Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lion King in Real Life

Kamhlushwa is only about a half hour drive from Kruger National Park, one of the greatest national parks in the world. This past Monday on my day off I decided to do a safari for the day. It was definitely worth waking up at 4:30 am. As a solo traveller, I joined a group of 4 German people with a tour group called EchoSafari. Luckily, the tour guide lived in England for a number of years and was able to translate for me. We drove around all day in an open-air vehicle that was sort of a mix between a truck and Jeep, very cool.

We started off the drive by seeing a herd of elephants near the gate of Malelane. They were so beautiful, all the animals I saw were beautiful so let's just get that out now. They were all just humming around, quietly, eating from the trees. Elephants are surprisingly quiet. The tour guide said that weigh tons and tons but walk on their tip toes. The next animals I saw was a family of lions. They were quite far away but luckily I had binoculars. It was two females, four cubs, and one male, who made a very brief appearance. Throughout the day I saw zebras, giraffes, rhinos, water buffalo, all sorts of birds, monkeys, antelope (the McDonald's of Kruger), and a leopard. I saw the BIG 5 in one day, which apparently does not happen often so it is quite the accomplishment. I got to experience the Lion King in real life, and I highly recommend it to everyone who may have the opportunity!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Educational System in South Africa

The longer I am here the more I am learning about the education system in South Africa. Before coming here I tried to learn about it and I was told some things about it but it is not the same as coming here and witnessing it in real life. Major reform is needed. In the United States, we are so lucky, we take our education for granted. Most of our teachers care, show up for class, and share their knowledge. Many South African children are not as lucky. They have to fight to have an education. It is not uncommon for the teacher not to show up. Children sometimes do not get fed in school, and how are they supposed to learn if they are hungry? It saddens me that these are not even all the issues that students have to face when they go to school, but Imagine Scholar gives me hope. Though it small in the grand scheme of things, at least we are trying to improve the education that they are receiving.

The beautiful bright lights of South Africa are the Imagine Scholars who face all these issues and all these things that are working against them, but they decide to fight back and work even harder. They come to Imagine Scholar everyday after school, they come to Imagine Scholar on Saturdays and even some Sundays to have tutoring. They are all facing different issues in their own lives whether it be poverty, homelessness or hunger and yet are still at the top of their class because they can recognize the value in education. The educated people in Africa are the ones who will make a difference and I feel lucky to be seeing these future leaders everyday working so hard.

There is an interesting saying that I heard from a student here, "umuntfu ungumuntfu ngebantfu" which means a person is a person because of other people. This really spoke to me because we are all so shaped by the people around us whether we are conscious of it or not. The way we act or think does have a lot to do with the people who we surround ourselves with. Imagine Scholars have worked so hard to be accepted into the program and are now able to surround themselves with others who love to learn and they all motivate each other. I recognize this in my own life. I feel like I am looking at the world differently people I am here being surrounded by these students and being in such a different environment. It is all very hard to put into words but I believe in these students and I think they are not only making an impact on me but also on each other and soon they will be making real impacts on Africa.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


I insist you listen to this song as you read my blog. It will increase your experience.

Hey everyone!
I have spent the last week on site at Imagine Scholar. I am really enjoying myself. I have started to get to know the students and they are all incredibly nice and welcoming. I have been making myself at home here. I have my own room off of the big classroom in the main building. I am working with two other Americans who have full time teacher positions here. Their names are John and Reggie. I also work with another intern who is an Imagine Scholar alumni, Thenjiwe. She is currently running the grade 8 interviews and prep classes. She is an intern as she takes her gap year before going to university. John teaches math to the students. Reggie is the English language teacher. Both are very nice guys. We also have a few animals on site as well. They have either been dropped off or adopted by Imagine Scholar. We have two cats and two dogs. One of the cats actually just wandered in one day and never left. His name is Thor, I like Thor. The rest of the animals are mostly outdoors, Thor is suppose to be an outdoor cat as well but it doesn't normally turn out like that.
It is a lot hotter then I expected. It is technically winter here in South Africa but it extremely hot during the day and only drops to about 60s at night so my sweatshirts and long pants are not exactly what I should have packed, but I am working with them. The town that I am in is very interesting. From what I have learned, every South African is allocated land from the government but it is up to the individual of what kind of house they can build on the land. There is a lot of disparity. Some houses are relatively nice while others just look like huts or skeletons of houses. A lot of people walk here. The streets are full of people usually carrying large things on their heads or backs. The dress is mostly Western, very similar to what you might see in a city in the United States. Things at night here are normally quite. The only things I heard are dogs,frogs, crickets, chickens, and the occasional rooster at 3 am. The roosters here have no set schedule, they crow whenever and for however long that want.
During my first staff meeting yesterday, we noticed a lot of people pushing wheelbarrows full of grapefruits outside our gates. Apparently, a truck full of grapefruits tipped over and all the grapefruits were apparently up for grabs. So we saw small families of 2 or 3 peoples carrying at least 70 grapefruits home. They have a lot of grapefruits to eat. I thought this was a very funny thing to see.
Even though I make my own meals everyday I have been able to try a few South African staple foods. "Pap" so far is my favorite. It is very similar to what us Southerners refer to as grits but it is eaten in chunks. It can be eaten hot or cold. They tend to eat with lunch or dinner. Thenjiwe says she eats in everyday of her life. I think it quite good, not a lot of flavor but an interesting texture and it fills you up. I have also tried "vleis" which is like a stew with vegetables and pounded beef and of course, served with pap.

