By Sarah Beningfield
As the transport busses carrying volunteers pull up at Jehovah Jireh Haven in Alexandria, the children all run to gather at the gate. They call excitedly for their favourite volunteer and wait patiently for the volunteers to walk through the gate before they leap on them with hugs. The children tussle with each other over who will have the privilege of holding the volunteers’ hands as they stroll towards the classrooms, and huge, proud grins spread across their faces.
The Jehovah Jireh Haven is run by Molly and Neels Bam and has been a home for abandoned children for the past 20 years. There was a serious need for individual academic attention for the children, and the JJH Educational Project made it their mission to fulfil this need.
JJH is a Rhodes University society that was founded in 2014 by third year student Sarah Roberts. The Project revolves around the education of 66 of the 107 children that live at the haven. The society sends as many as 14 volunteers for each session, at least twice a week. The drive takes at least an hour each way – a time consuming and costly exercise. However, the clear bond between the children and the volunteers indicates that it is more than worth the trip.
On this day, it takes some time to calm the children and pull their attention towards learning, but once they have settled down, their expressions become rapt and they throw themselves into the educational exercises with full force.
The room buzzes with the sound of voices. There are children of multiple ages as well as volunteers all sharing a single room. In one corner, a volunteer is reading a book to the Grade One students, while another volunteers looks on, making sure that the children are not swayed by distractions.
As the hour comes to an end, the children run out into the garden and wait patiently for the volunteers to join them. A large black pig mills around in the yard, along with two even larger Great Danes. The sound of singing drifts down from further up the garden and soon many of the children have joined in with the song.
The volunteers are reluctant to leave; they bend down to hug each child who has lined up around them, before slowly going through the gate and heading back to the busses. The mood is much more subdued than it had been just an hour before. As the busses pull away, the children stand at the gate and wave, shouting their goodbyes until they are out of view.
The society has only been running for one year, but it has already shown that it will be a success. It was awarded the Best New Society award by the SRC and Roberts has stated that she has big plans for next year.