Dear Sponsors and friends of Zoe Trust,
Having spent the past 16 months on the ground, writing a round-up for 2016 has proven different to other years as I have so many short stories and anecdotes to share with you all. As always it has been a great pleasure to read through the reports that have filled my inbox over the past few months as our children continue to flourish and develop both on their educational and life journey. Of course, as with all children, there are always challenges and we face these together. Heading onwards confident that our approach allows the children to feel loved, supported and secure by the safe and firm boundaries that we put in place.
2016 has seen us welcome Hannah Webb into the management of the trust and she has already been working hard to organise the Zoe Trust Ball and support four of our younger children in Ingwavuma. We are also delighted to welcome a number of new sponsors whose support and money is greatly appreciated. We ended the year by launching a new innovative project in Izmir, Turkey with Syrian refugees there. The pilot project aims to enable children who can’t go to school to study at home.
Syrian Refugee Independent Study project
Following a visit Tanya made to Turkey in August 2016, we launched an innovative education programme with Syrian refugees in and near Izmir. The idea is to enable Syrian refugee children who cannot attend school to still learn a little at home. We are currently working with 7 families (and a couple more are about to join). We have a volunteer project manager on the ground as well as paid Syrian refugee monitoring and support officers. After an initial assessment, the families are handed a pack per child with grade-appropriate materials in Arabic for Arabic language learning and Maths. Each week the monitoring officer returns, checks what has been done, helps with problems, and gives the next batch of materials. Most children are supported by a parent or other relative, but in one case the children are working completely alone, helping each other. If this project works well and we can show that the children have progressed their skills, we hope to roll out the methodology to other refugees by involving other grassroots organisations. This programme is being funded through our new Refugee Fund which a number of Zoe Trust supporters and the Lutheran Church of Geneva are supporting.
Our children in Cape Town are continuing to flourish under the fantastic guidance of our two mentors, Alison and Jennifer. We have a number of young children in Cape Town who are making their way up through their school showing interest, commitment and success in their education. Two of our younger children are flourishing at the Wardoff School gaining an exciting, interesting and child-lead learning experience which promotes self-discovery and artistic learning. One of their teachers writes:
“Charlene is very proud of her portfolio that reflects the care and the persistence in all that she undertakes. Each of the 90 or so pages in her portfolio is a labour of love that took determination and effort and is such as lovely record or Charlene’s progress throughout our Class 4 journey.”
Unfortunately, one of our older children has had another difficult year, missing three exams due to absence from school. She has also disappeared from home a number of times, particularly worrying for a young teenage girl. This is difficult to understand and deal with from so far away. However we are lucky that she has a dedicated mentor and the school has done an incredible job to support her through these difficult times. We have managed to remain in close contact with her and, through her mentor, the school to make sure that we put in place firm and clear boundaries. It is a continual reminder of the social and cultural difficulties we face and must deal with on a daily basis.
In January 2016 Tanya and I took a very exciting trip to Misty Meadows farm in Howick to visit a child-led learning environment set up by Cassie Janisch. The school offers children from a range of different social and racial backgrounds the chance to lead their own learning in an idyllic farm setting. We had a lovely few days learning from one another and sharing ideologies. Since then we have welcomed two children from Misty Meadows into the trust, Sisi and Nthabi both of whom are flourishing at the school. Their teacher writes:
“Sisi is confident and kind and very well-liked by everyone. She has a great sense of humour and loves to laugh, and this makes her so much fun to be with. Sisi is highly capable at all physical activities we undertake at school.”
“Nthabi has completely come into her own at our school over the last few months. She is now almost fluent in English and enjoys chatting away to her friends and teachers in long English sentences.”
In addition in 2016 I visited the farm twice delivering two teacher training sessions for the teachers in the school and surrounding area. The training sessions aimed to show local teachers different ways to teach the basic concepts of English and Maths in a fun and creative way. By inviting them to Misty Meadows to experience the training it is also building a network of support for local schools and showing them an educational setting which is flourishing through creative and fun learning techniques. Cassie wrote about the training “I think the relationship building and exposure to alternative teaching approaches that comes from sessions like the ones Emily has run at Misty Meadows is ultimately as valuable as the training itself.” This partnership is exciting and offers a slightly different direction for the trust which we look forward to developing in 2017.
