Life in the townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa is not easy. The shadow of apartheid lingers over a disproportionate number of the country’s 4.1 million orphaned and vulnerable children. Every household we work with is deeply affected by HIV/AIDS, persistent unemployment, and abject poverty. Infant mortality rates are among the highest in the country, and sexual violence is pervasive. Yet public infrastructure is rudimentary at best—healthcare programs and social services are woefully underfunded and underdeveloped.
The education system, oftentimes a child’s only hope for upward social mobility, is flawed. Teacher shortages, school closings, and classroom overcrowding plague the region. Many of the remaining teachers themselves cannot perform at their respective grade level, and thousands of students drop out of school simply because they cannot afford uniforms.
But it is difficult to feel pessimistic when you meet our children—they are brave, resilient, and eager to learn. We feel privileged to work with such enthusiastic and dedicated students.