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Past pupils from St Henry’s Marist College in Durban

26/12/2014: South Africa

In 2009 inspired by the incredible work done by the Sisters of Mercy in the Sundays River Valley area, a group of past pupils from St Henry’s Marist College in Durban decided to embark upon a journey that would hopefully change the area, little did they realise it would forever change them. The team has visited the area every year since then, and now help the Brothers and Sisters with an array of social outreach projects. 

Langbos is an informal settlement riddled with social issues. Drug and alcohol abuse is prevalent and as a result there has been an increase in sexual abuse and violence. 

Child-headed households are the norm and so health related issues perpetuate in this environment. 

Whilst December marks a time of celebration and increased expenditure for the rest of South Africa, this is not the case for all those living in Langbos, Valencia and the surrounding settlements. Moved by this unfortunate reality the Sisters of Mercy along with the Marist Brothers’ started a summer camp that would provide a sense of hope and security to the many children who would not get to experience the joys of Christmas.

This camp is at the heart of what the Marist Brothers and Sisters of Mercy do because this week is all about the children. Over the years it has grown in popularity and although there is a great support provided by the local volunteers, there was greater prospect to involve Marist past and present pupils. There are five Marist Schools in South Africa these being, St David’s, Sacred Heart, Marion College, St Henry’s and St Joseph’s in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town respectively. Facilitated by past head students from St Henry’s – Jason Grieve (Head Boy 2007) and Patrice Madurai (Head Girl 2010) they have brought the Head Students for 2015 together in an effort to share the call of what it means to be truly Marist. Under the banner of Marist Mercy Care, these students have started their term as senior leaders by working tirelessly to provide the kids in these townships with a variety of fun and interactive activities. From rugby and netball to dancing and arts and crafts they have done all that they could to share the experiences that they so often take for granted. 

What is Christmas without presents? Thanks to the Marists who collected  325 love boxes at their schools the last day of the camp ended off on a high note with the kids receiving boxes filled with toiletries, stationery, sweets, a toy and item of clothing. 

We know that we can’t do everything but we can do something…

We started this project because we felt that it was vitally important for the Head Students to realize that they are part of something so much bigger, but in trying to show them what it means to be truly Marist, they actually taught us a great deal... On Tuesday, there was a terrible storm which meant that many of the kids attended the summer camp covered in a clay type of mud on Wednesday, one little boy in particular - Athi was in a particularly unsanitary condition, moved to try and make him feel a bit better about himself two of the Marists searched for a clean set of clothes and shoes for him. After finding him some clothes they struggled to find a pair of shoes that would fit him, eventually they found a pair however it was a size too big so Matthew Benfield (the Deputy Head Boy at St David's) took his shoes off, removed his socks and put them on Athi's feet to ensure that his new shoes would fit properly. If that wasn't enough, eventually we decided to give the little boy a bath before he put his new clean set of clothes on... This was completed with a hair cut. An act so simple, yet I believe an act of discipleship that ha forever changed the head students from St Joseph's. I can honestly say that it has changed me.

It was such an honour to be a part of what we believe is a project that will raise up world changers and future leaders not just from the Marist schools but more especially from the townships in the Valley area.

You can see pictures in this link https://www.dropbox.com/

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