It happened during our first Holy Week in Grahamstown in 1998. Three young boys were playing on the railway line on a farm just across the road from us. The train couldn’t stop soon enough and the three boys were hit. One of the boys was killed instantly, another died later in the hospital and the third was taken to Port Elizabeth for treatment. He was fortunate. He survived and is doing all the things a young man can do at the age of eight with only a little scarring on his face. We can’t even imagine the scars on his memory and emotions. They go very deep.
We were shocked, but we also were compelled to respond to this tragedy in some way. We wanted to do something to meet the needs of the children in our area, and as we observed carefully and closely, the most urgent and important need was education. With education, they could have a future. With education, they could go a long way to fulfil even their dreams. With education, they could have choices. With education, they could participate more fully into the emerging democracy that is South Africa.
This urgent call led us to establish the Order of the Holy Cross Scholarship Fund, offering assistance to the rural children around us to go to many of the good schools that are in Grahamstown. We began by trying to identify those children who showed a natural gift and desire for learning and who had dreams for their futures. The Scholarship Fund helped them by paying their school fees and buying uniforms. Such children are now attending Graeme College, Victoria Girls School and Ntaba Maria.
Soon after the Scholarship Fund began, something else happened, to which we had to respond. The government closed the farm school on the same farm where the accident happened. This closing was due to a policy that the Department of Education practiced throughout the country, phasing out the farm schools with inadequate facilities. However, no provisions were being made to ensure that the children would get to school. They still needed education, and they now needed transport.
At present, the Scholarship Fund ensures that all of the children left behind by the closing of the farm school are learning. In addition to Graeme College, Victoria Girls School and Ntaba Maria, children are now attending Kuyasa School as well. The Scholarship Fund provides for their transport, a distance of about 10 km.
As time went on, we identified yet another need for the children. They each needed a chance in their challenging new learning environment. So they could use some catch-up help. The Holy Cross After-School Programme began in August 2005 to give them that chance. Seventeen children come directly from school to a small house on our property equipped with two classrooms, two computers and a small kitchen to be fed, to receive extra help in their homework and obtain basic skills they need but have not learned before. The children not only have individualised attention but are also gaining more confidence in themselves and their abilities to learn.
June Walters, an experienced educator in Grahamstown, runs the programme with two other staff members, one of our brothers and a volunteer from the Young Adult Service Corps Missioners established by the Episcopal Church in the United States. They all work very hard to provide the warm and safe environment for the children to grow and to develop the desire to learn.
The Scholarship Fund has diversified in many other ways as well such as providing supplies for the After-School Programme and other learning opportunities for children such as field trips and extra materials and providing financial assistance for living expenses to those who need to board in town. We are now proud to have four young people in tertiary education as well with two young men at Rhodes University, one young woman at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth and one young man at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in George.
All along the way, many people have been enthusiastic and generous as the Scholarship Fund has developed and changed, and we are so grateful that they have caught on to its vision. We thank them so much for their support. The Fund will always be evolving, developing and growing as we identify more needs for education in our area. We need support from even more people like you. Please be a part of the hope for the children. Please support the Order of the Holy Cross Scholarship Fund and catch the vision.
You can make your tax deductible contribution to the Order of the Holy Cross Scholarship Fund to the following addresses:
In the United States:
"The children and the Order of the Holy Cross are so grateful for your generosity."
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