Aussie schoolboys help orphans

BUILDING FOUNDATIONS: Boys from St Stephen’s School in Perth help lay brick pavers for a sports court at Jehovah Jireh Haven in Alexandria, while a group of orphans and foster children look on Picture: JON HOUZET
BUILDING FOUNDATIONS: Boys from St Stephen’s School in Perth help lay brick pavers for a sports court at Jehovah Jireh Haven in Alexandria, while a group of orphans and foster children look on Picture: JON HOUZET

Jehovah Jireh benefits from sports court

A GROUP of 15 Australian youngsters on a service tour to South Africa spent a few days at Alexandria orphanage Jehovah Jireh Haven recently, helping with some much-needed bathroom retiling and construction of a sports court.

The long-planned trip by St Stephen’s School in Perth was a result of teacher Dale Kelly’s connection with the Sunshine Coast through his parents, Don and Micky. St Stephen’s has a programme called Global which promotes class tours to various countries. “We feel we have a global commitment because of Perth’s position,” Dale said.

The Grade 12 tour goes to Cambodia every year, Grade 11s go to Malaysia, and this is the first year the Grade 10s have been able to take a trip. Dale, who has worked at the school for three years, was instrumental in the programme choosing South Africa.

“My parents told me about this place [Jehovah Jireh] and I came to visit,” Dale said.

“I made a proposal and the school said it was in line with their strategic intent.” He made a follow-up trip to Jehovah Jireh with someone else in the St Stephen’s Global programme in April last year.

“It was a heap of planning and big budgets. We had to do risk assessments for liability. All kids had to wear safety boots, and of course we had to sort out passports, unabridged birth certificates and affidavits from the school saying these kids are allowed to travel,” Dale said. Two other teachers accompanied him on the trip.

The 15 boys who came on the tour all paid their own way. They each had to raise a minimum of A$700 (R7 920). One boy delivered yellow pages, while another raised money by skydiving, receiving sponsorships per metre he parachuted. They also held three “sausage sizzles” outside Australian hardware store Bunnings, which raised A$2000 (R22 628). “The exchange rate favours us,” Dale said.

In addition, Bunnings ran a workshop for the boys in which they were taught paving, tiling and carpentry. “Bunnings also gave us gloves and safety masks,” Dale said. He contacted an old friend of his, Grant Richards, who has a civil engineering business, to do some groundwork in advance of the service tour arrival. “I sent money from Australia and Grant sourced everything here.

“Grant came with a digger three weeks ago and compacted the area for the sports court. But pigs tore it up so the kids came with compactors and compacted it,” Dale laughed.

While half the boys worked on the sports court – a preferable job outdoors – the other half worked on tiling the bathroom in the orphanage, which required grinding and cutting, resulting in much dust. Molly Bam, who started Jehovah Jireh 23 years ago, was very happy.

“My kids love sports, so a sports court will be lovely. We had the bathroom tiled about six years ago but it gets used daily and everything started breaking, so when Dale came it was a blessing,” she said.

As well as being an orphanage for 55 children, the property also houses two foster homes with seven children each, and operates as a day care centre for other children. Bam said about 100 children a day are on the property.

TotT asked three of the Australian boys what their trip meant to them. Callum Smith said: “It’s been great to help. When you’re in Australia you hear about bad situations, but you don’t see them. It’s been good to make an impact such as this and show love to these kids.” Ben Ockwell said it had helped him see how some people live and the hardships they endure.

“It’s changed my outlook on life,” he said. “It’s very rewarding – we’ve only been here a day and we’ve had such good connections with the kids.”

Aidan McAuley said: “It’s really about having a first-hand impact on the things we hear about on TV, as well as an opportunity to do some physical labour.” He said it was also enlightening getting to know South African culture. Balancing service with fun and leisure, after three days working at Jehovah Jireh, the boys set off for Jeffreys Bay, the Tsitsikamma forest, Knysna and ultimately Cape Town.

They will hand over 250 pairs of soccer boots collected by the St Stephen’s School community to the Langa Soccer Academy, an initiative to keep children off the street. They also toured the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, played a soccer match against Alexander Road High School, went on a game drive at Kragga Kamma, and visited Addo Elephant Park.

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