Greetings to all of you at CSS from hot and sunny South Africa. For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Mr. Dittmann and I am usually a Humanities teacher at CSS. I say “usually” because this school year I have taken a leave of absence from my teaching position at CSS in order to serve as a volunteer with an organization called Hands at Work in Africa. I am currently living near a town called White River in the province of Mpumulanga, which is in northeast South Africa, close to the border with Mozambique.
Hands at Work is a non-governmental (charity) organization that assists communities in eight countries in Africa that have the highest numbers of orphans and vulnerable children and have little or no access to things like hospitals, clinics, and schools. Hands at Work doesn’t deliver any of the services, like food, education, or health care. Rather, people in the community itself get organized to do this and Hands at Work tries to support them and help them to do even more things to help the kids in their community.
Most of my days here are spent helping local Hands at Work volunteers. I try to do whatever I can, like teaching computer skills (not many Macbooks here!), writing proposals and reports about projects that the communities are doing and also writing stories about some of the kids who are getting help in the community. Not many people in the communities own cars or drive so I also spend part of each day driving volunteers around. I enjoy it, although people drive on the opposite side of the road here in comparison to North America, which was a little confusing at first!
Many of the kids in the communities I’m working in face huge challenges in their lives. Many children have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS. Some of these kids are taken in by relatives, who already have difficulty providing for their families. Other kids end up living on their own. We call these “child headed households”, where the oldest kid becomes the caregiver and head of the family. Some of them are barely teenagers. It’s very difficult for these kids to provide food for themselves. Some are forced to quit school and try to earn money. Safety and security are big issues for these kids living alone.
Even though I’m not at CSS this year, I have had lots of contact with my fellow teachers back home. In fact, we have been busy coming up with some ideas of how you at CSS can connect with what is happening here in Africa. Through technology, we’re looking at ways that CSS teachers and students will be able to see what life is like for some of the kids here and get to know their stories.
There are two households in particular that I’ve been working closely with – and that I’m hoping CSS will support over the next few weeks. These young people are currently living in very unsafe conditions – and it’s my hope to build two secure house for them – at a total cost of $7000.
I am still working out the details of how to collect funds for these families – but I’ll communicate that shortly. The great thing about being here is that I’ll be the project coordinator for buildings – and students at CSS will be able to skype with the families in January as the homes are being built.
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
Chris made a short video about this project:
Chris has also created this document that adds additional information about two of the orphan boys (Mthandazo and Sipho) he has been closely working with: