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Dereham teacher to help in South Africa

PUBLISHED: 07:29 27 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:37 07 July 2010

A 27 year old Dereham primary school teacher and farmer's daughter is giving up her Norfolk job to help teach children in South Africa.

She told Elaine Maslin about the project and how she got involved.

A 27 year old Dereham primary school teacher and farmer's daughter is giving up her Norfolk job to help teach children in South Africa.

She told Elaine Maslin about the project and how she got involved.

Jess Carey has itchy feet, especially for the hot climate of South Africa.

But it is not just about travelling.

What really drives her from her comfortable home in Norfolk to sometimes arid and dangerous Africa is the chance to help children out of a cycle of poverty - giving them the opportunity to “build bridges into a better world” as she puts it.

Some she has already helped at the African Angels education project have been through deprivations no one would wish on any adult, never mind six year old children.

But the project cannot survive without the likes of Jess helping teaching and raising much needed funds.

Which is why she is giving up working as a supply teacher in Norfolk to volunteer in South Africa for as long as she can.

It is a far cry from her own background. Jess was born and brought up in Dereham going to school at Gresham's in Holt and City College in Norwich.

She graduated from the University of East Anglia with a Primary PGCE in 2006 and spent a year supply teaching in Norfolk.

It was in 2008 that she realised she wanted a new challenge and packed her bags for South Africa.

She had already spent a few months at the Vervet Monkey Foundation in the Limpopo Province, where she fell in love with the continent, but this time she wanted to work with people.

“Two months into my trip and halfway up the Eastern Cape, I met Lou Billet, an Australian who came to South Africa to travel and never left,” she said.

“Lou had recently set up an innovative project that aimed to break the cycle of poverty through education. She called it African Angels.”

There were 16 children enrolled and it had been running a year.

Those who can pay in South Africa go to private school. Some part-pay and go to part state funded schools.

The rest get free education in schools which are understaffed, under resourced and offer an inconsistent, unregulated, haphazard education, said Jess.

“These schools are attended by the disadvantaged sector of society, African people living in the townships,” she said.

“Lou's project - African Angels - aims to challenge this circular approach that maintains the poverty cycle.”

The organisers, Lou and Tracy King, fundraise and run the school, which provides a breakfast of porridge and a hot meal at lunchtime - often the only food children have.

Jess worked as an English teacher and attended fundraising events, meetings with the mamas and sold crafts at local fetes.

Five of the Angels she worked with have had a year in primary school in the local town, East London. All have won awards for their work this year and are thriving in school.

“This is in the face of ongoing difficulties they face at home,” said Jess. “One of them has been raped, by a man in her local community, for the second time.

“She is six years old. Another child's house burned down. Her family are safe but they have lost everything. Education for these children is not just academic achievement; it is their chance to build bridges into a better world.”

“The waiting list for the school is huge,” said Jess. “Every mama in the area wants their child to be given the opportunity to break out of the poverty cycle.”

Just before Christmas she went back to visit the project - which now has 27 Angels enrolled.

However, six are without sponsors. Declining sponsorship due to the recession is having its impact on funds for African Angels.

“Transport alone is costing the equivalent of £40 per week and next year four more angels will be going to school in town,” said Jess. “A new vehicle will be needed and the cost will double.

“In short, if the project doesn't have a serious injection of funds, they will be over by the end of the year.”

So Jess is returning to South Africa from February 18 to do everything she can to raise funds, initially for three months due to visa restrictions.

“The African Angels is such a wholesome, worthwhile project that I cannot remain comfortably ignorant while they struggle and possibly sink,” she said.

If anyone is interested in supporting the project go to: www.sponsoranangel.org

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