Songs of joy and the rumblings of tiny dancing feet fill Mrs. Feziwe Mdoniana’s classroom. It’s a new school day and these children are beyond excited to eat their porridge and learn.
Each weekday, the preschoolers wake up early to walk the winding dirt roads that lead to their brand-new one-room classroom made from recycled shipping containers. That’s right: shipping containers that are repurposed as life-bringing, life-changing classrooms in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
This Joyce Meyer Ministries, Hand of Hope initiative—called Classrooms of Hope—provides a happy place of refuge for many children in this province, where poverty and crime abound and a good education is hard to come by.
The new, well-insulated classrooms are outfitted with doors and large windows, and replace dilapidated structures that leaked when it rained or were near collapse. Instead of students regularly getting sick because they were exposed to rain and cold outside, they are safe, warm and able to better concentrate on what they’re learning. They also serve as feeding centers, where the children will receive a nutritious meal provided by our friends and partners.
The most exciting part is that each Classroom of Hope is becoming a conversation point—a light for the message of Christ—for the surrounding communities and villages. We are seeing so many lives impacted for good as they see God’s love in action.
Before the Classrooms of Hope were installed in Feziwe Mdoniana’s village, she struggled to find a suitable place where she could hold preschool. Her previous schoolroom was an old mud structure with cracks in the walls, a weak roof and shaky metal sheets that covered the windows. In fact, one day, strong, windy weather stormed through the area and the building collapsed, leaving her moving from house to house in search of another teaching space.
Some people may have considered giving up after so much opposition, but not Mdoniana. “I was made by God to love children,” she says through tears. So she prayed for a safe place where she could nurture her little ones.
She remembers the very day God answered her prayer. “It was on a Friday…Everybody in the community was outside looking for those trucks (that were delivering the Classrooms of Hope),” she recalls. “My heart was so happy.”
Implementing a feeding program has also met a particularly crucial need in her village, and she’s seen an increase in attendance since that started. “It’s very important for them to get the nutritious food,” she says. “(For some children) there’s no food at home.”
For instance, when 5-year-old Ncubeko started coming to Mdoniana’s preschool, he was so malnourished he was almost not used to eating. He was much smaller than the other children and kept to himself. That’s because his grandmother had been caring for him since his mother died and she simply didn't have enough food to feed her family.
The Classrooms of Hope have made a huge difference in Ncubeko’s life. He’s now receiving the nourishment he needs from regular meals through the feeding program. He is growing stronger every day and has come to enjoy climbing on the jungle gym with the other children. He’s also hearing Bible stories that teach him how much God loves him.
Little Mbangatha goes to the same preschool. She was severely malnourished when she began attending. The sweet 5-year-old lives with her grandmother, who struggles with alcoholism and doesn’t have any income to feed her. She often comes to school without any food and had become an easy target for bullies because of her smaller size and tattered clothing.
But when Mdoniana saw how much the girl was suffering, she stepped in to nurse her back to health—feeding her twice a day until she grew stronger. Her health has improved drastically since coming to school, and she is even coming out of her shell and making friends.
“(Mbangatha) likes the school because she knows that she will get food here,” Mdoniana says.
In another village several hours away, we met Memory, a shy 6-year-old who was jumping rope with her friends. She has had an especially difficult year. This year, her mother became ill and died very suddenly, and her father—who is an alcoholic—has disappeared from her life.
Because of these horrible circumstances, Memory would have been on her own quite a bit. But a community of loving teachers has come around her to provide her with the attention and care she needs. Memory now attends one of our Classrooms of Hope, where she’s in a safe environment instead of being by herself at her house and potentially in danger. And her teachers are helping her work through her emotions so she can better deal with the loss of her mother.
Memory’s classmate, Akhana, wants to be a nurse when she grows up so she can care for the sick. She remembers the preschool’s former classroom well. “It was very cold,” the 7-year-old says. “Especially in the winter, I had a hard time concentrating on my work. There were some leaks on the rainy days, and I could feel the wind coming in when it was windy.”
The new classrooms have helped her focus on her schoolwork, and the regular meal she receives has helped her family. “It is a beautiful class and keeps me warm and safe,” she says.
These are just some of the many lives you are helping in the Eastern Cape through your partnership with Joyce Meyer Ministries, Hand of Hope. And there’s so much more to be done.
In 2017, our goal is for 20 new classrooms to be completed, so that many more children will have the opportunity for a hope-filled future.
Thank you so much for helping us provide a way to keep little ones safe. You are making it possible for them to learn to read and write, and you’re helping them understand that there is a loving God in heaven who has a great plan for their lives. We couldn’t do any of this without you!