First Impressions From SA: New Friends

By Mary Veltman 
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Mary Veltman is a short-term volunteer from Michigan who recently arrived in South Africa where she is serving at ER’s South Africa Dream Centre near Cape Town. Read her blog titled “New Friends”.

It was mind blowing to hear how some of the children have grown in the last nine months of the school year. Children who could hardly say the alphabet in January now have completed the 100- book reading challenge! Children who were withdrawn are now bubbly and full of laughter. I can’t wait to see the growth this next term brings.

These children are so full of life. This doesn’t always connect in my brain because, at the tender ages of 6-9, they have experienced so much hardship and yet can be so full of joy. As I learn more about each child, my heart is torn between aching for the things they have experienced and rejoicing for the healing that is taking place.

These children are inspiring. They are in the beginning stages of changing their futures. They are fighting for a better world. They growing and learning and, even though they may not see it yet, they are developing in amazing ways.

These children push. They challenge everything, pushing boundaries and testing limits as they explore the world and community around them.

These children love. Deeply. I’m always greeted with hugs and kisses. They make pictures for every adult at the Dream Centre. They ask so many questions and randomly come hold your hand. They’re searching for someone to give their love to and for someone to love them back.

These children are beautiful. Their eyes sparkle as their laughter fills the room. It’s breathtaking. It’s magical. It’s beautiful.

I hope these children never stop dreaming, never stop challenging, never stop loving, never stop laughing.

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Big Dreams Require Hard Work

(March 16, 2017)

We’ve learned something while launching the South Africa Dream Centre: It takes incredible effort to change to course of a child’s life. Sure, we knew tutoring, homework help and nutrition would be foundational to giving these kids a good chance of succeeding in their lives.

But we’ve seen that engaging them in activities is equally powerful for creating well-rounded, confident kids. We recently shared about Madison Drescher, an ER intern who is teaching. Now we want to share how sisters Hannah and Emily Townsend are using running and music to help more kids thrive.

Many of these kids are from local squatter settlements where learning to play music or joining a running club would be considered a luxury activity. Some are from refugee families who are learning a new language and culture.

Running Club Demonstrates the Value of Hard Work

Demonstrating wisdom beyond her years, 17-year-old Hannah Townsend shares why she started a running club for the Dream Center girls.

“The purpose of the running club is to help girls learn about taking care of their bodies and learning to push through situations that are hard” she said. “Big dreams require hard work. The girls are learning that they can work hard and succeed.”

If you visit the Dream Centre, you might be invited to join the running club as Corey and Kaitlyn Carnill learned.

The kids have been running twice a week at Fish Hoek Sports Fields since January. Hannah leads them in doing different types of activities at each club meeting. They do sprints, long runs and relays along with stretching and conditioning. ER’s Lindsey Fisher assists in working with the girls.

The club includes eight girls, four in grade 2 and four in grade 1. Their goal is to run a 5K at the end of term 2, which is at the end of June.

“We see the a lot of the girls getting stronger physically, but more importantly they are beginning to believe more in themselves,” Hannah said. “They know if they work hard they can do whatever they set their minds to.

“They also are learning how to work in teams and with each other. Some of the girls have a lot of natural ability and talent that they are beginning to recognize.”

Music Club Helps DC Kids Blossom

Music is proving to be another great tool to help the kids develop.

Emily Townsend surrounded by her music students.

“Some of the kids who are shy and quiet are really coming out of their shells,” 19-year-old Emily Townsend said. “Some of them are very talented and I am seeing their self-confidence grow as they learn music. The music lessons also help reinforce their alphabet learning.”

Emily is teaching the kids music theory and the basics on a keyboard. Six kids have been attending the club since January.

Teaching  kids with little musical skill and diverse backgrounds has been a rewarding challenge.

“So far they have learned Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, Emily said. “We would like to have a recital at the end of the year and invite parents to attend.”

Learn more about ER’s South Africa Dream Centre here.

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