Building blocks? Puzzles? Novelties?
Yeah. They don’t seem all that novel. They are run-of-the-mill for us.
But for a young child in the informal settlement of Stone Hill, South Africa, these would, in fact, be novelties.
Stone Hill, South Africa
In the survival culture of this impoverished settlement, toys that provide mental benefits for children aren’t really on the radar for a typical family.
A typical family situation in Stone Hill might be a mother, several grown children and their offspring living together in a shack or makeshift shelter. In the culture of this settlement, young girls are encouraged to get pregnant to prove their fertility.
The families of this settlement live in cobbled-together shacks, sleep on blankets on the ground and few have little - if any - furniture.
This is why when an ITMI supporter helped our partners purchase some mattresses for people in the settlement one Christmas, it was a really big deal.
Mattresses gifted by IMTI supporter.
ITMI’s Cindy Parris has been ministering in Stone Hill for years, building relationships with the youth there through weekly outreach activities.
Stone Hill young ladies after an outreach event.
She noticed a catch-22 that keeps the families impoverished from generation to generation: completing high school was next to impossible when faced with the limitations that come with squatting in an informal settlement.
Physical factors like computer access, no electricity to read or work by after dark, no paper or supplies, restrict studying opportunities.
Finding time to complete homework is a challenge, too. Most need to launder their school uniform daily. Obtaining and preparing meals takes large chunks of time. Many are responsible for watching younger siblings late into the evening.
Classes are conducted in most students’ second language. Schools are under-resourced and students aren’t always given textbooks.
Since so few adults around them have finished school, there really isn’t anyone to ask if you need help with your homework.
The dropout rate is astronomical.
Without education, adults from Stone Hill are limited in income and compete with everyone else for available jobs working long hours at local farms or other low-income jobs.
Cindy saw the injustice of this cycle of poverty. At the same time, she was presented with a simple and cost-effective solution.
With the help of supporters, Cindy raised funds to purchase a set of tablets, loaded with K-12 curriculum. ITMI supporters also helped her procure a set of chairs for the tutoring center earlier this year.
Volunteers tutor students in Stone Hill.
Tutoring Center Benefits Extend to Elementary School Children
On Saturday mornings, younger children come to the tutoring center to color, build with blocks and do puzzles. Cindy reads aloud to them.
They love it.
There is a feisty gang of middle elementary school boys - about 10 years old - who are excited to use the tablets. Cindy reports that it really seems to improve their morale.
They are excited when they get the answers correct. It gives them an achievement to be proud of.
Cindy commented, “I do believe that if we start with the younger children, their educational success will be greater.”
Learning in their own language from the school-in-a-box tablets.
Younger students getting to look at children's books!
Students eagerly crowd around this grandmotherly volunteer as she reads to them!
“This is not your project! You’ve never done anything like this before!”
Rea, an 11th grader, used the tutoring center equipment for his history report on Robben Island.
Robben Island, just North of Cape Town.
The island is known for being the place Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 of his 27 years. It sits in Table Bay, north of Cape Town.
When he handed it in, the teacher blurted, “This is not your project! You’ve never done anything like this before!”
Even the implication that he’d stolen it didn’t dampen Rea’s enthusiasm and pride to have handed in a high-quality project.
The tutoring center has two computers for the students to use, but to serve these students well, the center should have two more.
She’d also like to begin doing aptitude tests that would help 11th graders choose a post-high school path.
That’s Not All!
“The tutoring center is becoming so much more than just tutoring. The students are starting to trust me and I am able to share Christ with them, giving them the reason why I serve their community.”
Cindy working with students in Stone Hill.
They are also coming to her for guidance in decision making, college applications, job applications, handling family matters.
With your help, Jesus is making a difference through Cindy in this impoverished community.
Mark and Cindy will be visiting and encouraging Americans on the East Coast in September. If you’d like to hear more about the work this family is doing among the marginalized and disadvantaged, they would love to get together with you.