By Stacy Kolbe Dykins
March 2010 was difficult for the teachers at MCA. At the end of February, Meriam Mnguni’s husband entered hospice care and then passed away. He had been battling cancer for some time. Meriam, who is our principal and first grade teacher, took two and a half weeks off to be with her family and grieve her loss. In her absence, Tim Dykins (my husband) stepped up to lead her class. We greatly missed Meriam and were glad when she returned in the middle of the month.
After a sad start to March, we were encouraged to receive some new jungle gym equipment for the children, which was generously donated by the Moreletta Park Dutch Reformed Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. We also had three birthday parties and were fitted for uniforms. The kids were, and still are, incredibly excited about all three developments. (Please scroll through the newsletter to see some photos of the children playing on the new equipment.) It is tremendously inspiring to see such optimism and happiness in our children, who have suffered so much: parental death, poverty, and food scarcity, among other issues. Our first school term ended on March 26th, and we will be on a break until April 12th. Hopefully, we will all return refreshed and ready to learn in April!
Last month we introduced you to our Grade R students: Atalia, Koketso, Sandra, Thokozani, Angy, Xoli, Kgothatso, Leboga, and Pleasure. However, we’ve realized that brief bios don’t do our kids justice, so we’re introducing a new format with this newsletter: one where we profile a single child in-depth. So without further ado, we’d like you to meet five-year-old Pleasure, who is one of our Grade R pupils. Pleasure is considered to be a vulnerable child: While he’s fortunate enough to have living relatives, he has already experienced poverty and hunger in his short life, due to his family’s desperate financial situation. Please consider sponsoring Pleasure. For an annual gift of $2,000 ($165/month), you can ensure that Pleasure has a future and a hope: one filled with the excitement of learning more about Christ, receiving a first-class education, and obtaining the meals and other support services he needs to flourish.
Pleasure is five years old. He lives in a tin shack with his grandmother, while five other members of his family reside in an adjacent brick house. Pleasure has two older sisters: Precious, 20 years old, is the mother of two small children, Bray and Sab and cooks for the whole family. Busi is 25 and has one small child, Angel. No one in this extended family has a job. The grandmother receives a small grant which is the only source of income for this family of seven. We do not know who Pleasure’s father is, only that he has been absent a very long time. His mother is deceased, but we are not sure if she passed away from AIDS. Pleasure has never been tested for HIV, so we are working on getting this done.
Pleasure’s family struggles greatly to meet their daily needs, but they pray for God’s provision and are grateful for his help. When we gave Pleasure his school clothes and his backpack, his grandmother sent the school two homemade grass mats to show her gratitude. While it may not seem like much, this gift was an act of incredible generosity. I believe that Pleasure’s grandmother makes the mats herself in an effort to bring a small amount of income into the home. She is sincerely grateful to the school and the wonderful opportunity it is providing her grandson.
Pleasure is an extremely sweet-natured child. He tries hard to master new concepts and do his schoolwork well. His caregivers are all illiterate, so Pleasure received almost no academic instruction before he came to MCA. While the other students were able to count to 10 or even 20, Pleasure didn’t know any of his numbers. To help him catch up, I (Stacy) have started tutoring him after school one day a week for an hour. Pleasure flourishes during this one-on-one time. Before the first session he could not count past two. After two sessions, he could count to ten and identify many of the numbers by sight. His improvement has been rapid and amazing. It is now obvious just how intelligent Pleasure is; he simply hadn’t had the opportunity to demonstrate it. Outside of the academic support Pleasure receives, we make sure he gets some much needed emotional care. A simple smile means so much to this child. Pleasure will do anything to please you. He seems a bit starved for love and affection, so we make sure to praise and hug him as often as possible. With our positive support system, Pleasure is developing into a beautiful, happy child.
Please consider sponsoring Pleasure or one of our other deserving students. A gift of $2,000 (or $165/month) will help ensure that he is able to attend MCA on an ongoing basis. We are seeking up to 20 sponsorships for our children – which would enable us to add a few more pupils to our Grade 1 class.
