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Sumbandila Scholarship Trust

October Newsletter

Hello Friends!

This month we arrived home from a life changing 10 day trip to our partner Cash & Rocket organizations in West Africa. We learned so much about the amazing work being done by OAfrica (Ghana) and Shine On Sierra Leone and gained valuable insights for our own work with Sumbandila.

Our students at Ridgeway have started writing their Cambridge IGCSE and AS Level exams and our Outliers Matrics are preparing for their final National exams.

Our University students are all experiencing the turmoil associated with the university student fee protests throughout the country (national #feesmustfall) a highly significant political time reflecting our country's deep historical struggle against inequality.

Our monthly student profile introduces Phuluso Mawela currently writing his AS exams.

We are expecting two exciting visits this month, we have a new staff appointment and our kids enjoy some water splashing to cool them down in this hot, hot summer season!

Sumbandila Story of the Month
Leigh in Ghana with Lisa Lovatt Smith (OAfrica) and Tiffany Persons (Shine On Sierra Leone) 

Sumbandila travels to Cash & Rocket organizations in Africa

As many of you will know, Cash and Rocket, currently our major funder, also funds two other organisations in Africa. Shine on Sierra Leone and OAfrica in Ghana.

In the interests of furthering our connection, three Sumbandila staff (Leigh, Emily & Andrew) set off to West Africa on September 20th to visit our sister organisations in Ghana and Sierra Leone.

In the small village of Ayenyah 50km outside of Ghana's Accra, we were hosted by OAfrica founder Lisa Lovatt Smith in stylish thatched huts with her very distinctive flair for architecture.

OAfrica's core programme is removing children from orphanages in Ghana and resettling them with their own or foster families. It was a privilege to meet the OAfrica social workers and other administrative staff forming part of their Family Support Services, Foster Family Care and Care Reform programmes. These are deeply committed and highly articulate men and women who are clearly devoted to the children in their care.

The wonderful social workers, pictured with Lisa, working for OAfrica's Family Support Services programme.

In our gathering with the social workers they spoke fondly of some the special children they had worked with, their eyes welled with tears and we were all deeply moved by the stories. Later we were to meet some of these children and it was very special indeed.

One of these children was the lovely little Barikisu in the care of an inspiring woman called Ma Georgina, who runs a successful shop with OAfrica's help. Barikisu arrived at OAfrica as an abandoned, tiny and malnourished child and is now healthy and happy and very much part of a loving family.

Perhaps the greatest synergy with Sumbandila was OAfrica’s YASS project (Young Adults Support Services) which supports their beneficiaries as they enter tertiary education and the work place. Despite their individual struggles these young people are ambitious and excited about the future of Africa.

Leigh with the inspiring young OAfrica beneficiaries at the YASS (Young Adult Support Services) offices outside Accra in Ghana.

The most moving part of our Ghanaian trip was visiting New Horizons Special School in Accra. This wonderful independent school for children with physical disabilities and special needs houses a large number of OAfrica children. Each of the OAfrica children has a special caregiver who looks after them in their foster homes and at school.

These are children so often marginalised in our society and New Horizons and OAfrica are inspirational in the work they are doing caring for them.

We loved our stay at OAfrica and learnt a great deal which we hope to implement in Sumbandila.

And then we travelled to Sierra Leone...

Nothing could have prepared us for the startling beauty of this country and the glorious silvery light.

Shine On Sierra Leone is about to build a unique secondary school in the remote district of Kono where their project is based. An architectural masterpiece, the building will be creative, practical and designed not only for the climate but for the use of local labour and local materials - most impressively making bricks from compressed soil.

We will never forget our wonderful and show stopping welcome to the village of Bongema where the Muddy Lotus Primary School is situated. What a beautiful village and what a beautiful welcome! The children wore masks, there was dancing and singing, and celebrating.

The school is extremely special but what struck us most were the teachers. They are so deeply committed and excited about the work they are doing.

We were welcomed in great style at Muddy Lotus Primary by the people and students of Bongema Village, Kono.

Of course education is an area where Shine On and Sumbandila overlap and can naturally support one another which is so exciting for both of us.

The most moving part of our time in Sierra Leone was learning about Shine On’s extraordinary response to the national crisis of Ebola last year. The Cash & Rocket ladies can feel incredibly proud to have been part of the work that was done.

