Beaver Lake continues more than a decade of aid for South Africa

March 6, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

The Zulu greeting “sawubona” means “I see you.” The proper response is “ngikhona,” or “I am here.”

A Zulu folk saying clarifies the meaning behind the greeting, explaining that a person is a person because of other people.

Students, staff and community members gathered early the morning of March 2 at Beaver Lake Middle School to launch an effort to further strengthen the ties between two seemingly disparate groups of people.

For the eighth year in a row, under the guidance of teacher Curtis Betzler, the school will collect items for children in the South African province of KwaZulu Natal.

After the drive comes to an end, Betzler and at least 10 others, including numerous students, will travel to South Africa to personally deliver the goods. Over the years, the Beaver Lake drive has impacted more than 40 South African schools and roughly 6,000 students and adult learners, Betzler said.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to grow this big,” he said of Beaver Lake’s efforts.

While Betzler undoubtedly helped launch the drives, he was very quick to give credit to the Beaver Lake Outreach Community of Kids, a student organization at the school. BLOCK students ran the March 2 kick-off, not only urging students to contribute but also telling why help is needed.

In South Africa, 17.8 percent of the adult population is infected with HIV. That’s one in five adults, the highest rate of infection in the world. Education often is promoted as a way to fight the spread of HIV, but one in three South African schools have no electricity. Four of five have no science labs or computers. The unemployment rate in the country runs 48 percent.

For this year’s drive, BLOCK co-presidents Riley Dean and Britta Bunnell, both Beaver Lake eighth-graders, said the goal for many items matches the year. In other words, they want to bring in 2,012 pairs of shoes, 2,012 pencils and so on.

Not incidentally, pencils are far more highly prized in South Africa than here, Britta said. South African students tie the pencils on strings around their necks so they do not get misplaced.

Collected goods are shipped to South Africa with the help of a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, Betzler said. While the focus is on educational items, last year Beaver Lake sent not only 5,000 books, but also 2,000 stuffed animals and many other items.

Knowing the anonymous donor might not always be there to help, Betzler and others put together Generation Joy, an official 501(c)3 charity that helps support Beaver Lake’s South African missions.

In addition to the items already mentioned, goods needed include pencil sharpeners and erasers; sports equipment, such as soccer balls and jump ropes; and sewing materials, including needles, fabric, thread and so on. Bikes also are needed. Clothing is welcome, from coats to undergarments, but all clothing must be new. Shoes are a big focus of this year’s campaign and can be new or used. Cash donations are always accepted.

The Beaver Lake drive runs through March 23. The public is invited to drop off items at the school. Larger items such as bikes or large quantities of items can be left on specific collection days, March 16, 21 and 23. Call the school at 837-4150.

Learn more about Generation Joy at www.genjoy.org or Beaver Lake Middle School’s efforts on behalf of the organization at www.blms.issaquah.wednet.edu.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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