Tikkun Olam in action

Tikkun Olam in action

My name is Maya Spencer, I am 11 years old and I live in California.

My mom’s name is Bronwyn and her side of the family, the Shers, come from Cape Town. My granny, Barbara Sher, aunts, uncle and cousins live in Cape Town too, so we come as often as we can to visit. It was two years ago, on one of our trips to South Africa, that we chose to take a ‘Township Tour’ in Langa. One of our stops was the Dalukhanyo Pre-School. As we walked in, it struck me how different it was to what I remember of my pre-school class. It was there and then that I made a decision: I wanted to do a project that I hoped would change the lives of many children.

I will be having my Bat Mitzvah in December 2013, and I believe it is my responsibility to try and give back through Tikkun Olam, healing the world. I recognised that the children at Dalukhanyo had almost nothing with which to learn. The basics were nonexistent — simple things like paper, markers, crayons, glue, puzzles and scissors to mention just a few things. It made me realise how fortunate I am, and how much I take for granted. In deciding that my mission was to help the school with some much-needed school supplies and other things, I wrote a letter to friends and family explaining my cause. I asked them to please support me in collecting school supplies and donations. My mom helped me out and even posted it on her Facebook page. I was determined to make my vision a success.

150kg of school supplies and R12,000 was donated by my American friends. We arrived in Cape Town at the beginning of July with these donations and ready to continue the journey that I started. When we arrived, we went to visit the school again to determine what else was needed in addition to what I had already been given. I also sent my letter to friends and family as well as to major companies in Cape Town. We met with some very generous donors. With another R14,000, we managed to purchase rugs to cover the icy floors; mattresses and sheets for portable cots; blinds; bookshelves; storage cabinets to keep many of our supplies; medicine; blankets; nappies; baby wipes; sitting tables, a play washing machine and a play stove; food items; vegetable seeds for their vegetable patch; and kitchenware to help make feeding all these children a little easier.

We had spent the past few weeks shopping for these supplies and getting things ready for the big day. I love to be organised, so we sorted all of our school supplies into shoe boxes and clearly labeled each one. This way, it would be easier to reach into the storage cabinets and simply take out whatever might be needed. The big day of my handover finally arrived! I woke up feeling nervous and excited. We arrived in Langa in good time as we needed to unload the smaller things and meet some of the delivery trucks that were transporting the larger items. I was beaming with pride as the goods were unloaded. The room was filling up with cabinets, carpets, food and all the school supplies. It was all coming together! I breathed a sigh of relief and stood back — wow, this really is going to make a difference!

I am planning to start an education foundation in South Africa that I will call Maya’s Mission. I am really proud of my accomplishment. I have gained so much from this experience. I have learned that giving can feel better than receiving. If we give people the tools to succeed, they have a greater chance of reaching their potential. With the right tools, everything becomes possible. I hope that by assisting these children to develop their own love of learning, I have given each one of them more of a chance to be the very best that they can be and that I have inspired them to want to learn.