During the 2014/2015 Ebola outbreak, Shine On was able to reach the people at a very real grass-roots level through their deep connections with the community and its leaders. In partnership with Cash and Rocket they kept Bongema village Ebola-free and supported many other villages with fundamental home packages where families were quarantined for days on end without basic necessities.

We spent an emotional and inspiring afternoon with 67 children who have been completely orphaned by Ebola. All of them have been placed in foster homes by Shine On and they are receiving both financial and much needed psycho-social support.

Shine On Sierra Leone supports 67 Ebola orphans. Pictured here with their care givers.

Sierra Leone may be a country which has been ravaged by war and a terrible disease, but it is so full of hope and beauty. Children playing in the streets, fathers at home with their families, mothers going about their daily chores. It was a magical time.

Great work is being done in three countries in Africa.

Julie Brangstrup, founding director of Cash & Rocket and all her fund-raising tour ladies can be very proud.

A documentary on our trip will soon be released.

Spotlight on star student Phuluso Mawela
Video: Watch Phuluso's incredible journey with Sumbandila.

The Sumbandila team have had the privilege of nurturing Phuluso Mawela over the past five years. Currently in his final year writing the AS Level exams, Phuluso has grown into a confident yet humble leader who cares deeply about the Sumbandila family and more importantly his own family at home.

When you are in the village you don’t actually see much of the world or see what you are missing out on. When I was awarded the Sumbandila Scholarship I realized that I can actually do what I want to do not just follow what the people around me are doing” says Phuluso.

His distinctively diverse interests range from acting and guitar playing to creative writing and sports. He discovered a deep passion for basketball and took the initiative to start a basketball team at Ridgeway College which has grown to a competitive level in the Limpopo league.

Leigh Bristow says that Phuluso is a wonderful example of a committed Sumbandila scholar, not only because he is in leadership, participates enthusiastically in sport and performs well academically, but mostly because he is proud of where he comes from, he is proud of his mother and all that she has done for him, and he is proud to be part of Sumbandila. We are very proud of him.”

Phuluso's self-belief comes from his mother, who made many sacrifices to get him through primary school. They both endured the trauma of losing Phuluso’s father, living with an abusive criminal uncle and being ostracised by their community.

Because of my uncle I've really seen what poverty, drugs and a life of crime can do to you. So this has also helped and motivated me to actually do better, live better in a different way” says Phuluso.

Phuluso shared his story in a creative writing exercise which earned him much admiration and praise. Mr. Bart Fuijkschot  of the August Schippers Foundation in the Netherlands, a major sponsor of Sumbandila, was at a Sumbandila dinner when Phuluso first read his story. Bart’s enthusiasm and praise motivated Phuluso to enter the story into a national publication.

Phuluso with his mother and Leigh at his Matric Farewell this year. Phuluso is hoping to study Genetics in 2016.

With the help of Mr. Mike Linden, the story was entered and eventually chosen for publication in the South African Council for English Education's annual English Alive publication. Thrilled, Phuluso presented the story again at his school graduation ceremony and made special mention of his mother sitting in the audience.

Next year Phuluso will embark on a new chapter at the University of Pretoria where he hopes to nurture his love of nature and conservation by studying Genetics. Of course playing basketball is also high on his agenda.

Phuluso is immensely grateful for the life exposure that Sumbandila has given him, enabling him to harness his potential for the world and one day help give the same opportunity to other children just like him.

Bart Fuijkschot  is a not only a longtime funder, partner and friend of Sumbandila but is also well known by our Sumbandila family as he visits us at least once a year from the Netherlands and we are delighted that he will join us for dinner on Tuesday the 27th.

Julie and Chloe visit Sumbandila!
Cash & Rocket founder Julie Brangstrup and Chloe Green, champion Cash & Rocket fundraiser, will visit Sumbandila early next month. Pictured here on their last visit to our project in November 2014.

On the 4th of November Julie Brangstrup (Director of Cash & Rocket) and Chloe Green  (Champion Cash & Rocket Fundraiser) and two of Julie’s daughters Jagger and Lotus will be flying into South Africa, exactly a year after Cash and Rocket’s first trip to Sumbandila.