My average day at Imagine Scholar:
The coffee grinder, coffee filter/pot contraption.
Thor helping Mandisa with her work! Mandisa was recently accepted into African Leadership Academy.
I wake up around 9 o'clock and grind up the coffee beans to make coffee. I boil water and then use an interesting filter/glass contraption that makes the coffee. I then start working at about 9:30. I do various activities, really whatever is assigned to me. I have made a blog post about Samke, a student who is going to Yale Young African Scholars program and other tasks. At about 2:00, students start arriving at Imagine Scholar. Students are expected to come Imagine Scholar at least 2-3 days a week and on Saturdays! That is dedication. I normally walk with a student to go buy fruit for the day. This gives me time to get to know different students. Classes do not start until 3:00 so students will hang out, maybe play chess or work on homework during that hour. My chess game has already gotten better. I, then, sit in on classes. So far I sat in on a class taught by Corey, the founder of Imagine Scholar, who taught a science class about the scientific method. They put eggs into different liquids last week and recorded what they saw this week. I also sat in on a class taught by Megan, she has been with Imagine Scholar for about 3 years and she is wearer of all hats doing many things at Imagine Scholar. She facilitated a class research session in preparation for a discussion on Saturday about racism. The students normally leave at about 4:45 or 5, it is getting a bit earlier since it is winter and it gets darker earlier. Once the students leave, I have free time to make dinner, read books, browse the internet, hang out with Thor or take a shower.
Students writing down observations from the egg experiment!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Here I am...

I can't believe that after months of fundraising for Imagine Scholar, I have finally arrived! It took me about 3 days to get here. The traveling was not to my liking, but I don't think anyone could really enjoy a 12 hour plane ride, then another 9 hour plane ride. After that I stayed the night in a place called Emerald Guesthouse in Johannesburg. It was AMAZING to have a bed to stretch out in after those flights. The next morning I took a shuttle to the train station, then a train to a bus station, and finally I took the bus to a town called Malelane (6 hour bus ride). From there, Megan (who works at Imagine Scholar) picked me up and we drove about 25 minutes to the center and here I am!

I am not sure what exactly I was expecting when I got here but whatever it was, is not what I am experiencing. I realize I am already in the mist of culture shock. Traveling alone was nerve wrecking but I am relieved to finally be here. It is hard to be here on Mother's Day and not with my mom and I know I will be missing Father's Day as well. But I need to remember I am lucky to be here and I should try and make the best of it.

The center is very small with a large room as a classroom then three bedrooms off of it. I am in one bedroom, Reggie is in another bedroom (he teaches English) and then John is in the last bedroom (he teaches math). Corey and Megan stay in the other building on the site which is about 5 feet away. They are actually doing construction to build a third building. I got to meet a few of the students when I got here,  which is impressive to me because it is a Sunday and students voluntarily come here to get tutoring. I have not been given my projects I will be working on but hey, it's only day 1.

It is very quiet around here. I have not gotten to explore much but from what I briefly saw as I drove to the center, the town I am in there is a lot of disparity of wealth, mostly disadvantaged. There are lots of people walking around, cars driving on the left side, and what seemed to me as chaos but according to Megan this is quite normal.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported me because I did end up making my goal of $3,000!! Fundraising is hard work and I would not have been as successful if it was not for everyone's help!

