With apartheid in South Africa a not too distant memory, a visit from an Ontario school group to students in that country is expected to have special meaning.
“The biggest thing we bring there is hope,” says John van den Boogaard, a teacher at Smithville District Christian High School (SDCH).
“These are people that have come out of apartheid and when they see fellow Christians, especially being white, working for them and working with them, that gives them hope for the future, for their people and for their country.”
A group of students and teachers from SDCH, van den Boogaard included, will be visiting Theocentric Christian College in Limpopo, a province of South Africa, for 12 days in the spring of 2008.
This will be van den Boogaard’s second trip with a group from SDCH to the South African school, which includes Kindergarten to Grade 12.
His most poignant memory from that visit, two years ago, is of attending a church in a rural black village.
It’s a place where “a white person in South African wouldn’t want to step foot,” in light of the recent apartheid, says van den Boogaard. “To be able to go in there and worship with them was an amazing experience.”
On that visit the SDCH group helped Theocentric build a structure outside the school to provide shade from the hot sun.
This time the Ontario school is raising funds to buy 12 to 16 computers to donate to Theocentric. The SDCH group will be training teachers and students on using the computers and helping them set up a computer lab.
They will be making presentations in classes as well as spending time with the students, playing sports and games.
But as van den Boogaard points out. “What we actually physically do is less important than the fact that we’re actually there. That is the biggest statement.”
SDCH must raise approximately $40,000 for the trip. This includes the $2,000 that each of the 12 students and four adults are raising for their plane fares.
The school is close to its target already.
Recently SDCH students and their families earned $5,000 through a phonebook distribution blitz. In one Saturday about 13,000 phonebooks were distributed in two communities.
The school will be asking the church congregations of those taking the trip for additional support.
If funds are raised over and above the required amount the school will buy additional computers for Theocentric.
The practice of apartheid existed in South Africa for more than 40 years and came to an end when Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994. During those 40 years the white minority systematically increased power and control over the native African population with devastating results.