In November last year it was Julie who delivered the exciting news of a full scholarship to the 2015 intake. We asked Julie if she would do this again for our 2016 intake.

There will be 11 new residential Sumbandila scholars and 30 new Outliers. We will journey to four villages to tell four of the new residential scholars at their homes and join the others on Friday to give the rest of them the good news.

Julie and Chloe will also be reunited with the seven students who started with Sumbandila at the beginning of 2015. Those frightened and tearful little faces that they gave the good news to in November last year are now confident young men and women who have nearly completed their first year at Ridgeway College.

Julie with the Sumbandila Outliers (2014)

Julie, her daughters and Chloe will visit the new Sumbandila offices, the new Ridgeway pre-school, Ridgeway primary and Ridgeway College and the rural Luvhalani primary school in Tshakuma that Cash & Rocket have done so much for .

They will also be able to see the new boys hostel donated by Cash and Rocket, the refurbishment of the existing hostel donated by Cash and Rocket, the Sumbandila Combi donated by Cash and Rocket, and the new Pretoria University residence donated by Cash and Rocket. In Pretoria they will be joined by many of the University students for Saturday lunch.

Julie and Chloe are fondly remembered by our students and they are very excited to see them again and meet Julie’s children.

IGCSE and A Level Exams

This month has seen the commencement of the final examinations for IGCSE and AS Level students at Ridgeway College. These exams are held under strict Cambridge regulations and are being written at the same time in schools all over the world. The exams are marked in Cambridge and results released in January.

The IGCSE exams are the first international exams that our Sumbandila students write in their third year at Ridgeway and the AS exams are written in year 5 as the exit exam and entrance to tertiary.

Performing well on the AS School exams determines both University entrance and access to funding. We wish our students the best of luck .

# Fees Must Fall

Students demonstrating outside the Union Buildings (Houses of Parliament) in Pretoria on 24 October. Other demonstrations occurred throughout the preceding week on University campuses and outside other government buildings like Luthuli House (Johannesburg).

Last week, South African students in universities all over the country demonstrated in opposition to a 10% tuition fee hike for 2016. Many commentators have agreed that these uprisings are not only because of fees, but general discontent from today's youth at reported maladministration in our current government and its refusal to prioritise education as a means of much needed transformation in our country. These uprisings have been likened to the struggle protests of students during Apartheid years when educational resources and capital was just as limited for the majority of the population.

Many of our students were affected by the #FeesMustFall strike as classes came to a standstill in many universities.

Joan Tshivhinda, Ridgeway College alumni and board member feels strongly about the protests:

In my mind, the student protests are simply the consequence of leaving fundamental issues unresolved in South Africa. South African students are in essence protesting for justice. Students ask: our parents fought for freedom from a brutal and unjust system, but we still have to buy it [education]...with what money? South Africans need to have open and honest discussions about the impact of apartheid”.

Shadrack Khorombi, current Sumbandila and Studietrust university student at Wits, has this to say:

The #FeesMustFall protest reminded students that there is hope, we are South Africa's hope to win back the country from the current corruption and selfish government. A luta continua. Amandla #AncMustFall.

Our Sumbandila students need to be part of the solution in the future. They are fortunate to have our assistance at Tertiary education, but they genuinely understand the struggles just to get though the academic year. We think of our youth in this difficult but are relieved that the government have agreed not to hike the fees.

Welcoming Angela to the Sumbandila team
Angela will head Sumbandila's finance department

Sumbandila is very pleased to announce the newest member of our team. Angela Brennan who comes from an extensive background in finance and administration.

She will be heading up Sumbandila Finance and Administration allowing Leigh to focus on fundraising, marketing and educational and social support.

We are thrilled to have Angela in this position and warmly welcome her to our team.

Some relief from a boiling summer!
Our youngest Sumbandila child, Nommy Makhubele, enjoys her first swimming lesson!

The summer in our part of South Africa can be extremely hot and dry. We are fortunate to have a swimming pool on the premise of Ridgeway preschool where our offices are located.

This is a source of relief and joy for our residential students who walk up the hill to cool down after a hot day at school.

More importantly the pool is used by Diane Banantyne for swimming lessons for our young students who cannot swim. Some of our older students also attend lessons with Fiona Smit in town and both instructors report that our students are always well behaved and eager to learn.

Kind regards

Leigh Bristow

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