JT’s Breakthrough: 100 Books Read

By Amy Townsend, South Africa Dream Centre

Amy and Ron Townsend oversee ER Africa’s South Africa Dream Center (DC). Here, Amy shares this heartfelt update about JT, a young student who attends our after-school program.

At the beginning of this school year, he was going into grade 2 and didn’t recognize the alphabet. He couldn’t write his name. The school system was failing him.

When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos. These 100 stickers made me cry. I love each and every child at the DC. But whether we will often admit it or not, we each have ONE that touches our hearts more. That ONE can, and does, change over time. But this is my ONE…at the moment.

JT has been through so much. He has seen more violence and experienced more upheaval than any seven-year-old (or 77-year-old) should.  We are grateful simply because he is alive today!

JT lives with his mother Nicole, sister and grandmother in Oceanview. The family speaks Afrikaans at home while JT learns English at school. The flats where JT lives are overcrowded with gangs and violence.

Last year, his family needed to go to a safe house for several months because of domestic violence. While there, JT didn’t attend school. He fell very far behind, yet the school sent him to Grade 2 anyway.

He is often overwhelmed with big emotions that he doesn’t know how to handle. I have opened the transport (shuttle) door and seen him holding a toy gun to another child’s head. My heart stopped for the second it took my mind to realize it was a toy.

Then my anger almost boiled over. I almost joined his chaos. He knew he had crossed the boundary; yet he didn’t understand what was so wrong. Months later we still have the toy gun…he hasn’t even asked for it back. He has hit others in his frustration – simply because it’s the only way he knows to respond.

At the beginning of this school year, he was going into Grade 2 and didn’t recognize the alphabet. He couldn’t write his name. The school system was failing him. Even his teacher recognized the school’s failure.

Yet, yesterday he read his 100th book! He has had a wonderful volunteer who has dedicated two days a week to helping him.

So today I cry for him AGAIN. But this time, these are not tears of fear or frustration. They are tears of pride and thankfulness. These are tears that I’m okay with…tomorrow my ONE might be another child with another story…but today my ONE is succeeding and growing and learning to that he can!

His mother is incredibly proud of JT and so are we. His once dark future is now bright. He is on his way to becoming a Next Generation success story, someone overcoming the odds with the support of ER.

Want to help the next generation of kids? Giving is easy. Click here to access our donate page. Your gift is tax-deductible and ER will provide you with a receipt for tax purposes.


Samanta Tibanta & Domínica Mariscal tend to a garden project operated by Nuevos Amigos.

Gardening Project Boosts Sustainability

(June 19, 2017)

By Jim Schutz, Nuevos Amigos, Quito, Ecuador

Educators use many tools to create well-rounded students. Getting kids out of the classroom to learn new skills firsthand is a proven technique. Below, Director Jim Schutz of ER partner Nuevos Amigos shares how a gardening project is helping at-risk kids develop skills to help themselves and their families.

At Nuevos Amigos, we continue to try to become a school that looks at education beyond the textbook, a school that uses the world as the classroom and life’s realities to apply what we learn in the actual classroom setting.

Our gardening project is important because it takes the kids from the basics of science, life and then moves through several aspects of real life and ends up in the marketplace. We are very proud of the kids as they have been very creative to find places for the garden. At one point they were on the second story of a building. They eventually had to move because of water seepage into the first floor.

While this project does not directly pull families out of poverty, it demonstrates how students can learn and take responsibility for their lives and future. It is big deal, having skills for critical thinking and experiences in working as a team built. The project gives these kids confidence and hope to press on with their education, enter the workforce and succeed in life.

This is a 10th grade science project that lasts for 10 months – an entire school year. It is lead by our science teacher. Here are a few details he provided.

The general objective is to teach the students to recycle, reuse and reduce (3 R’s) materials. We want students to understand the value of producing and consuming organic products.

The ideal result is for each student to learn that he or she can grow their own urban garden. We’ve seen success as these youth learn responsible care of the seed until the plant matures. This transcends in valuing and respecting the work of those who work in the field.

This project helps students to reinforce their scientific knowledge through direct observation and overcoming obstacles like a lack of physical space and economic resources. The project allows students to develop a long-term vision that includes both management and entrepreneurship.

Learn more about Nuevos Amigos.