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    Links Build Schools in South Africa -
    Commemorate 10 Years of Education Across The Miles

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    An entourage of one-hundred-twelve members of The Links, Incorporated, led by Link J. Kamala Buckner, Director of International Trends and Services and Link Bettye Jackson, chair of Education Across the Miles, returned from South Africa where they visited six of the more than fifty schools the organization built and/or renovated during the past ten years. “This has been a trip of discovery,” said Dr. Gwendolyn B. Lee, our National President. “We came to see the schools, meet the educators and the students, and to make a determination on what next steps we take toward furthering our original goal of improving the quality of life in the disadvantaged rural areas of South Africa through the provision of basic education facilities.

    The Umgijimi school students sing for The Links visiting their school

    In 1996, under the leadership of Patricia Russell McCloud, the 11th National President, The Links initiated a program called Education Across the Miles—Building Schools for the Children of Africa to provide educational opportunities in rural South Africa. A few months ago, the women of this 12,000 member group, determined to build on their legacy of service, journeyed to Durban and Soweto, SA to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Education Across The Miles and to witness, first hand, the fruits of their labor. In addition, as Links, we also celebrated the 5th Anniversary of the South Africa chapter with members who reside in Gauteng, Durban, and Cape Town.

    While in South Africa, the group visited the Motsoaledi Pre-Primary School in Soweto, in the Gauteng Providence; this school, sponsored by the Atlanta (GA) Cluster Chapters of The Links, Inc., was completed in 2002. Other schools visited in the township of Umlazi included the Ntwela Primary School sponsored by the Buffalo Chapter; the Ngilosi Primary School sponsored by the Oklahoma City Chapter; the Zwelesithembiso School sponsored by the North Texas Cluster Chapters; and the Umgijimi J.P. School sponsored by the Austin & Town Lake Chapters. The largest school visited was the Esizibeni High School sponsored by the Keystone (Philadelphia) Cluster Chapters which was completed in 1999. This secondary school has grown from 150 students to an enrollment of 1427 students, fifty educators and 5 department heads. Principal M.S. Gumbi, who credits the school’s growth with community cooperation, government partnerships and an active school governing board, says “My vision for Esizibeni is to develop this school into a full comprehensive and technical school using highly educated and dedicated teachers.”

    The Kliptown Community Center in Soweto, the first stop on The Links schedule, received a special monetary gift from The Links Foundation, Inc. and the Capital City (Washington, DC) Chapter for school supplies. Another site on the tour schedule was the Gladys Gary Vaughn Library, named in honor of the 13th National President of The Links, Incorporated, and organized and supported by the Links Chapter in South Africa. The library is located in Lotus Home, a part of the Good Hope Community Center in Mabopane. The “Cool Girls,” a major part of the welcoming presentation for The Links at the Good Hope Center, is a pen-pal group of female teenage orphans organized and supported by the Magnolia Chapter (Atlanta) of The Links.

    “Our people continue to struggle with unprecedented challenges on both the domestic and international fronts; and, therefore, as Links, we believe our international focus must stay on the course we established ten years ago. We must also do more. We must do more in the inner-cities where we live and see children struggle for survival every day. At the same time, we must do more in rural Africa to improve the quality of life,” said Dr. Lee.

    During the ten-year history of this project, The Links have contributed more than $615,000 toward the building and renovation of primary and secondary schools in Africa. At the request of the government of South Africa, the “Schools for Africa” program focuses on the poorest provinces of the country. Currently these schools operate through an association with the International Foundation of Education and Self-Help (IFESH) and the Department of Public Works in South Africa. Education Across The Miles is an on-going program of The Links, Incorporated funded by The Links Foundation, Inc. During this ten day journey to meet the educators of their schools, The Links Foundation, and members of The Links, gave unrestricted cash donations of more than $20,000 and other specials gift to each school, to the Kliptown Community Center, and the Good Hope Community Center. The Southern Area of The Links presented a check in the amount of $6,000 to the University of Zululand to start a Links endowment at that institution. More importantly, however, was the promise made by The Links to continue supporting the South African schools and community centers. Dr. Lee added, “Even though we leave you, we will keep you in our hearts; and we will return.”

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