After a very successful research trip to Coffee Bay, South Africa, we are excited to announce the details of our new project. Over the next few months we will raise money to build new school buildings for the Bekisizwe and Madakeni Junior Secondary Schools. We also wish to furnish them and other area schools with new desks and chairs. When we have finished our fundraising, we will return and oversee the building of these schools ourselves to ensure the project is complete and the process is fair for the community and the schools.
Why coffee bay?
The Eastern Cape is the poorest region of South Africa, and Coffee Bay is in the center of the poorest section of the Eastern Cape. It is a forgotten region formally known as the Transkei. Surrounded by beautiful rolling green hills and a tropical coastline is the Xhosa tribe, a proud community of subsistence farmers who have lived in this region for hundreds of years. It is a community that has survived famine, pestilence, war, and apartheid. It is a community where families are the most important part of life but progress is slow and opportunities to support these families are rare...
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This April, we traveled to Coffee Bay and were given generous access to their lives, and found a great community in need of a little help. We visited medical clinics with no doctors, farms without access to water, and traditional arts projects with no infrastructure to reach the outside world. We saw many local business projects without access to start-up costs. We saw a community with a strong work ethic but nowhere to work, and we saw the effects that this much need can have on a society. One of the most striking and consistent problems we saw was that of the school system. It is with these local schools that we think we can give the most help. (For a full picture of our trip and what we saw, check out our travel blog here).
Why are we helping the Bekisizwe and Madekeni schools?
The two schools we have chosen to help are the Bekisizwe Junior Secondary School and the Madekeni Junior Secondary School. As we walked around these school yards, it became obvious that they have great teachers, eager students and a healthy sense of education. However, all of their dedication and hard work has not been enough to hold the schools together. In fact, it is only with the strength of the faculty that these institutions resemble schools at all.
In the best situations, children sit on broken benches or the cracked concrete floors of the few classrooms they have. At worst, they sit outside in the fields surrounding the school when there is no space inside. They share these fields with grazing cattle that wander freely through the schoolyard due to insufficient fencing. When it rains, they pack everyone inside the small rooms. They teach very little on those days, because the rooms are too cramped and must house 2 or 3 different grades at a time. There are few working bathrooms, and no running water. Some schools like Madakeni have a tank for drinking water that gathers the rain that runs off the rusty tin roof. But even this water is not filtered and contains dirt, bacteria and insects that also get collected in the water tanks. The only food that the children get served is one slice of bread for lunch, maybe with butter, but more likely without.
The teachers and principals like Mrs. Mangisa at Bekisizwe and Mrs. Mandlalisa at Madakeni are proud and capable educators that just can’t seem to get ahead of the curve. They have to run their schools with a budget that amounts to less than $90 per student, per semester. They utilize whatever other resources they can. Broken doors are hoisted up on concrete blocks to double as desks and holes in the ceiling and cracks in the walls are constantly being patched. Teachers use any teaching technique they can think of to keep the attention of the students focused amidst such desperate conditions. The schools try to protect the materials they have been able to gather, but without fencing or locked doors, it is hard to do so effectively. Without sufficient safety measures, these schools have little chance of receiving new supplies since they cannot promise that they will not be stolen.
The students themselves are exactly what students should be. They are happy, energetic and eager to learn. But without resources and a safe and consistent learning environment, they will lose these qualities as they get older.
We cannot fill all of the needs of these schools, but if we can at least provide suitable classrooms, it will be a remarkable improvement in the state of their education.
A Spotlight On Other Needs
It is our hope that in addition to helping the school system we can also shine a spot light on other needs of Coffee Bay. Here are some of the other situations we came across.
The area can use agricultural experts to help farmers set up a proper system to efficiently grow and sell their produce. Irrigation techniques, proper crop rotation and most importantly suitable equipment are essential needs of this community.
They need micro-financiers to help many local business projects get off the ground. It is extremely important for a community at this stage of development to create an economy with a foundation of locally owned businesses. As post aparteid South Africa redevelops its infrastructure areas like Coffee Bay could easily fall victim to outside development.
The medical clinics are running without fulltime doctors, overnight rooms for patients, and without clean water. South Africa has the highest AIDS/HIV rate in Africa, high TB rates and a staggering amount of compounded injuries and infections due to lack of basic medical care.
Youth Projects are running without space or materials. Sports fields, uniforms, performance space, and resources to travel are needed to sustain a positive future for many young Xhosa children without Parents. A cultural center would be a positive addition to provide a venue to help preserve traditional dance and art.
We are very thankful for your interest in our work. The success of this project is dependent on the attention we can put on Coffee Bay. Please forward this website and the details of our efforts to your contacts. In addition please contact us with any ideas or thoughts you have on our activities. Please click here to help out.
Your donations are very needed and appreciated.
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