Dumelang! (Doo-may-lawng.) Hi everyone, it’s Ryan here. I would like to send you greetings from Mafikeng and Dihatshwane village. This morning was a very tough and emotional morning for many of us. We started off by rushing out of the house (I think we are quickly adapting to “African time” J) and headed to Lonely Park medical clinic. We were quickly briefed on it beforehand and found out that it is a clinic owned by the government. Wednesdays are typically women and children day, where mothers are able to bring their infants to get vaccinations (like polio and others) and treatments needed for free. When we got there, Papa Joe informed us that the District manager was there doing an inspection and unfortunately we were not able to go inside. The people working had their hands full and wouldn’t be able to show us around. Bummer. Papa Joe informed us that they only have about 3 workers, and a few college students doing their clinicals that are able to provide help. On average, they see about 3,000 patients daily. I can’t even fathom the stress and sense of overwhelmingness the workers must experience on a daily basis with that many patients and lack of supplies and resources. Papa Joe gave a brief talk about the ill and how often funerals are around here because of lack of supplies, medications and the lack of knowledge about diseases. We left the clinic and headed to Lonely Park Cemetery. What a humbling and somber experience that was. We got out of our van and looked over a sea of graves. There were rocks piled on each grave to help eliminate erosion of the land. We silently walked through and looked at all the tombstones and read each persons date of birth, death and day they were buried. For many of us, it reminded us of times when we ourselves have lost loved ones. It is very apparent here that some people will be missed more than words can say, and hearts should have to feel. We gathered around and prayed for those who have lost their lives and those who are left behind and had to say goodbye to their loved ones. Afterwards, we rode to Dihatshwane village, giving a minute of silence, which turned into the entire car ride of silence as we all reflected, thought and prayed for what we saw this morning.
Once we arrived in Dihatshwane, we met Pastor Mpho and went on a few house visits to those who needed some encouragement, motivation, and strength. We visited five different people, all with different ailments, resulting from car accidents, blindness, severe bacterial infections, internal pains and so on. It was amazing to see that despite their pain and suffering, they were so welcoming, kind and grateful for us coming to visit them. We briefly learned about each person and their situation. Let’s just say, there wasn’t a dry eye amongst our group. It was very emotional and by the time we had to go back to school to teach our lessons, we were exhausted. I don’t think any of us will ever forget what we saw and experienced today. We are very fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity today and it is a constant reminder that we, as human beings must take very opportunity that life gives us to “be the change we wish to see in this world.”
Again, we thank each and every one of you who continue to follow our blog, support and pray for us. We think about you every night and day as we look forward to share our experiences with you in person. We will see you soon.
-Ryan and the Education Team
Hello everyone! This is Jennifer. After visiting the five individuals in Dihatshwane village, we returned to the primary school to begin our afternoon session. We began with a prayer continuing to thank God for the fellowship we are experiencing with the teachers of Dihatshwane Primary School. We all worshiped, singing Amazing Grace, and then singing a song we have all come to know and love that we learned from the Dihatshwane teachers. As I looked around the room during our worship time, I saw many tears streaming down the faces of our mission team. It is so uplifting to hear the amazing voices and spirit that comes out of these women and some of us just couldn’t help but cry when we heard them. Allison then led us in devotion and did an excellent job sharing the message of the gospel with our group. As always, we closed by having tea and enjoying fellowship with one another.
Next, it was on to teaching! Allison and Cindy began with a phonics lesson. I loved watching the excitement on the faces of the children as they chanted, stomped their feet, and clapped their hands while learning their letter sounds. The group of learners started the lesson standing near their chairs, and by the end of the song they were just inches away from Allison, all in excitement for learning! The school principal, Octavia, was very excited about the magnetic letters that we brought for the school, so she taught an impromptu lesson to the children using the new materials. We were able to see the strong memorization skills of the children during her lesson and saw the determination to spell words and create sentences with the new letters on their faces.
We took a break to eat lunch. Today was the coldest day it has been so far and the village was very windy. As some of us stayed inside to eat, others went outside in the cold to be with the children. Some of the children had said they wanted to go home because it was cold, but they stayed at school so they could participate in the rest of the afternoon’s lessons. It is indescribable to me the dedication and willingness of the kids of Dihatshwane. They are supposed to be on holiday this week, but today they braved the cold and came to school voluntarily so that they could interact with us and learn from us. What a wonderful God we have.
After finishing lunch, Andrea and Ryan reviewed their math lesson and homework from yesterday with the grade 4 students and then taught a new lesson on division. At the same time, Allison, Jill, Nicole, and I met with the Grade R teacher (our equivalent of Kindergarten), Nosi, to offer ideas and strategies for centers in her classroom. Nosi is an incredible person. She is brand new to teaching, only arriving at the school a little more than a month ago. She shared with us the struggles she has faced with this new class due to the lack of prior educators for this particular class, resources available, and parent involvement for her learners. Yet she continues on and does everything that she can for these children to help them grow and succeed. She speaks with such passion and devotion, and it is very evident that she is touching the lives of her children each and every day.
To wrap up our time at Dihatshwane Primary School for the day, Brie and I gave a presentation on how to include and differentiate for children with special needs in the classroom. Uncle D, who is a pastor’s assistant in another village, brought over three teachers from the preschools and learning centers from two other nearby villages to hear and hopefully learn from the information that we were to share. As I prepared for the presentation last night, I was so excited to share my knowledge on a subject that I am so very passionate about. However, as I was presenting today, I began to realize just how lucky we are in America to have federally mandated special education programs to serve students with diverse needs. We are so fortunate to have a disability identification process, multitudes of assessment tools, countless resources for differentiation, and the ability to have extra support for children with special needs in our American schools. In Dihatshwane, there are no such programs, trainings, or resources. My heart really ached for the teachers who asked me questions during the presentation about specific learners in their classrooms that they were struggling with, and for the learners who are not able to have all of their needs met without extra support. I could tell so much that these teachers wanted to be able to help these learners grow and succeed, but did not have the resources or specialized training to do so. Listening to the teachers of Dihatshwane share their stories really made me grateful for the opportunities that our teachers and students in America receive as a result of federally mandated special education programs.
We ended our session due to time constraints and will pick up where we left off tomorrow. We then headed to Pastor Mpho’s home where we met his beautiful wife and children. We felt so very loved and honored that his wife wanted to meet us and that they had invited us into their home to do so. The relationships I have formed with the people of Dihatshwane will not soon be forgotten. Sitting in their house, I felt as if I was talking with friends I had known for years. They are so welcoming and true people of God, and the message that they share in their everyday actions is very humbling.
We finished the night with another wonderful dinner (chicken, sweet potatoes, peas, and rice with a really delicious salsa) and our nightly devotion session. As we reflected on our day during devotion, it became evident to all of us that this experience is truly unique in its impact for each mission team member. We all are learning new things about ourselves, fighting existing and new battles within ourselves, and growing closer together as a team and closer in our relationship with our Savior. Tonight I feel surrounded by love, friends, and fellowship, and I am extremely grateful for the experience.
In His Love,