Mary Borgman — an ELCA missionary in Soweto, South Africa, serving in HIV and AIDS ministry — writes about an after-school program for young children. To support Mary, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
In late August we started an after school children’s program from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. We had been talking about starting a program since our kids’ week in July.
After much planning and preparation, the first day came and we had no children attend until just before 4 p.m. Two children came and we explained the program and encouraged them to return. I have to say this start was demoralizing. I began to question whether the program was really needed, or if I had seen an opportunity to do something and then forced the implementation of a program. This experience was humbling and called me to re-examine how I operate out of my culture and whether this fit with the context I am in. This certainly wasn’t the start with a bang that I had hoped for. My coworkers assured me that things start small and the program would grow.
Over the coming weeks we did grow. We grew from two children on the first day to three on the second and continued to almost double each week. We now have 40 to 50 children attending regularly.
One of the benefits of the program is keeping the children off the streets. We try to have positive activities for them, including art and sports. Our resources for food are limited, but we have been able to feed all the children up to this point, and by God’s grace we will continue to do so. As time has passed we have a core group of kids who attend regularly and others who pop in and out, but we have had over 130 children attend along the way. I feel fortunate to spend time with these amazing kids.