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Students take trip and discover hope in South Africa

Students take trip and discover hope in South Africa

Spending two weeks outside the United States in South Africa has not only changed the lives of five students and two teachers, but also hundreds of African children.

From July 13 to 25, graduate Katleyn Blakely, seniors Xandra Potter, Autumn McMullin, Drew Bohrn, junior Haley Bohrn and teachers Laurel Maslowski and Henry Sage spent their time in South Africa visiting special needs children.

The group first stopped at Sinethemba (translates into ‘we have hope’ in Xhosa) where they helped children with special needs.

Sinethemba serves as a home for these children because they are often neglected in African society.

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“The South African government gives a certain amount of money to each family who has a special needs child, but it is not unusual for the family to use the money for the entire family instead of the one child. Soon, the child becomes neglected of what they need to survive and is soon sent to Sinethemba,” Maslowski said.

Though Sinethemba sometimes receives money from the families, what is keeping them in service is fundraising, and selling their own beading work and pottery.

The house does not have running water but it is still full of life. The students noticed a lot of people who had cell phones and computers, but they did not work. It was more for the sake of having the items than having working devices.

The group was taken aback by the children who were able to laugh and play despite how little they had and the circumstances they were in.

“There was a feeling of acceptance and love as soon as we arrived. When money can’t be your solution, they had to come up with a different solution, and they found it in each other,“ Maslowski said.

After spending time there, the group drove to Lusikiski where Mama Christina’s, a soup kitchen, offered to feed neglected kids. The soup kitchen also operates mostly on donations, so the people who work there do not get paid in money, but in food.

The students’ main goal in coming to these places was to spend time with the children.

Maslowski says the kids needed love and to know someone cares about them because they are not publicly accepted in the community. The group soon grew attached to the children.

“I think it actually does more for the children than giving someone money to come and build them something. You can always build stuff and then leave and not think twice about it, but if you stay and spend time with the people you are trying to help, the kids will appreciate it more. They are kids. They need love too,” McMullin said.

The trip at first had been all about changing the life of small children, but after returning the students as well as the teachers noticed a change in themselves.

Potter came to the conclusion that she needs Africa more than Africa needs her.

“I think we made a difference to the kids I met, but it really made a difference in myself. We gave them love, but interacting with them in my life is so much more. It changed my priorities after seeing the way they live and comparing it to my life,” Potter said.

Last year, before the students left for Africa, they held a t-shirt drive. The t-shirts were handed out at both Mama Christina’s and Sinethemba.

The group also donated the trip money they had left over to the children, so they could go on their first field trip out into the public together as a family.

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