Good morning from Aliwal North. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here a week already. Days have been full as you can imagine.

Picking up from where I left off Monday eve, Tuesday Wendell, Mpho, Mike Betha and Mondo met with representatives from the Sedibeng Mayor’s office where they made a pitch for donation of the land at Boiketlong. In the afternoon we all met with representatives from the Boiketlong community (the Counsellor, Ward committee member, and chairperson for the Committee for special projects). They were very excited to meet with us and to talk about the potential for a community center in Boiketlong. This is very much a political issue. The Boiketlong community is very much in need of services. The roads are dirt, there is no electricity, water is available at taps so folks must bring containers and buckets and carry water back to their homes. The Counsellor (sort of like a mayor) is is an elected position. Like most politicians, promises are made for services and improvements. Her house was intentionally burned about a year ago – not an unusual thing to happen in these areas. If she can deliver a community center, this would be a real coup for her and would strengthen her position.

Wednesday Wendell, Joann and Glenda went with Pastor Mike to visit Welma’s school in the rural community of Ventersdorp. This is about 2 hours away. I stayed at The Aark with Mondo and Mpho as we tried to get Quicken downloaded onto Mpho’s laptop. One of our objectives on this trip is to improve their ability to report not only to STM, but also to their other donors, which is a requirement for funding. They have been using Excel but they do not know how to use formulas so you can imagine the difficulty of reporting accurately, not to mention the time it takes to do it. Mondo was proud of the fact it only took her 2 days to prepare the simple report for STM. With Quicken she can do it in a matter of minutes. But, since this is Africa), this process took much longer than we had anticipated. Brad Stoffels (at Aliwal North) had been able to download Quicken for free. We tried doing this but were not successful so the software was purchased instead (for $65) and it now can be downloaded to up to 3 pc’s.

The experience of going to Welma’s school was one of great distress for Wendell. Several of us went last year but he did not so this was his first opportunity to see the difficulty of providing a decent education in these rural schools. Welma is the principal. The school is grades 8-12. Approx. 400 learners (roughly 50 to a class). This is a significant increase over last year as more and more farms are letting workers go so families are moving off the farm to the “city.” (Farmers are now required to provide benefits for employees of 10 years or longer. Many farmers don’t want to do this so when the 10 years are up they let the worker go. For most workers, the farm is all they have known.) There are 3 students to a desk, 1 book for 3 students. The power was out since the school could not pay their electric bill. Because there was no power, the computers could not be used, nor was there water available, which means the toilets didn’t work either. You can imagine the difficult of teaching and learning in this environment. Welma has indicated that this will be her last year. She simply cannot continue working in this stressful situation in addition to managing her dialysis 3x per week. Dinner was a braai for guests at The Aark, hosted by Johan and Charmaine.

Thursday Wendell, Mpho and Mondo met with the Departments of Environmental Health and Social Services to determine what steps need to be taken at Klipkop to comply with their requirements for a crèche and drop-in center. Joann spent time with the crèche kids and also went with Etelang Pele volunteers as they met with folks in the community they serve. Glenda and I met with Mondo and the bookkeeper for Etelang Pele (she had a difficult name to remember as well as pronounce but since she resembled a young Oprah, Glenda and I are calling her by that name) to download Quicken to Mondo’s laptop and to begin basic training for both ladies on software. They will need a lot more than we could provide on this day but our friend, Efraim Oppelt, from which Etelang Pele Klipkop is receiving funds, has promised to help them get additional training.

Friday was an all-day (9-3:00) celebration at Klipkop for the “official” opening of the Etelang Pele Satellite office. Local dignitaries were invited, as well as people from the community, other agencies that Mpho works with, the Board of Directors of Etelang Pele, all the volunteers and staff, two mobile free HIV/AIDS testing stations, and a mobile station from the Department of Home Affairs (the department that assists with helping people obtain identification which in turn makes them eligible for grants from Social Services). The satellite office has actually been open for a year but they wanted to have this celebration at a time when we (STM and North Point representatives) could be included. This event rivaled a church service – lots of singing, dancing, speeches … there was even a small brass band. Wendell brought greetings from STM, Glenda was invited to speak briefly on why she had come to South Africa. It culminated with a candle lighting ceremony to honor those who have died from or are infected with HIV/AIDS. Surprising, it only went 10 minutes over 3:00. Dinner was at the home of Mike & Welma Betha’s son, Molemo, and his lovely wife Jelani. (Welma could not be with us as she was undergoing dialysis in Vereeniging. We are going to try to bring back with us her blood type to see if there is any chance of finding a compatible kidney donor from the US. We know it will be a long-shot but feel that we must at least put forth the effort on her behalf.) It was a wonderful evening – full of love and friendship – we felt like true family. And, of course, Glenda kept everyone in stitches …

Saturday we made the 350 mile journey south to Aliwal North, arriving at about 4 pm.

Well, it’s time to get ready for church with Brad.

Later – Kelly

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Glenda gives greeting from_NP

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Wendell with Etelang Pele_group_candle_ceremony for HIV Aids victims

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Father Wendell gives greeting from STM

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Kids dancing at Klipkop celebration

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Mpho addresses audience

Finally two youtube videos from the trip:
[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/asXD7R_R72E?vq=medium&end=205&modestbranding=1&autohide=1&autoplay=0&color=white&player_controls=0&disablekb=1&controls=0&fs=0&loop=1&rel=0&showinfo=0&disablekb=1&theme=light” width=”100%” height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ style=”background: transparent;”]Aliwal North children’s choir

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/gBbdWiGxBV0?vq=medium&end=205&modestbranding=1&autohide=1&autoplay=0&color=white&player_controls=0&disablekb=1&controls=0&fs=0&loop=1&rel=0&showinfo=0&disablekb=1&theme=light” width=”100%” height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ style=”background: transparent;”]Aliwal North youth choir