Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A testimonial from Lenore Fogel, one of our volunteers from Prestwich

Lenore joined us a few months ago, and have quickly become a very integral part of Shine, Prestwich. Thank you for this wonderful glowing report, Lenore. it is very touching. We hope that it is published in the letters page of the Atlantic Sun... can everyone please look out for it for us? !

The Shine Center is a “literacy program to support children at English-speaking inner city schools whose first language is not English…”
Personally, it also happens to be my favorite of the many volunteer programs in which I have been involved. I could go on for hours about the satisfaction of working with the beautiful children at the Center and seeing their smiles and excitement, but it would pale in comparison to the reality! Instead, I want to tell you why I feel SHINE is so volunteer friendly and allows such opportunity to bring achievement to these children. The SHINE center program combines simplicity with a measurable, impressive success rate. (Grade 3 literacy in a SHINE school rose from 50% in 2002 to 82.7% by 2008. This is the direct result of people like you and me who volunteer.)
When looking to volunteer, I had two requirements. I wanted a clearly defined role; and one that would allow me to have a lasting impact on someone’s life. This is SHINE in a nutshell.
The SHINE training program, in a step by step process, broke down for me exactly how to fill the literacy hour with my learner. I was given tools and the skills to implement the tools, in clear, “user friendly” detail. I knew from the very start that I would not be wondering aimlessly what on earth I should be doing next.
Following the training, when I received my school placement, the support and structure of the program continued. The school’s SHINE center director provided me with a detailed orientation at the center. I then spent two sessions observing other volunteers in hands-on interaction with their learners. I was able to get a sense of the rhythm and flow of the sessions before jumping in myself. Even now while I am working with “my own” learners, the center director is always available on site to offer support, suggestions and answer any questions I may have. She brings the children to the center and takes them back to class, alleviating any concern I might have of interrupting the classroom teacher or getting confused as to where the child’s classroom is.
The support and structure of SHINE, combined with the flexibility of location and days/hours to volunteer, make it possible for any English speaking adult who loves children to be a successful SHINE learning partner. Imagine that even if you only have an hour and a half a week to give, it is enough for YOU to change a child’s life. The only question that remains is how anyone can pass up this opportunity to SHINE!

For more information on the program and how you can be involved go to www.theshinecentre.org.za or email Kerry White on shinecentrecapetown@gmail.com

Lenore Fogel, MSW

Changing worlds in 180 days

Charity, they say, begins at home and charitable deeds can be inspired by as unlikely a source as a room with a view. This was the case with the Fogel family from Stamford, Connecticut, who have just spent six months in Cape Town, spreading sunshine amongst those whose lives are so often bleak.
Ensconced in a luxury apartment overlooking our own ‘Côte d’Azur’, the Sea Point promenade, the Fogel children, twins Judy and Naomi (9), Amichai (8), Adin (6) and Maya (5), were far less moved by the scenery than by the sight of vagrants sifting through scraps in the bins.
But let’s begin at the beginning, with matriarch of the brood, Lenore, who holds a Masters degree in Social Work from the Yeshiva University in New York. When husband Ilan, a Pfizer Global Health Fellow, was due to be transferred to Cape Town for six months as part of Pfizer’s philanthropic endeavours, Lenore set about trying to discover what good deeds she could turn her hand to in the ‘180 days’ allotted them. To her dismay, one had to register and pay in order to learn about voluntary work in South Africa, a country which is surely crying out for all forms of aid.
Fortuitously, they had hardly touched down on our shores when she met up with Kathryn Torres of The Shine Centre, a voluntary organisation whose motto is ‘words can change worlds’ - and Lenore’s fate for the next 180 days was sealed!Recipient of the 2008 Award for Reconciliation by the Institution of Justice and Reconciliation, Shine has been successfully working with five western Cape schools, lifting literacy levels amongst 8-year old learners considered educationally ‘at risk’. Lenore was swiftly recruited into their ranks. With the country’s educational system in crisis and the lack of literacy a pressing concern, Lenore could not have found a better cause. Nor could Shine have found a more productive and innovative volunteer. Not only did Lenore enthusiastically tutor learners from Prestwich Primary School, she harnessed the energy and ideas of her own children and, together with Kathryn, those of the their school librarian, and any opportunity became the opportunity to give. Every birthday party enjoyed was a reason to donate a book while the Fogel youngsters (who attended Herzlia Weizman during their Cape Town sojourn) opted to forego all birthday and Channukah gifts (for the Jewish Festival of Lights) from their parents in favour of donations to Shine. The fruits of these endeavours were plentiful: the Fogels are sponsoring two children at Shine for two years, at a cost over R3000, and the shelves of the Prestwich library have swelled with welcome additions.
Nor will these donations end when she leaves South Africa.Lenore, a natural ‘goodwill ambassador’ for Shine has plans for linking the organisation with US book fairs and other like-minded outfits. The gifts, she hopes, will continue to come …
But as Lenore will testify, giving is less about material assistance and more about empathy, compassion and personal involvement. Hence their practice of preparing and distributing home-made meals for the homeless who are so much part and parcel of the mother city scene.
Lenore’s spirit of compassion, not to mention a sturdy constitution, also led her to more harrowing destinations, in particular the Burns Unit of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. Here she would spend hours brightening the days of these tragic young victims, many with horrific wounds and ‘covered head-to-toe in bandages’.
What motivates this tireless mother of five to create time to helping the less fortunate in a country that is not even home?Why does she fill each day with ‘mitzvahs’ or acts of human kindness when she could be savouring the sights of our beautiful city?
Like her children, who saw more than just the sea through the window, Lenore has been moved to heartache and propelled into action by the plight of the poor. Her senses have been ‘bombarded by the poverty’ and she is troubled by the dichotomy in our society.
Lenore’s reward is in the giving. The children at Red Cross are, she says, her ‘teachers’ and her inspiration. From them she has learnt that despite the most adverse circumstances, one can still laugh and respond with appreciation to the efforts of others. She marvels at their resilience. And she also admires the Shine children from Prestwich who travel 90 minutes to and from school, in all kinds of weather, in the hope of a better education, and are still filled with laughter, enthusiasm, gratitude and a willingness to learn.
The admiration which The Shine Centre has for Lenore is certainly reciprocated, and Lenore cannot speak highly enough of the organisation. For good reason: Shine lightens the load of many overloaded teachers and inculcates a love of learning in hundreds of disadavantaged schoolchildren. “Shineis extremely well-organised,” says Lenore, “the organisers and co-ordinators are helpful and accessible and statistics have proved the excellent results of their efforts.” This being her first effort at teaching, Lenore was initially daunted but her apprehension was quickly dispelled and, as a volunteer, she is amazed at how much difference a few hours per week can make in the life of a learner who has little other learning support.
Lenore, who leaves South Africa during February, has only one wish before going. With her keen awareness of social injustice, she would dearly love to meet Madiba, he of the long walk to freedom.
As for Lenore, she too is walking. Every day she walks the talk; she “stretcheth out her hand to the poor, reacheth forth her hands to the needy.” And according to the good book - and by anybody’s book - this makes her more valuable than rubies.
Thank you, Lenore, safe landings and keep walking .
This article originally appeared in the 'Tatler' January 29th 2010

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