JAM has been pioneering school makeovers across South Africa, creating opportunities for Early Development Centres to receive a complete transformation of their premises. Through improving the conditions of their environment this project also orchestrated joy into the lives of the communities. This joy overflows from the children, to the parents and directly into the hearts of the volunteers. In such a simple description from Vera Ching Yunn, the experience was ‘eye opening’. Such a simple statement yet filled with so much meaning and value. Vera was one of our amazing volunteers who embarked on the journey. Part of a team of five UK volunteers including myself, we left London Heathrow and travelled for 11 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa to a life changing experience.
Transport was arranged from the moment we touched the South African ground, we were greeted with smiling faces from JAM staff who were ready to safely escort us to JAM headquarters. The day transpired quickly and after recuperating from the flight, the next morning we were speedily on our way to Buhlebendalo Centre to greet the principle. Upon arrival it was apparent that there was a carcass of a building before us, which required attention. Bernadette Van Rensburg, our Makeover supervisor informed us that the structure of the building had been replaced and was sturdy and safe.
The project was well organised with all the tools and paints required, all we needed to add was our creativity. It was not long before volunteers started declaring vision- ‘let’s do a rainbow’ , ‘a race course’…. ‘Words of affirmation’. Our intention was good, however the work required focus and teamwork.
As time went on the strengths of each volunteer began to unfold and everyone was able to contribute in their own unique way. The team flourished and it became a mission which we all were determined to accomplish together. We lifted each other when we had doubt and encouraged one another with the beauty of our masterpieces.
There was progress each day which was amplified by the helpful hands of the JAM staff from South Africa who supported with painting- Chris, Sibusiso, Patrick, Joseph and Herman. We also had the help of some local teenagers who gave their ideas and assisted where they could. We felt a part of Soweto and we were adding to their world in a positive way… We even had the chance to eat like a South African and enjoyed the township food- pap, chacalacka and a delicious braai.
Day three revealed some nervous smiles due to the frustration of incomplete ideas. But the spirit of encouragement from the team made all the difference and we did our best to rectify and finish. On Friday 29th September 2017, the Buhlebendalo Centre was complete. As the team arrived in the morning with tired faces we were greeted by ladies with wonderful cultural outfits, our faces lifted up. The whole community came out to appreciate us and the difference that JAM had made to their school.
A top table was prepared for us to sit at and we were blessed with performances and speeches.
In the words of our fellow volunteer Lisa Wartemburg, ‘The school makeover was a privilege, meeting with the local communities and to see the impact the makeover has had on not only the children but the adults’.
The JAM School Makeovers are extremely beneficial for the education system in South Africa. These projects encourage a higher standard which in-turn will reflect on the delivery of the teachers lessons and the expectation of the children. JAM also incorporates into this project, access to nutritious feeding for a year, which ensures the children receive a substantial healthy breakfast. In the words of Ana Esquivel another UK volunteer: ‘The makeover was a massive privilege ,being able to bless them and impact following generations’.
The gratitude from the Soweto community was like no other, they praised God and showed so much humility and praise. They were thankful for what had accomplished and showed tears of joy.
Giving financially to support a JAM project such as this is amazing and partners like Life Outreach International make it all possible. All fundraisers who have generously supported the journey have been a part of the transformation of the communities hub. Also indirectly transforming the minds of our volunteers. It is through this eye opening experience we can share the value of such a project and encourage many more school makeovers through the vision of JAM. We cannot be disconnected to the very unequal conditions which exist in this world and we should continue to embark on journeys, give extravagantly for real change and continue to join hands in ~ Helping Africa help itself.