07/12/ – 11/12/15
Vutomi is seven years old and when she was born, nothing could be seen of the treacherous illness that would show her malignancy a few years later. Neurofibromatosis is a mutation of the nervous system and varies greatly in its manifestation. Some sufferers only get stains that are reminiscent of birthmarks and many do not even know that they have this disease up to the end of their lives. Several affected only develop tumours which are sometimes huge. These tumours are basically not malignant, but can be dangerous depending on the type. In some cases, the tumours can expand to such an extent that even bones are deformed or, for example, they grow around the eye sockets. Unfortunately, the seven-year-old girl belongs to the latter group: a large sprout has attacked her left side of the face and the doctors fear that this might let the left eye swell. Last year, tissue was already removed but the tumour did not stop growing. A definite cure of the disease is not yet known to the medical world, but the fact is that research in the field of neurofibromatosis is steadily advancing and new treatment possibilities are being tested.
Agnes, the mother of the little girl, works on the “Basadi” project which was initiated by Tshega. The “Basadi” ladies sew and tailor the school uniforms among other things. The workplace of Agnes is thus directly on the property of the “Lighthouse Academy”. It would certainly be ideal for Vutomi if, firstly, she was to have a better education than in her current state primary school and secondly, to be within “reach” of her mother.
Vutomi attended the second grade in a state school this year. Because of the large number of absent days due to her doctor appointments and the very poor educational level of state schools in the country Vutomi does not speak English. We will change this soon. I have decided to sponsor Vutomi’s school attendance at the “Lighthouse Academy”.
I am already the second godfather for Vutomi. An educator in a German kindergarten already supports “our child” with the “Basic Needs Programme”. This programme ensures, among other things, that the child is weekly visited by workmates of Tshega so that they always see what is missing. The special thing about the support of the nursery teacher is that she involves her entire kindergarten group. They regularly speak about Vutomi and her photos are displayed in German play rooms. Furthermore, the children have already sold self-made stuff to collect an additional donation for their South African friend. I think it is a great idea. Not only Vutomi and her family benefit from this support. Every German kindergarten child involved will also “grow” with this special relationship.
Vutomi is already provided with the most necessary things. Additionally, she will attend school in a very good institution. Tshega’s educational forging is a private school and the attendance costs more than attending a state school. Since her mother cannot afford the money by herself, I help the family out.
I have visited Vutomi at her place and also spent a lot of time with her at the OVC party last Saturday. (Report on the third week including OVC-Party) At this party, I had Milly pull some strings and ensured that Vutomi gets the biggest gift of the day. Since then, she has been sleeping with a plush dog that is almost as big as her. Besides the cuddly toy, there was also a small backpack full of goodies like hygiene items. These articles were donated to the children by private foreign sponsors (such as the nursery teacher) and by employees of Tshega or their dependents. When I saw her taking the backpack, I felt a lump in my throat. On the backpack, I saw the imprint of two wings. A flying backpack! This is my logo! I mean, the logo of “Help ‘n’ Travel” is a flying backpack! I knew in advance that it is the right decision to choose Vutomi as godchild. Now it seems that a higher power also confirms this.
Every time I met Vutomi and played with her, she impressed me with her joy of life. And since people also understand themselves without speaking the same language, I know that Vutomi is incredibly happy to go to the “Lighthouse Academy” in the new school year.
One of her most exciting days in a long time the girl experienced at our joint shopping trip. We decide that she uses her little backpack for sport lessons and we head off, among other things, to organise a basic schoolbag for her. In the giant mall in Tzaneen, we also get the basic equipment, consisting of homework book, pencils and coloured pencils, ruler, scissor, eraser, glue etc. We also buy pants and shorts which are worn with school uniforms. Of course, ice cream must not be missed at such an excursion and Ellanie, who accompanies us, also buys a doll that she gives Vutomi as an early Christmas present. You do not see such a happy face like the little girl had every day.
This week, I will also be able to attend a meeting to discuss the challenges for the coming year. Tshega’s main sponsor, “My Kidz Foundation”, experiences financial hardship and cannot financially support the NPO next year. Thus, eleven sponsored children and the women’s sport project lose their support. Therefore, they need new sponsors. In the same week, I get an email from Christoph Schulten, an old school mate who works for a large car rental company. His employer prepares an invitation to tender for employees at the turn of the year. They can advertise for social projects which may be awarded a premium of up to €5,000,-. The amount is pretty much what is missing next year for the eleven children and the women’s team. Tshega would be given a year to find new sponsors. So, we prepare an application and as soon as something is known about the result, I will certainly inform about this. So, keep your fingers crossed for Tshega, the children and women.
It seems that the fingers have been crossed hard lately, because this week the NPO got unexpected support. A resident construction company offered free assistance to build a school hall as well as to expand the sports field. The South African state does not provide the best conditions for social projects and there is no direct financial support at all. A great thing, however, which has been launched by the state, is the so-called BBBEE programme. BBBEE stands for “Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment” and is a kind of points system for companies that support social projects that benefit the black population. Due to the efforts of the construction company its BBBEE score rises and this company is preferred for government contracts compared to the competition with a lower BBBEE score. Our helpers hunting for points are definitely welcome.
Speaking of construction companies, did I not come to South Africa because of a construction site? After the students have been on vacation this week, I have helped the teachers “close” the school and prepared everything for Vutomi’s adoption, I finally have time to help with the actual school development. Shortly before departure, I could even do a kind of carpentry crash course at home. On the one hand, I wallpapered a room in his new apartment with my friend Michael and, on the other hand, I helped my friend Mareike to install two curtain rods. Ideal prerequisites to build a school, right?
On my first arrival at the construction site, the boss asks me to cement a windowsill to the wall. Um, how is that supposed to go? When he sees my baffled look, he shows me how it is done. He loads cement onto a large spatula and throws it against the wall under the window, then again and again.
Then, he takes a water scale and pushes it several times on the damp cement. Thereby, he gauges a straight line and removes the excessive cement with an iron rod.
A few more handles here, a few handles there and the sill is ready. I look paralysed and get the spatula handed over. I should follow his steps. One single, amateurish attempt of throwing the wet cement on the wall is enough and the construction supervisor understand that I am not Jesus and, above all, not a carpenter although my birthday is on “Christmas Eve”. Crazy! He scratches his head which shows that he needs a new plan. Finally, he gives me a broom and points to where I can sweep. We agree that this is the much more suitable work for me.
And since then, I have been cleaning, dragging garbage and stones back and forth and pushing cement and sand in wheelbarrows. I also ensure to have a great atmosphere on the construction site with my portable radio. And both the boss and colleagues have been very satisfied with me since then!