I am going to sleep now, I will try and keep up with this blog as often as possible!

Dankie (Thank you in South African)

Friday, May 1, 2015

I leave for South Africa in 6 DAYS!

Wow oh wow, I cannot believe that I leave for South Africa in 6 days (Thursday!). This semester has flown by and I only have one more final then I am hosting my Imagine Scholar benefit dinner on Sunday (2 days from now! If you are in Bluffton, SC this weekend, please come!) My fundraising efforts have really been paying off! I have raised just about $2,000 for Imagine Scholar! Over the past couple months I have been able to advocate for Imagine Scholar and all the great things that have been happening over there!

Here are a few of the great things that have been happening at Imagine Scholar!

Imagine Scholar received first prize for the Pan-African Awards for Entrepreneurship in Education! Thank you to the SAVILLE Foundation and Teach a Man to Fish for this honor, and congratulations to our students for making an award of this magnitude possible! 

Grade 10 Samkelisiwe has been accepted into the Yale Young African Scholars program! This August she will attend a weeklong conference in Rwanda with other young leaders from around the continent! Congratulations Samkelisiwe!

Mandisa has been accepted into the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg! This prestigious leadership development school receives between 3,000 - 4,000 applications a year from across the continent, and only accepts 100 students!

How cool is that? There is a lot of amazing things going on at Imagine Scholar and I cannot believe that I will be there this time next week to help celebrate!

I can't wait to meet all the students and finally be able to experience what is like over there on a day to day basis!

I still have not met my fundraising goal of $3,000!! Who wants to help me raise a $1,000 in one week? Anyone? Any takers? If you are into supporting education and supporting students and supporting leadership and supporting positive change in youth, I would highly recommend you to donate to Imagine Scholar! 

I do want to thank the people who have supported me and Imagine Scholar because no matter the size of the contribution, it has meant so much to me knowing that so many people believe in this cause and believe in me!

Details for my benefit dinner on Sunday:

Location: 110 Malphrus Road Bluffton, SC 29910
Time: 5:30-7pm
Cost: $12(if you buy before the event) or $15 at the door!

Exciting things are happening! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Imagine Scholar needs your help!

Monthly student sponsorship is the single most important part of the Imagine Scholar fundraising strategy.

Imagine Scholar currently has 9 new student unsponsored- and soon to be 19 when the new grade 8s start!

The fact is that the cost of one student to attend Imagine Scholar for a year is $1200, that is $100 dollars a month!

Many sponsors have chosen to do less than $100 a month ($20+) and this is still GREAT! Anything truly helps!

So you may be wondering, if I do choose to support a student where exactly would my money be going? I am glad you asked!
 Class 2-3 times a week for 4 years
(Students commit to attending Imagine Scholar 4.5-6 hours a week, including every Saturday for 4 years.) 
Directed, individual tutoring 
Leadership development
Opportunities to expand cultural capital
Full coverage of student’s public school fees, uniforms, and supplies
Access to a family like support system
A network of reinvestment and community commitment

Since Imagine Scholar is a smaller program the students and their sponsors are able to build a sincere and unique relationship - from writing to one another monthly, sending video messages, doing book clubs, sharing poetry, and much more! You get to build a relationship with a student in South Africa!

If any of these benefits of sponsoring a student monthly appeals to you please follow this directions to donate:

In order to sponsor a student go to this website ( and choose the first option "Monthly Pledge Amount"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Progress Report on FUNdraising and other FUNdraising things...

Hello to all my friends and family,
I have been overwhelmed with school work lately as midterms just passed and I still seem to have more and more exams each week...doesn't make sense to me either...but anyway as I am dealing with my school work, my internship with Imagine Scholar is always on my mind. I am always trying to think of new creative ways for fundraising and the program I will facilitate once I am in South Africa.  
As the date of May 7 gets closer and closer, I am getting more and more excited about doing my hands on portion of my internship!! It is no longer something in the distant future, I will be getting on a plane to South Africa in 46 days. Though I am nervous to be traveling alone, I am also incredibly excited to see what my summer will be.
My fundraising is going well. I have raised approximately $495! So thank you to everyone who has donated so far!! It is greatly appreciated and the students at Imagine Scholar are very grateful for people like you all because without the support from others their education would not be possible.

My good friends at Norms Pizza and Subs are still being amazing and hosting my on going bake sale! So if you are in the Charleston area stop by Norms and grab a brownie!!

Here is a video so you can learn more about Imagine Scholar: