Dear Sponsors and Friends,
2017 was another full year in the journey of our trust: we welcomed new children, new sponsors and a new trustee, Hannah Webb, to our family and even held our first ever Zoe Trust Celebration.
End of year reports
One of the most exciting parts of my work at the Zoe Trust is reading our children’s’ end of year reports and sending them on to their sponsors. It is a fantastic opportunity to see their progress and remind myself of the concrete impact our support continues to have on our kids. This year’s reports have been fantastic across the board, with children excelling in a range of subjects and showing real dedication and care in the classroom. Some extracts:
“Samkelisiwe had a fantastic year in all aspects. Academically, she performed at a high level, often achieving excellent results. She applied herself to her work, listened carefully, asked and answered questions and took care in her written work.”
“Nthabi has had a wonderful year. She has grown up so much this year and it has been a delight to watch her blossom. She is such a kind and helpful girl – she spends a lot of time helping others and is very thoughtful and considerate of other people’s feelings.”
“My dear Thoks, you are a gifted, bright, charismatic young man.”
It is comments such as these which describe kindness, generosity and respect that make me most proud. Of course it is always wonderful to hear of our children’s academic achievements, but it is when we see evidence of their love of learning, their respect for their peers and their confidence in themselves that I know we are really succeeding.
Throughout 2017 our new relationship with Misty Meadows school in the Dargle Valley continued to grow. Thanks to generous donations by Geeks Without Frontiers, the students of Gems World Academy and sponsor Kristen’s wedding gifts, we were able to create a new computer suite within the school which the children have already used to write letters to children in a school in England, and are currently in the process of creating a video to send on as well. It is clear that this gift will not only develop the children’s computer literacy (a crucial skill in today’s world of work) but is also a unique way to find out about and communicate with the world outside their school and local community. Misty Meadows continues to provide our children with a fantastic child-led educational experience where they control their own exploration of nature, their bodies and their minds in their own unique ways.
Thanks to new sponsors Simon and Catherine we have started supporting another child in Misty Meadows, Njabulo, who is thriving. For me this picture really epitomises the power of sponsor child communication. Simon and Catherine very kindly sent Njabulo a photo of themselves, a letter and a personalised football shirt which Njabulo was delighted to receive. His mentor has since shared how his confidence and his determination to do his best at school has grown now that he knows he has friends around the world who love him and want him to succeed.
The transition from 2016 to 2017 was a potentially challenging one for Khethani as its leaders the Swifts left Ingwavuma after 21 years of service. However, the school community seems to have coped very well with this change and 2017 was a great year with all of our children continuing to thrive. Sylvia, the new head teacher, is a stable and happy presence around school and is providing invaluable support to our children. Recently, one of our children lost a close friend who was raped and killed by a man who then disappeared over the mountain. Sylvia has been able to provide instant and lasting support and guidance to our child as she learns to cope with this emotional trauma. This is something we cannot do from afar and highlights the crucial role of our reliable and caring mentors on the ground.
Alongside Syliva, Mr Mqwanazi, deputy head at Khethani, has been providing support and guidance to our older children. He has an amazing love for the children and provides strong but fair support both academically and emotionally. He recently took Lethu, Phila, Samke and Sanele on a trip to the local town to buy some new clothes and stationary which they all loved. He himself started working at the school as a painter and has worked his way up to becoming deputy head teacher, meaning he is a fantastic role model for the kids showing them that with some ambition and a lot of hard work they can achieve anything they strive for.
It is a wonderful moment when one of our children becomes self-sufficient and no longer relies on our financial support, and we were delighted when we learned that Nkosi, one of our boys at Khethani, has achieved this ten years earlier than expected! Nkosi suffers from cerebral palsy caused by complications at his birth and, thanks to some incredible determination and campaigning by his family, has been given a government grant to support him throughout his school life. He will remain at Khethani, receiving weekly physiotherapy from a private therapist and continuing to benefit from Khethani’s drive towards inclusivity, while his sponsorship money will be released to help other children. Nkosi recently hand-wrote me a letter, and his letter formation along with his tales of participating in games and sport brought tears to my eyes considering when I first met him two years ago he could not walk at all.
Alongside the computer project at Misty Meadows, we have also bought computers for Khethani and I am in the process of developing a computer program for the children to use and learn from. As a Trust we recognise the far-reaching benefits of online education, which allows children to direct their own learning and access quality educational materials like the Khan Academy. This is an area we are keen to continue developing in the future.
In Cape Town we celebrated Okuhle’s graduation, which was a fantastic moment for her and her family as she completed her degree. Seeing Okuhle’s mentor Alison, and another Zoe Trust graduate Yolanda, standing with Okuhle at her graduation ceremony, all three of them so proud and happy, reveals the impact Zoe Trust family has on our children. Our Trust’s aim to support our children all the way through to tertiary education means that we can know that when they leave us they really are set up for life.
It was also an important year for Nomvula in Ingwavuma and Lihle in Cape Town as they sat their final year 12 exams. This is a tricky year for anyone, but even more so for our children who have to balance their responsibilities at home, cultural expectations and lack of resources such as electricity or food. Our mentors always play a crucial role at this point making sure that our children have everything they need, and often providing them with a safe, warm space to study and sleep in the weeks before and during their exams. Both girls did a fantastic job, passing with flying colours. Lihle has decided to take a year out to earn some money and make an informed decision about what university course she would like to study whilst Nomvula has started studying at the University of Pretoria.
Zoe Trust Celebration
The Zoe Trust Celebration held in July 2017 was a fantastic and unique opportunity for our family to gather and celebrate the work we have done over the last seven years. We had a wonderful evening at Forest School, London with a gourmet meal, speeches and raffle. It was heart-warming to finally put names to faces and to be able to truly acknowledge one another for the life-changing support we have provided to our children in South Africa. The event raised over £4,000 which we have used to kick-start a University fund to prepare for supporting our children through their tertiary education.
Emily (on behalf of The Zoe Trust Trustees)