Before I came to Africa, I knew I would spend a size-able portion of my money on getting the kids I met a substantial amount of school supplies, so I included that into my budget. I never thought to ask people for donations because…honestly, I don’t know why; I have no good reason. I figured I had enough saved up to buy a lot for them already. A couple of weeks ago, some friends read about all the great things I was doing for these kids and wanted to help out. One of those friends, Kelly Ellsworth, suggested I open a PayPal account so she and others could donate money and help out too. I already planned on getting these kids a lot, but now with their donations I could get them lots more! Thanks to all of you who have sent these kids money, I was able to buy them a few extra thousand Rand worth of goods in addition to the few thousand Rand I had already put aside for them! Now the next step was to find out exactly what these kids needed. How about everything haha! I personally asked some of the teachers at my school and they suggested a few things that they were in desperate need for. The main item: pencils!
You won’t believe how difficult it is to find a pencil with a rubber (eraser) on top of it in South Africa! In the States, you can go anywhere and buy a pack of reliable pencils, but not here; you have to hunt for them. I’ve bought pencils for a few classes before, but they would lose or break them within a day or two. It’s unsettling to know these children aren’t very responsible with their things, but hopefully at least with my elite eight, I can tell them how much money people have given up to get them nice things and hopefully they will be more careful with them and appreciate it more. I planned on taking an early leave from school on Monday to go into town and buy everything. Oh yeah by the way, on my way into town, three guys made an attempt to mug me. Let’s just say, they need to try harder next time. True story. But anyways…
I went wandering around Stellenbosch to see where I could get the most bang for my buck. I found a few places, relatively near each other. One of the places, Juves Bookstore, had a lot of things my kids needed and the manager was very cooperative and even game me a 10% off discount because I spent so much. I had bags and bags of stuff, too heavy to carry around. I didn’t even think of this fact prior to. I had to hire a taxi to lug me around town with all my things, and also make a few stops along the way to other stores. I bought tons of things though. Here’s a rundown of supplies I bought for them: packs and packs of notebook paper, piles of notepads, black and blue pens, coloring pencils, coloring markers, big rubbers, little rubbers, big pencil sharpeners, little pencil sharpeners, folders, filers, plastic sleeves, drawing paper, glue sticks, pencil cases, white-out markers, labels, backpacks, easy read magazines, highlighters, rulers, book covers, and a truckload of pencils, some with rubbers on top and some without. It wasn’t just all school supplies, I also got them each several dozen action comics (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, etc), Ben 10 stickers, bags of candy, and a couple of paperback books. These boys would be entering high school soon, so I bought them each some Axe Body Spray to attract the ladies and packs of minty fresh gum to keep those ladies around ;). Knowing these guys, the gum will probably be gone by the next day though. That’s not all, I owned a few things they liked that I decided I would give to them. My rugby balls, my portable speakers, my wrestling belt, and some shirts that had the University of Michigan logo on them. I even drew them each a picture of their favorite Dragonball Z character, with a personalized note from myself (I will give those out to them right before I leave.) The amount of school supplies I bought each of them should last for more than a whole school year. Besides taking care of my group of kids, I thought I should at least spread some love to my grade 6. I bought each learner in grade 6 and 7 a pencil and rubber and I even had enough to distribute to the grade 5 classes.
After school on Monday, I told the boys to come over because I had something I wanted to show them. I never told them that I would be getting them all of this stuff. One by one they all came over and saw the table and floor full of school supplies. They looked like kids on Christmas Day! But before that, I took them all into Stellenbosch and got everyone one of my favorites desserts in the world, Cinnabons! They never had it before but loved it almost as much as I do haha! I took them to lunch, or probably dinner at this point to McDonalds (yeah yeah I know). Soon we made our way back to Zulu’s. I gave each of them a bag and distributed the items as evenly as possible. Over these past few weeks with them, I had to keep telling them to say ‘please’ and ‘ thank you’ because they rarely ever said it. That night when I gave them all those things, they were full of ‘thank you’s’, which I was happy to hear. I had to explain to them, that a few people, including myself have paid a lot of money to buy all these things for them so they needed to be responsible and take care of it all. I think they understood because they were silent and completely focused on me when I was telling them. Usually they stay over until around 8 or 9, but they all wanted to run home to their parents and show off their things, which was completely fine.
About a week or two ago, Chris came up with the idea to start some kind of education fund for these kids to help them out because they really need it. Setting up a PayPal was a baby step in the right direction but we are currently in the midst of figuring out the best way to execute the idea. That may take some time, but once we figure something out, we’ll be sure to let everyone know!