Brantynn’s Visit

I was SO blessed that Brantynn was able to visit (Many thanks to my mother).  He made a lasting impact on the students, especially the young men as I could not imagine a better role model for them.  Enjoy the pictures!

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Mandela Day

Mandela Day

For Mandela Day July 18, 2013… Walmer High School organized a joint service project with Theodor Herzl High School. Walmer High School’s Umthombo Wolwazi Library Prefects, with teacher moderators Ms Ashley Millhouse and Ms Kelly McNulty, partnered with a local private school’s Interact Club and their teacher moderator to do our 67 minutes of service at the St. John’s Soup Kitchen in Walmer Township. We met at the library and mixed the students up to engage them in a discussion about the importance of Mandela Day, how they could help their communities, the trait they admired most in Mandela, and what it means to be a “Born Free.” It was truly inspiring to see these students coming from all different backgrounds come together and share ideas. After packing food parcels (containing samp/rice, orange, soap, potatoes, tin of beans, another tin, and soup), we walked as a group to the Soup Kitchen about 500 meters into Walmer Township. For most of these students from the private school, it was their first time in the township and was a real eye-opener for them…but they were bonding really well with the Walmer High students and felt comfortable with them. Upon arriving to St. John’s Soup Kitchen, we all held hands in prayer (the community, the staff, and the students) in honor of Mandela and his life of service. Then, the students distributed the parcels to the community and we headed back to the library for a final reflection. The students talked about how great it felt to give back to the community and also how easy it was for them to do a service that meant so much to some people. We hope to engage with this high school in more acts of service all around the community and not just in Walmer.

**This is my dream job– organizing abroad service projects for high school students and business corporations**

Family Dinners

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I read Kelly’s blog post on our recent family dinners experience with our students and it was TOO good not to share….

“Recently, Ashley and I have been trying something new. For the past month or so, we have been going to different student houses for dinner, in hopes of better knowing our students, their families, and what is most important to them. Amongst other things, this has been incredible, eye-opening, hilarious, awkward, humbling, and moving. There have been heartbreaking times, such as when one student asked if we still wanted to come once he admitted that he lived in a shack. Of course, we assured him that we did and he was so proud to bring us to his home later that week. There have been frustrating and even scary times, including when many of the roads in the township were not drivable or when I have met unwelcomed guests in the streets. On the way to one dinner, it seemed that we would have to postpone the event because all of the roads near the student’s house were undrivable and it was unsafe to walk. In this case, the student grew so visibly upset at the thought of cancelling the dinner, that I soon realized how much this meant to her. We eventually found a back road and were able to have a fun, relaxing dinner with her family.

Despite these frustrations, and at moments because of them, there have been hilarious times as well. In any situation where you are a foreigner, and I suppose any circumstance in which you are invited to an unfamiliar home for dinner, there are bound to be some comical moments. Or moments that you find comical at a later date once you’ve recovered from the shock, such as one dinner in which we noticed that our food was completely covered in roughly a hundred hairs. Sometimes, you have to grin and bear it, even if that grin will include enough hairs to create a medium-sized furball. It is all part of the experience, as is trying new foods, embracing awkward moments, and truly breaking through with our students’ families.

The last piece of this experience is by far the most important, and the reason why we will continue going to our students’ homes for the next few months. The food that we cook or they cook (depending on the family and what they suggest) is a significant aspect of the experience and allows us to share our different cultures with one another. However, the opportunity to talk with our students outside of school walls, to joke with them, watch TV with them, play with their cousins, discuss problems within the township, hear about their hopes and dreams, learn of their family’s experiences during Apartheid, discover how the Apartheid era still impacts them today, and discuss plans for the future—this is what it’s all about. This, amongst countless other reasons, is why I applied to the Fulbright grant. This is real. And raw. And lasting.

When I see my student’s family grow embarrassed because rain is leaking into their shack, I better understand what challenges they face on a daily basis. When I see a proud mother look at my student after hearing everything she has been doing at school, I see how much of the parents’ hopes are invested in their child of the “Born Free” generation—hopes that they were unable to fulfill themselves due to the Apartheid era. When I visit a student who is essentially the head of her household, I realize all of the pressures that she must face that I never even considered at her age.

