Be it how it will, do right now.

Siyakhula Boys Club Sitawuya eJozi

Siyakhula Boys Club is going to Johannesburg tomorrow, Saturday June 23, 2012.  After months of preparation, fundraising, and coordination with many different vendors, every single member of Siyakhula (plus one extra-special Returned Peace Corps Volunteer chaperone) will depart Steenbok early tomorrow morning on a special graduation trip to Jozi.  For the boys, it will be their first trip to South Africa’s biggest city!

But we (or, really, I) could still use your help.  As different vendors committed or backed out of donations during the process, I ended up paying for many of the high-ticket items myself – mainly the koombis (or public taxis) from our village to Johannesburg and back.  And as several of the guys came forward in the last week and explained to my counterpart and I that their family was going to be unable to pay the R150 for their half of the transport costs (a lot of money for a family that might feed five people on twice that amount for a whole month), I again tapped my bank account.

And this is fine; I don’t think anyone would do it any differently.  However, if you’re reading and a fan of the blog, or just someone who is passionate about education or development work or even Africa, and you’ve got ten dollars lying around, it would be a great help to me.  I meant to get the video you saw up online two weeks ago, in a real attempt at fundraising our budgetary shortfalls.  Partly, it’s a renunciation of the debilitating stereotypes you see about Africa (hat tip to Mama Hope for the idea); partly, it’s a celebration of the club itself and all we have achieved together since February; and part of it is about raising funds for the trip.  As tends to happen with planned events here, though, things fell through, and I had to spend time and money immediately to secure our reservations.

When I first submitted the US Embassy grant last August, I had no idea of the success the club would attain.  There was no way of knowing that, almost a year later, all the guys would plead for another round of the club for the second half of the year.  I didn’t know I’d spend hours debating myself about extending service, just to stay another few months with them.  And so when I sat down to begin planning the standard “closing function,” in which we’d invite local dignitaries and politicians, and feed them and let them give mind-numbing speeches about something with which they had had no involvement, and everyone would get a meaningless cookie-cutter certificate and drink soda and eat sugar cookies, I balked.  I didn’t want to spend the club’s meager grant money on that.  The guys deserved something more; we had to do something special.  So I started calling and emailing, petitioning and negotiating, following up and thanking.

All of the guys can recite the names of resistance leaders – Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela – but virtually none could tell you why those men and women should be celebrated. So, tomorrow, they’re going to the Apartheid Museum, to learn firsthand about those heroes, about what this country was like before they were born, and thus better understand their own lives and communities.  Then we’ll eat lunch in Mary Fitzgerald Square, named after South Africa’s first female trade unionist.  For some good old-fashioned fun of the educational variety, we’re going to the SciBono Science Center in the afternoon.  Instead of sitting at an airport and watching planes take off – this, literally, is one of the most common school field trips, second only to Gold Reef City: a children’s amusement park that celebrates the racist and economically exploitative mining history of Gauteng – they’ll engage in hands-on and interactive activities that encourage greater understanding and interest in the sciences, facilitated by a tour guide that speaks their home language.  Finally, we’re going to eat a sit-down, pizza dinner at Roman’s – because after five months of paloney sandwiches and fruit, they’ve earned it.

Speaking about her service in India as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Lillian Carter said, “Sharing yourself with others, and accepting their love for you, is the most precious gift of all.”  It’s a bit schmaltzy, but like most things in life, there’s a solid grain of truth at its center.  The last six months of my service have been nothing short of wonderful because of the success of Siyakhula.  If I could, I would pay for all the guys to visit Robben Island.  As it is, I have high hopes for this trip tomorrow: to inspire, to motivate, to plant the seeds of a dream.  And it’s an honor to have played such a large role in facilitating it.  If, however, you want to also play a part, please copy and paste the link below into your browser and follow the instructions.  Many thanks.

P.s.  Any monies received in excess of the $500 will, if a lesser amount, go towards educational graduation gifts for the boys.  If, through your kindness, I end up awash in extra funds, then my goal is to establish a fund to sponsor the guys for years to come.  Thanks again!

Here’s the video, just in case you missed it.


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