Follow by Email

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Monks go Marching Two by Two

Hello friends!

First, I ask your prayers for those affected by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy. As you know, it has affected the northeastern US, in addition to parts of the Carribbean, and many people were unprepared for its effect. I’m glad to hear those I personally know are all safe, but I know that many were not as fortunate.

Also, if you are pressed for time, I recommend skipping to the bottom of this post. Otherwise, read on!

The Monastery publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled “uXolo”, which means “Peace”. I was quite humbled to be mentioned in the latest edition, pictured below.


The newsletter gives an informative picture of what has happened over these past few months. If you would like one, let me know! You can also find it on the monastery website in due time:

Here are some other updates about the community:

Believe it or not, Christmas is coming soon!! Holy Cross has already started practicing for a Christmas play. This is a new endeavor for the school, with hopes of it becoming a tradition.
Learning Christmas Songs
Only 5 weeks remain until our winter break! If you have a Christmas package to mail to us, please do so soon. For more information, click here.
Many thanks to my grandparents Nana and Grandpa -your package arrived yesterday!

One thing I cherish about our school is it’s flexibility. With experienced head teachers, and a low student:teacher ratio (14:2 and 14:3 in our classes), it is quite easy to ‘call an audible’ and change the schedule with ease. 

For example: when student absences postponed a group project, the head teacher set up a new activity while I lead morning routine. You wouldn’t have guessed we changed plans -I myself didn’t realize it until after she set it up! Our new activity was to cut-and-paste letters to form their names.
Almost Got it!
It was a clever learning tool. Several students still struggle with writing certain letters, but this activity let them focus solely on word construction. I consider this a ‘things-an-experienced-teacher-can-think-of-in-no-time’ activity.

I have no pictures for this last point, but I think it is worth mentioning:

Calling Holy Cross a ‘school’ is a slight understatement. Holy Cross center-for-things-needed-to-raise-a-child would be more fitting. The school covers a wide array of needs in addition to basic education, including:

-Dental Care. Students visit the dentist twice a year, during school, on the school’s dime. They average one tooth extraction per child, per visit -not the best record, but at least it’s being addressed. 

The school keeps a toothbrush for each child, which they have to use every morning. I do not believe the children brush teeth at home -over weekends, or during holidays. 

When the students smile (which is a lot!), you notice some with missing teeth, and others whose teeth contain black spots. This is off-setting at first, but you quickly remember they are wonderful children despite less-than-ideal oral hygiene.

…on that note, thank you mom, dad, and Dr. Heerssen for providing me with excellent dental care :)

-HIV Testing. You would not notice, but virtually every student is at-risk. They are tested every 6 months, during school, on the school’s dime. So far, none have been positive.

-Individual medical care. When a student needs to see a doctor, the school schedules the appointment, transports them to the clinic, and pays the bill. On multiple occasions, I have seen the school handle this with no initiative seen by the parent (more on this later).

Case in point: One student, who was presumed to be very quiet, recently got diagnosed with a severe hearing disorder. With the help of our social worker, he was taken to an ear doctor, received proper testing, and was recommended hearing aids that cost R18000 each ($2080 US). The school purchased one thanks to a donation, and is seeking out donations for the second one.

With many of these needs, the school handles them almost out of necessity. Most students’ home lives involve inadequate housing, little-to-no money, unsupportive parents, and/or parents and grandparents stretched too thin with responsibilities. This is not true for every student, but many leave school each day and are “back in hell”, to quote our principal. How they got in that situation varies case by case, and it’s important not to judge; some involve poor decisions, but many involve factors beyond the family’s control. What’s important now is equipping people to help overcome their previous struggles.

Holy Cross's individualized attention, ability to fund medical bills, and even the nice building itself are blessings to these children that I might not fully understand. Perhaps the point isn’t to fully comprehend what we are doing; do we ever see the entire picture? Perhaps this ministry calls for faith in the greater good, regardless of how narrow a portion you see. "We live by faith, not by sight." -2 Corinthians 5:7

Enough to think about for now. Have a blessed day!!!

In Christ,
-Cameron S


  1. This post made me very happy. I'm glad to hear you are working for such a thorough and thoughtful "school." And you are right, it is hard to believe the Christmas season is just around the corner! Hope the weeks to come are healthy and happy!

  2. Your smile is one of your best & most beautiful qualities. You're welcome. love....your mother :0)

  3. This is so much like the school situation Jesse described in his book. It's great there are so many things the school can do for the kids. You see how it's working on you, too, in seeing what we in richer places consider "normal" childhood things. Not that you've ever been clueless or ungrateful. Still it can be shocking to see how unpredictably many people live on this planet. Hey, really make sure the kids brush their teeth after all the christmas candy I'm sure is coming their way!

    1. Thanks Shannon :)

      And yes, I saw parts of my experience all throughout Jesse's book, including dental care, how children treat homework, the Xhosa language, and how surprisingly easy it was to drive on the left side :)