In July 2014, Jennifer and Pia came to South Africa to volunteer on a farm, “Tlholego” for one year. A short time later, Leonie and Rebecca followed. Leonie had already lived on the farm a year earlier and decided to come back and work on Tlholego for the long term. Rebecca wanted to stay for half a year.
We all fell in love with the country instantly. South Africa is incredibly diverse, and it is not without reason that it is called the “rainbow nation”. Our new home was a permaculture farm, with about 25 residents, including five children. In addition to gardening, we did a lot of work with the children, such as tutoring and teaching them German and English while they taught us Setswana. Although we came from two different cultures and our lives could hardly be more different, we were quickly accepted into the community and treated like family members.
Jennifer and Rebecca also gave lectures at "Tshedimosong" school (hosting around 150 children from grades 1-9). It must be noted that such public schools cannot be compared with our schools in Germany. Everything is missing: electricity, water, toilets, teaching materials, and even teachers. The inequality in South Africa is exacerbated by the school system, as many (including our new family members) cannot afford a private school. While we in Germany take it for granted to go to a free school, with the qualification of which we can pursue a profession, South Africans can only expect to get a qualification at private schools with which they can go to university or work. This problem is exacerbated, especially in rural areas, because the lack of infrastructure makes it even more difficult for parents to send their children to school.
In 2014, the government closed Tshedimosong School and all students had to be distributed to the surrounding state schools, which worried the parents. The surrounding schools were already overcrowded and there was little hope that the children would get a good education. A private school was out of the question, as these were far too expensive for the Tlholego residents.
That's how we came into play. We collected money from family and friends to ensure that at least the five children who lived with us could go to school. Together with the parents of the children, we went to visit the surrounding schools in order to choose the most suitable one. All of them were private but in a price range that we thought was feasible. The parents and children chose Harmony Christian School and we were able to collect the money quickly to pay for five children for a year. The school gave us a big discount, which made it all possible. In order to enable even more children to go to school, we founded a non-profit organization in Germany in 2014. We realized pretty quickly how many people are willing to support us and how much the work keeps us connected to our second home, South Africa.
Today we can support 10 children on their educational path in school (as of 2021). We have set up a kindergarten for 20 more children to prepare them for school and to relieve their parents. Smaller projects are also ongoing, such as the construction of a sports facility, excursions, or workshops.
Our principle of sustainability is ambiguous: We want to promote sustainability, i.e. that the children will at some point be independent and no longer need our support. In no case do we want to create dependencies or depress the German perspective on the South African structures, therefore we promote existing structures within the country. For us, sustainability also means acting in an environmentally friendly and climate-conscious manner and giving this to the children on their way. In addition, we promote sustainable agriculture, such as the Tlholego farm on the way to self-sufficiency.
Even if we are a very small club, we have already achieved a lot and still have a lot to do. Our motto is and remains: No matter how far the path is – you have to take the first step.