Sparrows recount UK Tour

On 20 November, the Combined School Choir jetted off on a two week-long tour of the United Kingdom (UK). The cities visited included London, Watford, Chelsea and Banbury. The school embarks on the tour every three years and it serves as a huge cultural and social experience for the children.

Lelebohile Ramotlalane - Kamohelo Lephallo - Tshepo Lebididi - Karabo Khupe - Michelle Manganyi - Nomathamsanqa Ngamlana

The choir was kept very busy while on tour, averaging two performances a day over a two-week period. “The tour went very well, it was really lovely.  It was a great experience for the children. We also met some really great people; I was very impressed by the warm embrace of the people of England. The choir also did very well, at one performance we got a standing ovation where one lady actually cried. They really stepped it up and came alive on stage,” says Choir Conductor, Badelisile Gaobepe.

The choir was hosted by different host families associated with Sparrow through the Sparrow Foundation in the UK. “My highlight was getting to spend time with the host family that I was with,” recounts choir member, Karabo Khupe. She further adds, “Getting to go on tour of London was also a very great experience.”

Choir Master and Misstress - Dominic Gaobepe and Badelisile Gaobepe

The 12 member choir spent their time mesmerizing different schools and churches around the UK with their proudly African song and dance. Kamohelo Lephallo, in grade nine also recounts his highlights, “Singing at the different schools was my greatest highlight. I was also impressed with the kind of facilities the schools had that I am not used to.”

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The Sparrow Educational Trust Founder, Jackie Gallagher, thanks the National Lottery South Africa and the Edcon Group who made the trip possible and a great success. The National Lottery sponsored the funds that made it all possible while the Edcon Group sponsored clothes and toiletry.

“The whole point and theme of the choir performing was to celebrate former President Nelson Mandela’s legacy, his life and what he did for South Africa. The highlight was when the choir was invited to sing at the Royal Chelsea Hospital. They were the second choir to ever sing in the chapel for their Christmas celebration,” Jackie Gallagher says.

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Muscular Dystrophy Foundation donates wheelchair

On 28 July 2015, The Muscular Dystophy Research Foundation (MDRF) donated an electric wheelchair to a Sparrow Combined School learner, Philile Shweni. Shweni was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at an early age and has had to depend on a wheelchair to get around. According to Wikipedia, Muscular Dystrophy is a condition that causes one’s muscles gradually to weaken over time. In South Africa, the condition affects 1:1 200 people.

The MDRF visited the Sparrow Combined School in Sophia Town to do the official hand over. “We are very fortunate as human beings, some of us are very fortunate to be able to use our hands and arms. One of our learners, Philile, who also happens to be one of our best learners, finds it difficult to do most tasks because of his condition,” said the Combined School Principal, Mark Cloete. He further adds, “On behalf of Sparrow, we would like to thank the MDRF for this kind gesture.”

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The MDRF was represented by General Manager, Pieter Joubert,who is also affected by MD. He was accompanied by Occupational Therapist, Erica Gerthsen and Fundraiser, Braam Roux. “There are 1200 people in South Africa affected by this condition. We at MDRF understand what Philile and others are going through and that is why we go out of our way to land a helping hand. We understand that not everyone can afford these wheelchairs as they are very expensive,” Joubert explains.

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Philile’s sister, Phumla Shweni, was also there to witness the handover and was evidently overwhelmed with joy; you could sense the relief in her voice as she spoke. “I’m so grateful and happy for him, it has been very difficult for us at home because he could not do most things on his own. The wheelchair is definitely going to help us and him,” Phumla said.

According to WEB MD, there is still no cure for any form of Muscular Distrophy, but medications and therapy can slow the course of the disease. There are currently research projects that are working on a cure for the disease.  The Department of Health has dedicated the month of September to raising awareness around the disease. Wear a lime green ribbon to show your support.

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Adaptive Skills Program changing lives

“When you encounter uncomfortable situations, you can either decide to be victim or an over-comer. Always choose to be an over-comer. Grace is within our reach to be an over-comer.” – Lailah Gifty Akita.

From the day we are born, life throws us with many curveballs as we try and navigate through life trying to find our feet. Hailing from the dusty streets of one of South Africa’s most notorious townships, Alexandra, Samuel Mazibuko decided he would not let his challenging circumstance hold him back and chose to be an over-comer.

Baking 8

The 20 year old Adaptive Curriculum Skills Program (ASP) learner joined Sparrow Schools Combined School in 2010 after dropping out of a mainstream school because of learning difficulties he was experiencing. The ASP is a programme introduced in 2014 through collaboration between Sparrow’s academic specialists, learner support services and special education practitioners.

The program aims to design a suitable environment for learners with learning difficulties. The focus is on transferring practical skills to learners who are cognitively impaired and struggle coping with the academic curriculum. The learners enrolled in the ASP have an opportunity to learn various skills ranging from baking, sowing and agriculture.

This program has helped Mazibuko escape a life of substance abuse which could have had detrimental consequences. “I come from a place where there is a lot of poverty and unemployment, this school (Sparrow) and the ASP has helped me change my life,” Mazibuko says. Mazibuko

Mazibuko has now turned his life around and has now been selected to be a Teacher’s Assistant at the Combined School’s bakery. “Sparrow has been hectic but also amazing. I have learnt a lot of skills which I never thought that I would,” Mazibuko explains.

Through his journey at Sparrow and the ASP, Mazibuko has now grown to become an ambitious young man. He aspires to one day own a bakery. He also would like to use the sowing skills he learned in the ASP and make his own clothes and transfer the skills he learned back into his community. Judging by his work ethic and focus, we at Sparrow have seen him realise his potential and we have no doubt that he will realise his ambitions.