Powerful lesson from US pupil and teacher

Yoliswa Sobuwa

AN impoverished Addo community yesterday received a helping hand from two unlikely Good Samaritans – a teenager and his teacher all the way from the US.

Joseph Yates, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Rhode Island’s Portsmouth Abbey boarding school, raised R123000 to buy a wind turbine and solar panel hybrid power system which he gave to the Langbos daycare centre 5km outside Addo.

Until now the centre, which cares for 50 children from the Langbos informal settlement, has had to rely on an unreliable generator for power and a gas stove for cooking.

But thanks to Joseph’s fundraising, the centre can now rely solely on renewable energy.

The donation came about after Joseph’s teacher in the US, Marthie Cummings, told her class about the need in South Africa for basics such as renewable energy systems.

Cummings first visited the region in 2008 and after seeing the dire need among impoverished communities, started up an NGO, Universal Promise, to raise funds for impoverished schools.

The Langbos project is the first to receive aid from the NGO.

“I was very saddened by what I saw in some of the schools, but Langbos caught my eye. I could not imagine what those kids were going through in winter.

“I formed Universal Promise one year ago and that is how Joseph, who is also my student, knew about the plight of this centre,” Cummings said.

Joseph said he thought about renewable energy as something that would help the centre.

“For me to bring change in these children’s lives I had to make sure that there is light.

“Before coming to South Africa I collected donations … I managed to collect R123000,” he said.

Joseph flew out to South Africa on August 15 to do an engineering internship at Eveready in Port Elizabeth.

He said people had contributed to the cause because like him, they believe whole heartedly in the importance of education.

Head of the Langbos centre, Nomthandazo Pipe, said the Good Samaritans were indeed beacons of hope for the children.

“The centre – the only one in this area – opened its doors for the kids in this community in 2005. We have 50 kids between the ages of 2 and 6,” she said. “We were using a generator and a gas stove.

“At times we could not cook for the kids as we could not afford to buy gas or diesel for the generator.

“We truly appreciate what they have done for these kids.”

They would now also be able to watch educational programmes on TV, thanks to the electricity from the new system, Pipe said.

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