Through its fundraising efforts, including obtaining a Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation, the Rotary Club of Edmonton Strathcona raised more than $60,000 to support vocational training for students with disabilities in South Africa, whose future can be dire.
“Learning a vocational skill to be able to function in society becomes a case of life or death for these students, in many cases,” says Rotarian Carin Jansen van Vuuren. “There is a very limited social safety net for young adults with disabilities in South Africa.”
After raising more that $20,000, including donations from other Rotary clubs in Northern Alberta, the Edmonton Strathcona club partnered with the Rotary Club of Pretoria, South Africa, to obtain a grant of US$32,400 (C$42,000) from The Rotary Foundation.
Other clubs that supported this project include Drayton Valley, Edmonton South, Nisku Leduc, Sherwood Park, St. Albert and Stony Plain. Additional money came from a GoFundMe campaign and a contribution from the Rotary Club of Pretoria.
The money is going to New Hope School in Pretoria, one of the largest schools for students with special needs in South Africa. Its enrolment of 410 includes students from preschool to high school with cerebral palsy, permanent physical disabilities, metabolic disorders or syndromes, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions that cause learning difficulties.
Carin grew up in Pretoria, where her father was president of the Rotary Club of Pretoria and later, District Governor for Rotary District 9400. She moved to Canada 28 years ago, but makes regular visits back to South Africa.
For the past five years, Rotarians and others from the Edmonton area have accompanied Carin and her husband Stephan, a past president of the Edmonton Strathcona club, on these visits.
While in South Africa and Zambia, they have had opportunities to meet local Rotarians and to visit New Hope School. During previous school visits, donations from the Rotary Club of Edmonton Strathcona were presented.
“Last year, Patrick Gibson, who is the Foundation chair for our club, was with us. When he came back, he said we needed to apply for a Rotary grant,” Carin says. “That started the process to raise funds for New Hope School.”
Carin say that the main objective of the project is to ensure that the students, especially young women, have a way to support themselves as adults. “These programs will be implemented through a new sewing room and a hair salon room.”
Both programs will be self-sustaining. Students in the beauty salon will provide services such as manicures and pedicures. The sewing machines will be used to make tablecloths and placemats to sell.
Funds raised will also allow New Hope School to install a safe playground for children with disabilities, expand the physical education program and help accommodate students in the school’s hostel.
“Some of these students come from other cities and even other countries in Africa, so they are away from their families,” Carin says.
“At this stage, they are only housed Monday to Friday and these kids need to be shipped out somewhere else on the weekend. This will allow the school to have these kids full time.”