Our children in Ingwavuma are flourishing after a wonderful 2016. They are all doing well educationally and their home situations are strong and secure. This year we have welcomed three new mentors in Ingwavuma, taking over from Bridget Swift. They have good relationships with our children and are already providing them with vital and loving support. The eight children at Khethani are doing well and achieved good results in their end of year exams. In addition, their confidence and attitude is also developing which was highlighted at the end of year celebration when all of our children were involved in fantastic musical, dramatic and speech presentations in front of a packed room of teachers, students and parents. Their teachers write:
“Nontobeko is a courteous, well behaved and co-operative learner. She always asks for clarification when needed and listens attentively to the response of others.”
“Samke is doing very well academically. She always does her best in her academic work. She finished her work with enthusiasm.”
“Zikhona is a happy, bubbly, kind and helpful learner. She has put in a lot of effort this term and has achieved good results. Overall she had a good year.”
Two of our older boys have just finished their first year at a local high school which has been an interesting experience for them, their families and the trust as we try and navigate this new and different education system. Our boys have worked incredibly hard to achieve their full potential in difficult circumstances which have included a lack of textbooks, missing teachers, a violent feud between two school gangs and disorganised exams. Despite this they both worked hard making sure they studied in their own time and attended extra lessons and as a result they achieved good results with Phila receiving the best student award across the whole school. This success has highlighted the fantastic position their Khethani education has put them in as they are academically far beyond their peers. We hope that the coming years will be easier as the boys, their mentors and the trust now have a better insight into the way their school works and can put in place measures to make sure that they are prepared.
Ekukhayeni Orphanage sits proudly at the centre of the community, a loving and nurturing home to three of our children who are all doing well. The oldest Nomvula has received numerous academic awards this year including an award for being in the top ten in her year academically throughout 2016. She is a wonderful young lady and is excited about the year ahead as she strives to emanate her fantastic year 11 results in her final matric exams and apply for Universities.
The Enrichment fund continues to provide a vital supply of money to support our children alongside their basic education. We are able to continue to provide our children with uniform, stationary and transport which are all important to fit in within the school environment and feel that they belong and are loved. We have also paid for five of our children to attend regular extra maths lessons which help them educationally, keeps them busy on a Saturday and gives them time with a male role model, which for a lot of them is important. This year we were also able to use this money to support two of our children who faced horrific fires which left them with damaged homes and property. In addition we have paid for our children to attend a wide range of educational trips including a battlefields trip, an adventure trip to the coast and multiple museum visits. All of these trips allow our children to develop their educational knowledge, their social skills and give them an insight into the world around them.
This year one of our families decided to set up a home schooling environment for their children meaning that our support for fees was no longer needed. We have been able to continue to support this family through the enrichment fund paying for music lessons for one of their musically talented children, funding a family outing and paying for Zulu lessons for the children. Their mentor and mum writes:
“Having a Zulu tutor has helped the children that are battling to improve their marks. Having a tutor who can give them individual attention has helped to improve their understanding and they have managed to improve their skills.”
The image I want to leave you with is one that will remain with me forever. On a hot dusty morning the year 5 and 6 students from Khethani sat in the middle of a ring of Voortrekker wagons. This marks an iconic spot in South African history where thousands of Zulu warriors were slaughtered by the Voortrekkers during the Battle of Blood River. In this iconic setting Nontobeko, one of our older children, stood and spoke. She shared the words of Nelson Mandela, words of collaboration, of a brighter future and a united nation. Then we stood together, white and black, Zulu, Afrikaans and British and prayed for a united future. Seeing Nontobeko, once a shy quiet and withdrawn individual who has had an incredibly difficult childhood speaking with such confidence, determination and commitment sent a shiver down my spine and brought a tear to my eye.
With my warm wishes and deepest thanks for your support,
(on behalf of The Zoe Trust Board of Trustees)