Playgrounds, Internet, Golf Outing, Student Exchange, Trip to the Sea, and Thank You!!

May, June, and July proved to be very busy months when it comes to things related to Care Village.  It is about to get even busier!

FPC Saline sponsored its third mission trip to Care Village with nine people.  Our goal was to help build two playgrounds – one for the little ones and one for the bigger children.  When we arrived, the children’s playground was well underway.  The small, ailing play structures had been refurbished and were being painted – two climbing walls, horizontal ladders, and tire obstacles were added.   In June a pedal merry-go-round was added, to the delight of the small ones.

Lee and Dan set out to design an obstacle course, reminiscent of Ninja Warrior.  With the help of five Care Village workers, Dan, Lee, and Josh managed to construct an impressive course, complete with a 15 ft. brick climbing wall, ropes courses, tire jumps, horizontal bars, and much more.  It was a monumental feat, almost completed in a week’s time.

New playground for the smaller children!

Thanks to a generous donation from First Presbyterian Church in Saline, all of the Care Village children received new winter school uniforms.  Additionally, hats, gloves, and jackets made for a much warmer wait for the school bus during the winter season!

The annual Golf Outing in July was again a success.  Thanks to the generosity of many who participated in the outing and those who sponsored holes, we were able to raise the $4,950 necessary to purchase the remaining 54 mattresses for the Care Village children, almost to the dollar!  Many, many thanks to those who assisted behind the scenes, especially Keith, Lee, Laura, Greg and Margo, Christina, and Maranda from the Care Village Outreach Board and Wendy who assisted with set-up.  Thank you to Mike and the Brookside staff who went out of their way to provide an enjoyable outing which included several amenities and an excellent meal.  A very special thank-you to Gerrie, Care Village Manager who provided wonderful authentic South African prizes for the top three golfing teams. Additional special thanks go to the local businesses that provided outstanding prizes for the raffle.  Plans are already underway for next year’s outing with hopes of making it even more successful! The children posed for thank-you photos that will go out to all golfers and hole sponsors. They loved the opportunity to say “Thank You!”

July also brought a small team of three to Care Village, my ninth visit and the fourth visits for Karen and Maranda.  We were able to prepare 95 repurposed I pads and 7 repurposed laptops donated by Saline Schools.  A reliable and speedy network has been completed and debugged and the children now have access to the Internet in their Houses and in every building on the campus.   We are still left to raise $9,000 that will install security cameras, uninterruptible power supplies to all network equipment, and reliable fiber optic cable to the node that delivers the Internet to Care Village.  This will ensure safety of the children, protection of the pricey equipment, and durability of the network for years to come. The three of us spent a great deal of time with the children, as usual.  We tutored and assisted with homework and began to educate the older children in the use of the Internet for research and word processing for school reports.  This newly opened avenue for education was received with tons of excitement.  There is much excitement, as well due to access to Youtube, for entertainment and enjoyment.  I believe that the children are now receiving many opportunities available to those of children from “traditional” families in Middelburg!

First opportunity to use I pads in House 7!

We have been working for well over a year to bring some of the Care Village children to Saline to live and be educated in the Saline Schools.  There have been many obstacles.  We have overcome most and have plans to bring four high school children to Saline for the 2019-2020 school year.  We have four generous Saline families who have offered to open their homes to the children who have been selected to travel to the U.S.  The children are extremely excited to begin their adventure and fingers are crossed that this will happen, beginning in October.

Next up is the annual trip to the sea for the children.  This event was the idea of Gerrie and is the closest that most of these children have to a family vacation.  In fact, it truly is a family vacation!  The first trip was in October of 2017, attended by 75 of the children (most whom had never seen the ocean before), and funded by contributions from the first mission team from FPC Saline.  The second trip was attended by 91 children and was again funded by those who had attended a service trip to Care Village from Saline.  I was privileged to be able to participate in this adventure.  Included was a side trip to the Imfolozi game reserve and a riverboat hippo cruise.  The 2019 trip to the sea will be in late September and I will again be joining the Care Village staff and children for this much anticipated vacation.

I cannot neglect to thank the hundreds of people who have supported Care Village in so many additional ways – prayers, notes to the children, donating items and funds to purchase what is needed, loading containers, spreading the word, to name only a few.  These children’s lives have been changed thanks to your support and commitment.  It is remarkable to me how much has been accomplished in under two years.

The three most common questions I receive from the children are: 1) when are you coming back? 2) will you be bringing others (names are always mentioned)? and 3) do you think I can come to America some day?  Answers: 1) soon 2) hopefully 3) yes!

Thank you!