August 21, 2012

Returning to A.V. Bukani Primary School!

We are so excited to return to A.V. Bukani for our 4th volunteer visit to this wonderful school and the township it serves. This year it will be only Eileen and Larry, but the impact of the work by Sara, Alex and Cecily on our last visit will certainly be felt.

We are looking forward to seeing the library in action. We have had reports that it is being used by teachers in some classes. We hope to build on this and, maybe even see an outgrowth into the community. We know that is what the principal would like to do. However, there are always significant issues such as no staff available to serve as librarians.  When a teacher is not in the classroom, there aren't funds for substitute teachers. So it is challenging to add a duty onto a teacher's full plate (and full class of 50-60 students!)

One of the many life lessons we have learned in our work in South Africa is that we cannot take for granted that things will "work" as we envision them. The infrastructure just doesn't exist or the challenges are too great. We think of the year that we returned, hoping that there would be internet connections in the updated computer lab. But what we saw was that the basic telephone lines to the entire township had been cut for the copper and no one had any phone service for four months. The line had been repaired once, but quickly cut again. Eventually service was restored. Yes, some individuals had cell phone service, but they needed the money to pay for "airtime," which was sold by the minute. The principal kept the school running with two personal cell phones, with airtime he purchased himself.

In the U.S., we get frustrated by sitting in traffic; in S.A., they deal with lack of dependable transportation with far fewer complaints. They simply do what they can -- walk miles to get what they need  if the bus doesn't show up -- or make do with what they have.  It's a hard life in many ways, particularly in terms of health care. We know that some of the people we are closest to are very ill. We are steeling ourselves for what we will see when we arrive, knowing that two years is a long time to be away. Every year, the teachers and our friends there went to multiple funerals during our three-week stay. AIDS and other illnesses, including diabetes, take a huge toll.

We have utmost respect and admiration for the people who work to improve the lives of the South Africans day-in and day-out.  There is an undergirding belief that things will eventually work out for the best, if you just keep at it.  We are so privileged to work with these people. Paul Mediema of Calabash Trust is one of the most ethical people we know, and we are so proud to work with him in South Africa. What a gift this work is to us.

We thank our many supporters on this journey. We'll be posting from South Africa on the weekends.