to graduate both secondary school and college, have salaried employment and be leaders in their communities. Sponsorship makes children 27%-40% more likely to complete secondary school and 50%-80% more likely to complete a university education.
This is why The Dream Centre name is so appropriate. You see, poverty causes children to have low self-esteem and aspirations. But a scholarship helps expand children’s views about their own possibilities. With education, we help each child realize he or she is a special gift that can benefit their community, and we encourage them to develop aspirations for their future.
Child sponsorship appears to be the great equalizer in education. In areas where outcomes are worse, such as sub-Saharan Africa, impacts are greater. So we’re pleased to announce the introduction of the Extreme Kids South Africa Scholarship Fund. The fund allows donors to personally impact the future of an at-risk child by providing a scholarship by requiring only small monthly donations.
For just $20 per month, you can provide a scholarship for the children at The Dream Centre or God’s Little Lighthouse. These funds primarily provide school supplies, a safe after-school environment and nutritious snacks. You’ll find complete details on the Scholarship program here, including a helpful FAQ.
Would you consider funding a scholarship for one of these children? Your gift will impact a child for a lifetime, and possibly generations beyond. Click here to donate to the Extreme Kids South Africa Scholarship Fund.
Click here to see a short video of the Dream Centre’s foundation being poured in February 2016.
*Mbali’s name was changed in this article as a matter of privacy.
Amy and Ron Townsend work at God’s Little Lighthouse on loan from Extreme Response. The Townsends and their three daughters, Emily, Hannah and Sarah, recently moved to South Africa to help Extreme Response establish a regional presence. Click here to learn more about Extreme Response’s vision helping people in Africa.