What I have found most telling of all, though, is how the students react to these visits. Now that I have laughed with their families, high-fived their little brothers, and I have shared a meal in their homes, their confidence has grown and they have expressed their struggles, hopes, and dreams more openly. While continuing these visits will undoubtedly enrich my experiences over the next three months, I am also painfully aware of how they will make it harder to leave. Of course, that is no reason to discontinue them. I am sure these home visits the next few months will be equally as incredible, eye-opening, hilarious, awkward, humbling, and moving, and I am excited about the experiences that I will have with my students. Hopefully, these experiences involve less furballs in the future.”
- Kelly

My Heroes

My Heroes

Some of you know that crime that has been happening since I’ve been in South Africa. And most of you do not. I did not want to tell all of you for many reasons. I didn’t want some of you to be scared for me. But more importantly, I didn’t want to perpetuate the stereotype that this is an unsafe country. These things could happen anywhere at anytime. But, they are happening at a more rapid rate that I can handle. Since January we can recap: 4 tires stolen, 1 gas tank sabotaged?, 2 library break-ins, 2 school break-ins…and more to our friends here. Just when I became comfortable again that while this stuff happens it’s not happening to anyone I know, something terrible happened.

During our 3 week school holidays when I was in Namibia and then Kruger, I kept having daydreams or nightmares of someone close to me getting hurt. I didn’t know who it was, but I kept feeling like I had to throw up- that someone I knew was getting hurt. And when I came back to school, I found out why. The first student I saw, one I am very close to, explained they were stabbed. They were mugged, their phone taken (they had borrowed my phone and saved it somehow), and stabbed—left there. I didn’t even know how to process it. I haven’t let myself cry yet. And this is the part that terrifies me the most- my student was stabbed and I cannot cry. Why? What is wrong with me? I have felt calloused and immune to this bad news because it is happening a lot. But, I am trying to tell myself- this happens in America, this happens in big cities. I grew up in a very sheltered life and this is my first time experiencing this. But, I hate these things happening because it’s only confirming those awful sensational headlines of newspapers.

But I REFUSE to think negatively about this place. I have met TOO many inspiring people who are doing amazing things with their lives. Drug addicts transformed, persons with HIV making a living, prisoners now professors. I am very blessed to be here and I know God is giving me these experiences to grow. I think the world of these people who have triumphed over so much. Your background doesn’t determine your future. I really think Fulbright got it wrong- I’m not teaching these kids, they are teaching me. They are the ones who experience these things firsthand and they are the ones who triumph over it. They are my heroes, my angels, and my friends. As I have 3 months left in my grant, I am truly cherishing my time building my friendships with these students. I want to make sure they have the confidence and faith to overcome the obstacles some of them are facing.  I will miss my students the most when I leave South Africa. They are the reason I love this country so much. I have never met so many beautiful people all from one nation. I hope to have their courage and strength when I go through a trial…I hope to be like them someday.

PS I am sharing this once again not to draw attention to the crime in this country, but to draw attention to the COURAGE of  its people.  God Bless

Words of Walmer

If a person really wants to do something and create change in the community, if they want the community to get better, it doesn’t matter if the person is poor or homeless- if he can do something about the situation he or she is in, if they can try to find help and bring about change, then they can bring about change in their life. If you have the gift of sewing, try to form a group of people and have something you do to sew designs for the tourists who usually come so you can have extra money to buy more resources to make a successful business. Small things that will bring you up and make you a person that is independent. Strive for it if you want to do something!

Words of Walmer

People from here are very friendly. Since I was born and bred here, I never lived anywhere else. My whole life is here.

I always wanted to be a unique person. Since everybody would look down and say it is one of the poorest places in PE, I wanted to prove them wrong. They would say you wont find any good person in Walmer, so I wanted to prove them wrong. I am very respectful and I always aim high. You must have principal if you are a human being and don’t let anyone show you otherwise. You must stick to your principles.

In Walmer, I have four girls, but only one child. I’ve had to see other people suffering. I’ve been the one to say, “Bring this child here”. You cannot let your neighbor suffering if they can help. I always like to give more than receiving. People should to learn appreciate what they have.