Children in South Africa: Gift of Books and Self-Esteem

A few days ago, I received the following message from my friend, Susan Snyder, whom I met several years ago when I was selling What Color Is Your Brain? books at a Parent University Event at the Middle School North in Lake Zurich. Susan is a “Blue Brainer” with a most generous heart! She continually offers to connect and help others through her “circle” of friends. 

Susan’s message: I am sending this to people in my “circle” who I feel will have an interest in not only reading this but possibly have an  interest in getting involved. Many of you are very caring and talented ladies whom I believe will want to contribute to this amazing opportunity in making a difference in children’s lives. Please take the time to read the email (below) and feel free to act upon it in anyway you desire!” Please, send your ideas, etc. to My friend will be very grateful, along with all the children and volunteers you have touched! 

I was moved by Elizabeth’s message (see below) and made a date to meet with her. On Saturday, we met for tea and talked about how I could help her and utilize What Color Is Your Brain? for the children and child care workers. I gave her a book and lesson plan ideas from a children’s What Color Is Your Brain? Worksheet, that I created with the Brain Color logo on the back, that the children can use as a mind map for all of their Brain Color attributes and abilities.

I also shared some ideas about how to incorporate Princess Shayna’s Invisible Visible Gift, my children fairytale version of What Color Is Your Brain? into the children’s lessons. We discussed how Elizabeth could use the Gift Givers’ Guide at the back of the book to create classroom curriculum and activities for the children, as other teachers have done in the past. Today, I sent Elizabeth the list classroom activities, which I had collected from all the teachers who had generously share their lists with me. I also apologized, that I did not have any copies of Princess Shayna, because the book is out of print at this time, however Elizabeth emailed me today to say she had ordered a copy from

My meeting with Elizabeth was a most enjoyable and inspirational. I admire Elizabeth’s passion to offer education and care to the children, child care workers and Bets at the Maranatha Childcare Center.  

Elizabeth’s message: This summer, I met some of the most determined, dedicated, loving people on earth. I guess you could say they left a mark on my soul. Not a day goes by without thinking about them. Though my heart is heavy knowing the burden they carry, I feel hopeful and inspired by their desire to make their lives better, even in the most dire of situations. These children are orphans of AIDS. Their parents died, leaving them to raise themselves. They live in, what look like, cement boxes with dirt floors. They have no electricity, no running water, little food, and varying degrees of access to health care and schooling. Despite all of this, they manage to find joy in their lives and a sense of love and caring for one another. I believe this is what sustains them.
I had the privilege of working with a woman, Bets, who has devoted her life to making a difference in these children’s lives. She runs the Maranatha Childcare Center in the heart of this rural South African community. This center provides a safe place for the children to play before and after school and during school holidays. She also provides a meal for the children, which is often the only meal they receive each day. She works non-stop to tend to their needs and to search for ways to make their future brighter. Her main goal is to educate these children, as she sees education as the only way out of this cycle of poverty and disease.
Another part of Bets’ plan is to help the community use its own resources to become self-sustaining. As a result, she has connected thirteen of the young adults in the community with an organization that offers a two year childcare training program. These childcare workers-in-training go to each of the children’s homes to make assessments and then intervene based on the particular needs presented in each home. The intervention can consist of anything from helping with homework, doing laundry, or finding food for a meal, to taking the children to the clinic to follow up on lab work and treatment, or doing the tedious task of filing papers for government funding that the orphaned children so desperately need to survive. They play with the children and love them like their own; the childcare workers are the “parents” to these children. They are dedicated to making their community better despite insurmountable odds. They have hope when most would give up.
I want to support Bets’ desire to educate the children and to utilize the childcare workers to be their teachers, so that this program will live on long after we are gone.
The desire for education is not only Bets’, but is very much in the hearts of the children at Maranatha as well. This became so clear one day when Amanda and I were doing a day of training with the childcare workers, rather than teaching the children directly. A little girl came up to me and asked, “Madame, are we going to read today?” Her eagerness to learn was the norm throughout the community. The children and the childcare workers enthusiastically embraced what we had to offer and expressed their desire to learn as much as they could each day we were there.
I am heading back to Maranatha this December to continue the work Amanda and I started in the summer, and I would love your help. If any of you are teachers, or know preschool and elementary teachers who would like to pass along a creative, fun, playful lesson plan that I could share with those at Maranatha, that would be an amazing gift. Even if you are not a teacher, but have wonderful ideas for stimulating young children’s minds, your ideas are welcome. The more creative the better; however, keep in mind that there are few resources in the community, so the simpler the better, too. Anything that involves using reusable items like cards, dice, or games would be ideal. Singing, dancing, and storytelling are excellent ways to convey information in a playful way without needing supplies, and they are also a big part of the African culture. Topics can vary from math, science, reading, social studies, art, and music to building self-esteem, understanding self and oth
ers, relationships, peer pressure, healthy choices, hygiene (hand washing, teeth brushing, etc.), team sports, and physical education.
Another thing to keep in mind is that although the children range in age from infants to 18 year olds, most of them are illiterate. A few read well, but most cannot read at all. Also, English is a second language, which puts all of them back into the early elementary school level of learning. So anything that would be appropriate for children from the preschool to junior high level would be best. I’m trying to collect 20 new lesson plans before I leave. The childcare workers will use these plans to keep the children academically stimulated during the holidays. The children are already way behind most of the world in the area of education, and Bets does not want them to lose any more precious time during school holiday breaks.
You will truly make a huge difference in these children’s lives by sharing your expertise. If you choose to help out, simply email your plan to me and I’ll bring it along with me in December. I can’t think of a greater gift for anyone to give.
At some point, I hope to start a collection of books that will eventually lead to a library at Maranatha, since there are no books available for the children to read in their time away from school. 
If, by chance, you are interested in working with the community at Maranatha directly, they would welcome you with open arms. Imagine Bets attempting to do all this work alone. Imagine her delight when someone arrives at her door to lend a hand.
May peace fill you this holiday season, 
Elizabeth M. Leibovitz RN, MA, LCPC
P.S.  One of the childcare workers is getting married on December 12th.  A wedding dress has already been donated, but her bridesmaids need dresses. If you have any formal dresses, including prom dresses, size 6 or 8, that you would like to donate, please let me know. They will be so thrilled!

First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It is better to light
one small candle than to curse the darkness.”
Elizabeth has courageously and generously
lit many small candle
If you or any one you know can assist Elizabeth,
the children, Bets and the childcare workers at Maranatha,
I know they will  be most grateful for your help!

Sheila N. Glazov, Author, Personality Type Expert, Professional Speaker and Educator
Take a Brain Color Quiz, and learn about my What Color Is Your Brain? book and workshops . 

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