Angela Nguyen-Dinh via Crowdrise
April 24, 2011
BENEFITING: STEPPING STONES INTERNATIONAL
Asking for money makes me queasy but helping Stepping Stones makes my digestive discomfort worth it. I saw these kids. Kids who had one or both parent die, were afflicted with HIV, were abused by relatives or friends. While they knew hardship, they also knew joy. I found myself skeptical if this program worked...and I discovered it really, really does.
I was surprised by how much was done in the three weeks I was there: ground was broken on a the new Leadership Building (computers and training - oh my!); a new compost bin was built; Nicole finished the Life-Skills curriculum (sex ed on adrenaline and amazingly well put together); Toni Blackman, American Cultural Specialist, taught children how to find their voice through music and movement; attended Teen Club for kids with HIV; and the SSi siblings met Miss Botswana (a lovely lady and second runner up to Miss Worlds).
Things are happening here. The three hour after school program provides a stable environment for the kids to learn and grow. The first hour is study hall. Counseling is offered throughout the day. Second hour, depending on the day, are classes on Life-skills, Leaderships skills (polish that resume) and Income Generating activities. The last hour is household chores and a delicious hot meal. For a truly holistic approach, SSI offers outreach to the Caregivers, Teachers and Community as well.
Everyone that came to visit, and there were many visitors, walked away changed and motivated. Watch out - it's contagious!
No worries. I had other fun too. I made a side trip with my friend Mieke and went on safari (see lion left). We also hit Victoria Falls. Email me and I will share my pics.
SSI has a Mentoring Program. Two "graduates" guide the children through the program. They are people who have been in the trenches. At the end of the year, each Mentor has to decide on a career. One wanted to be a police officer, Nametso wanted to continue who education.
In Botswana, the government will cover schooling through high school. If you fail a grade, you can't go back. Lots of these kids had problems (hopefully we will never face) that caused them to fail a grade. From there, your only choice is private school, which has dollar signs attached. For only $3000 a year, tuition and room & board are covered. We decided to start a scholarship fund.
Each teenager must sign a Letter of Commitment. In return SSI, offers support. Read Nametso's story below...
Nametso (pictured left) is a bright and motivated nineteen-year-old girl from Mochudi, Botswana. In 2007, when she became pregnant with her son, Clifford, she made his care and wellbeing her primary responsibility. Lacking the necessary support network both to care for him and to continue in school, she decided to interrupt her studies in order to look after him. Now that Clifford is three years old, he has in many ways become the force motivating her to return to school; Nametso wants very much to provide him with a safe, healthy, and secure future, and she recognizes that education is the means to achieve that end. Nametso is devoted to finishing her last two years of high school with high marks, before continuing on to university. She intends to study to become a social worker, in order to continue to help others. Nametso’s want to provide her son a positive example of the rewards that follow hard work, determination, and a commitment to education.
Stepping Stones International is a 501(3)c. Read more at www.steppingstonesintl.org.