By Amy Townsend, Fish Hoek Dream Center Co-Director
Annalie* has endured tremendous hardship in her life, which is why her story will resonate deeply with you. Annalie, age 13, and her younger sister, Zonja*, age 7, are part of the Fish Hoek Dream Center and attend a local primary school.
In 2016, a dance team from Georgia came to South Africa as part of a mission trip. A very shy and withdrawn Annalie attended the dance camp, connected with dancer Joanna Turner, became inspired, and started attending ER’s Fish Hoek Dream Center as a grade 2 student.
However, while attending our Dream Center, teachers perceived that Annalie was not progressing. She often failed to make eye contact, was terribly soft-spoken, and appeared disconnected. Despite this, Annalie stated she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. We discussed this with her mom, whose response was, “the Dream Center is all Annalie ever talks about!”
After a year at the Dream Center, Annalie shocked us when her big voice came out. She had gathered eight children in a line and was teaching them. They were playing “school” and she had complete control of her “classroom.” This was the beginning of her metamorphosis.
Annalie began participating in everything we offered: swimming, surfing, music, soccer, dancing with the Kingdom Dancers, netball, and painting murals. It was clear that she loved any opportunity to be at the Dream Center.
After this period of growth for Annalie, disaster struck. Her mother lost her job and COVID lockdowns hit South Africa. Financial hardship, isolation, and extreme living conditions took a terrible toll on Annalie and her family.
Throughout this deeply challenging time, we knew we needed to remain connected to Annalie. She joined our marine biology course at a local aquarium, attended our typing class, and was involved in our holiday workshops. However, when her school reopened, she returned withdrawn and unsociable. Once again, we struggled to get her to communicate.
In 2021, dancer Joanna Turner, who Annalie first met back in 2016, returned to the Dream Center as a short-term volunteer. Annalie opened up to Joanna about her life. Through this connection, we learned about all the struggles Annalie was facing at home.
Through these regular conversations with Joanna, Annalie was able to speak about the struggles she was experiencing and identify ways to move forward. Over time, Annalie grew in her confidence and was motivated to try new things.
She even participated in an environmental action project that required giving a presentation in front of 50 people. While Annalie was nervous before the presentation, she did well, and now communicates more openly.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ex. 36:26
Recently, Annalie took an enormous step forward. She took an online high school placement test and did incredibly well on the exam. We are immensely proud of Annalie, and this is the first acceptance we have had from the Fish Hoek Dream Center! As you may know, this is life-altering because many local kids drop out before high school.
To qualify for enrollment, Annalie will fulfill the required service hours at our Dream Center. She is particularly interested in helping with cooking and teaching. In fact, she will be our first youth volunteer and teaching assistant. ER’s Mary Veltman will mentor Annalie to help her build the skills needed to become a teacher. To meet the requirement for an extracurricular activity, Annalie recently re-joined the Kingdom Dancers, returning to the activity that started her on a pathway of hope back in grade 2.
While Annalie has far to go, she is on course to realize her big dreams, and we love being on the journey with her! We ask that you pray for Annalie as she continues to grow in her faith. We know that education empowers families to disrupt the cycle of generational poverty, and we are committed to supporting Annalie on her path to a bright future through a career in teaching.
Want to help more girls like Annalie achieve their dreams? Starting Nov.1, ER is beginning our annual year-end appeal where we raise funds for next year. We need your help to rescue and restore vulnerable kids and their families. Please give generously here and choose “ER Fund – Greatest Ministry Impact” as your designation. The first $125,000 qualify for matching funds!
*Names changed for privacy.