August 1, 2009

It feels like we never left

We arrived safety in South Africa, and equally important, our luggage did too! After a night in Johannesburg, we flew into Port Elizabeth this morning and it feels like we never left. Met at the airport by Nelson, one of our favorite staff members at Calabash Tours. Nelson grew up in a nearby township and chooses to live there now because he would miss the special culture if he lived in the city. I'm looking forward to talking with him about the parent involvement project to gain his insights.

We're staying for the weekend at 5th Avenue Beach house, a few blocks from the beatiful beach. This is where many of the volunteers placed by Calabash Tours stay. Those who work in schools in Port Elizabeth stay here for 3-4 weeks. For us, it is our weekend retreat. We enjoy spending time with Anthea, the owner, who not only helps the volunteers who stay here, she is also supporting another school in Port Elizabeth. Nelson is picking us early Monday morning to take us out to the school before the first bell rings. "It will be quite a reunion," he notes.

July 30, 2009

Returning to South Africa!

Larry and Eileen are returning to South Africa for the first 3 weeks of August. Although Sara cannot return this year because of work commitments, she's been instrumental in planning. So much has happened since we were there:

* A new computer lab was donated by a local business. Students as well as teachers are getting computer training, thanks to donations which are supporting a teacher. A big thank you to Burness Communications for helping the part-time teacher become full time.

* We're returning with two large duffel bags full of materials to help with English instruction! Educational publisher Developmental Studies Center in California donated multiple kits for literacy instruction -- complete with books for the students and teachers' manuals with lesson plans for an entire year! Other donations enabled us to purchase "big books" for "read aloud" instruction and accompanying smaller books for the students. Larry will be using the materials to demonstrate new strategies for the teachers.

* The students should now be enjoying the set of picture books we sent. With wonderful donations from friends and colleagues we were able to order a complete set of books for South African students by South African authors through South Africa partners.

* Eileen will be bringing a new parent engagement strategy to the school, based on "Tellin' Stories" developed by Teaching for Change. The families will create a quilt together, with each family showing their hopes and dreams for their children on their own square. During the quilt making sessions, families and teachers will gain new insights from each other, enabling them to partner in student success.

We're off!!! We'll update each weekend.