A visit to the Fynbos Academy, a small farm school near Stanford run by the  Fynbos Community Foundation, where children from  poverty stricken homes in the Papiesvlei valley are housed and educated and nourished and loved is an uplifting and faith-in-humanity restoring experience.

Listening to the radio can make one’s spirits sink –murder, mayhem and misery all over the world. One tends to forget at times the extraordinary things that ordinary people are doing to make the world a beautiful place.

I was lucky yesterday to be invited to attend the opening of the hostel at Fynbos Academy on the farm Langverwacht about 20kms from Stanford on the road to Elim. The hostel was the home of great hearted and supremely generous  Koos and Joanie Smith, the owners of the farm on which, in 2005, they started a small day care centre for the children on their and the neighbouring farms in the Papiesvlei community. Discovering that many of the primary school children could neither read nor write properly they set up a homework class in 2011, assisting the children from the nearby St Paul’s Primary, where grades 1,2 and 3 were taught by one teacher in one classroom.

Young boys playing in the well-equipped playground at Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

Young boys playing in the well-equipped playground at Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

After many meetings with education authorities and members of the community the Fynbos Community Foundation, a non-profit entity, was established in August 2011.The Smiths renovated their farm buildings and now the Academy has a Foundation phase class and Grades 1 ,2, and 3 each in their own classroom with their own teacher.

One of the stimulating classrooms at the Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

One of the stimulating classrooms at the Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

“These children have so much potential but so few opportunities,” said Koos Smith to his receptive audience. “Some of them come from homes that are in a bad way with parents who are unable to give them the scholastic support they need. With the love, patience, dedication and passion they receive here they have bloomed. In three years our maths results have gone from a 0% pass rate to a 100% pass rate.”

The children are transported to and from school and receive a bowl of porridge and tea when they arrive in the mornings for “children cannot function on an empty stomach.” At lunch they enjoy a cooked meal which often is their only hot meal of the day. Six to eight children are housed in the hostel, a place of safety away from compromising homes where substance abuse or extreme poverty do not make for a happy upbringing. .” The children in the hostel help to look after the horses, chickens and wild birds on the farm as well as the vegetable garden.

Lunchtime at the Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

Lunchtime at the Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

Annelize Zeelie, the “huismoeder” (housemother) says that she is strict, because the children need to have routine and order. But love abounds. “The children need us and they are going to make us proud. I feel greatly privileged to be their huismoeder. Joanie however is the heart of the place. She sees that everything works and ensures that there is love, freedom and passion in the staffroom.” Joanie is a qualified teacher and has been “educating little children” since she was five years old, teaching the children on the farm where she grew up what she had learnt at school.

The view from the stoep of the hostel at Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

The view from the stoep of the hostel at Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

“We have an overwhelming sense of joy and achievement,” concluded Koos. “It was very difficult to let the Grade 3s go at the end of last year so this year we established a Grade 4 class. And next year there will be a Grade 5! With a leap of faith we will eventually produce Grade 7 learners who will easily slot in at Gansbaai Akademia for their high school education. ‘I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap and then you grow wings.’”

Foundation Phase children supposed to be napping but distracted by the photographer. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

Foundation Phase children supposed to be napping but distracted by the photographer. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

The Foundation is in the process of planning a small fundraising committee and it sounds as if further wonderful things are in the pipeline. Watch this space!

Grade 3 teacher at Fynbos Academy, Desire Lucas. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

Grade 3 teacher at Fynbos Academy, Desire Lucas. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

For the goals and vision of the Fynbos Community Foundation see http://www.fynbos-community.com/goals

Viv

If you would like to help fund a child or a teacher at the school here are the banking details:

Absa Hermanus

Fynbos Foundation

Cheque account No 4078505593

Branch Code 632005

 

Pre-schoolers caught napping at Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South

Pre-schoolers caught napping at Fynbos Academy. Photo: Viv of Scenic South