We’re delighted that so many of you chose to give generously and help us launch our school this January. As you can see from our website we’ve been busy! Your contributions back in October helped us open our doors with two grades, hire a principal, purchase steel classrooms to shelter our children and host temporary classrooms, and obtain books and other resources.
We’re now seeking sponsorships for our children to help us finance the school on an ongoing basis. As many of you know, we have big dreams for Mukhanyo Christian Academy: We hope to expand our school and offer Grades R-12 to provide education for many more children in our community. To make this happen, we need to create a steady income stream to sustain our existing student body, as we pursue other revenue sources and work towards building a sustainable funding model. We’re currently working on a business plan to prepare for meetings with potential donors and submit for education grants from the South African government.
Please consider making sponsoring one of our beautiful children. Your gift of $165 a month ($2,000 a year) enables us to help children like Pleasure and provide him with a different kind of life than he has known. As one of our donors, you will be in on the ground floor of this important new ministry – one that will provide a future and a hope for South Africa’s children affected by AIDS, poverty, and hunger.
In the spirit of transparency, we want you to know that 97% of your contributions to date have gone directly to supporting our school in South Africa. (The remaining three percent of funds were used to pay for website development and database support.) Any costs that we, your local project team, incur during our service to MCA, we pay for ourselves.
This month we had three birthdays: Sarah turned seven years old; Lucky Mhlongo, nine; and teacher Merriam had a birthday, too. At her party, she informed the children that she is now two years old. I don’t think they fell for it.
I have not done a lot of baking from scratch before, so my first attempt at cupcakes and frosting was a bit of an experiment. The kids devoured the cupcakes, so I am considering my endeavor a success. I then made a cake for Meriam, so I am considered quite the baker now. The kids love sweets so it is easy to win smiles and good behavior: All you have to do is walk in with a tray of goodies.
Uniforms and Donations
On the 20th of March, we received outdoor play equipment and toys – a generous donation from our friends at Moreletta. A group of parishioners delivered everything on a Saturday and even brought sweets and barbeque to celebrate. It was a fabulous day for the children. They played, ate ‘vors,’ and sang a song to say thank you. We greatly appreciate the church’s support and look forward to seeing our new friends again.
As mentioned last month, we have purchased uniforms and will distribute them to our children next month. The children are on holiday from March 29th through April 9th. Be sure to check back to see our kids in their new attire next month. We also had some friends from Tampa donate new backpacks for the kids. I know they will be a big hit. A big thank you to Karen, Melissa, and Michelle!
Our New Website
We’re proud to announce the launch of our brand-new website: mcasa.net. Many thanks to Nathan Clendenin, who did a spectacular job designing our site, and to Holly Larson, who wrote the content. Please visit our website to learn more about the school, our team, and how you can help. Site highlights include:
• Pictures and short bios of our Grade R and Grade 1 pupils
• Some awesome YouTube videos of the children singing and playing that will melt your heart!
• Bios of our South African team members, including our founder, principal, advisor, and teacher
• A description of our mission and vision, as well as information on how the AIDS crisis is orphaning generations of South Africa’s youngest
• Blog entries from Keith Brown, our U.S. Project Team Lead, who took a two-week trip in January to visit MCA and its sister ministries
We’ll be posting ongoing updates on our activities – including a trip we’re planning in August to visit the school and the other Mukhanyo ministries. MCA is the sister ministry of Mukhanyo Community Development Centre, an organization which operates five care centers that provide food and other services for 1,500 AIDS orphans; a seminary and teaching college; and as a hospice for AIDS patients.
How Can You Help?
MCA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and Christian ministry that is entirely supported by donations. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to MCA. Your gifts enable us to:
• Provide AIDS orphans and vulnerable children with a first-class Christian education, two meals a day, and healthcare services
• Place AIDS orphans who need foster parents in a home, so that they can receive the care they need
• Purchase necessary resources, like the steel classrooms that house our pupils, books and other items
• Cover salaries for Meriam and Stacy, our teachers, both of whom have generously agreed to work for far less than they could make elsewhere
• Explore the possibility of expanding the school so that we can offer educational opportunities to more of the deserving children in our community
For more information, please contact: Keith T. Brown, Project Leader at 919.933.7747 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Holly Larson, Communications at 919.259.8704 or email@example.com.