Site Visits 2012
In August and September, some ACC Board members and donors traveled to South Africa to experience firsthand the work of ACC and conduct critical on-the-ground work for the organization, including meeting with local and national education agencies, visiting 12 school sites, and even handing over the keys for a new classroom. Here are some reflections.
It seems hard to understand what a difference a building can make in people's lives, but the evidence is real and obvious. Unexpectedly, we often found that the schools where we had already built a number of classrooms were still terribly overcrowded. Apparently when people hear there is a new classroom at school, more students (who had not been going to school) make the decision to go! Education is something that we tend to take for granted, and I know my children can't even conceive of the idea of not having a warm, safe school to go to! One of the things that made this trip so eye-opening for me was to see some of these deepest assumptions about the nature of the world upset.
- Peter Maritz, ACC Board member
This was a very special visit for me and my friend, Lori Pfeifer. A group of our friends worked two years to raise money to build a classroom at Jevu Secondary School. When Lori and I arrived, we turned the classroom keys over to the Principal, with the clapping and excitement of the learners! The impact that even one classroom has on the learners is momentous because their existing ones were so overcrowded...hard to fathom. This may be one of the most important things we have ever done. It completely reinforced why I am a part of Africa Classroom Connection.
-Tammie Follett, VP of Business Development, Thomson Reuters, and ACC Board member
I always took for granted having access to an education and a building within reasonable distance in which to obtain it. Being there to see this classroom, to see the need and to see the joy in students and teachers, really impressed me how important education is to these kids. The experience makes me want to do more.
-Lori Pfeiffer, Veternarian, and ACC donor
Packed dirt and round mud brick homes were the terrain and scenery around. The school had no running water, no electricity, and almost no books. (This was true for all the schools we visited.) ACC had just completed a classroom. As thanks, 300 secondary learners sang us the South African National Anthem standing in the dirt school yard. Their voices were powerful and beautiful; we were so moved and humbled. The classrooms are so precious and needed, the learners so thankful and full of hope. There is such a huge dichotomy -- so much beauty, so much potential, so much poverty. A trip with ACC is a life-changing event to experience and impossible to explain. This was my second and I will go back again as soon as I can.
- Barbara Bencini, Wealth Advisor, Merrill Lynch, and ACC Board member
Sibekezele Secondary School has room for 300 learners, but 500 applied. So 200 learners had to drop out, or move away, or walk six or seven miles to the next nearest school. Last winter a boy who forded the river each day to get to school was swept away by the river, full of the season's rains. No one should die trying to get to school. Not if we can help it. Not if we do something about it.
- Henry Bromelkamp, ACC Chair