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Students team with Scheels to provide clothing to South Africa

Students take shoes to children in impoverished South Africa town.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office News Release [7-6-11]

Dozens of children in the impoverished community of Mzamomhle, South Africa, are wearing new soccer shoes and T-shirts, thanks to a Minnesota State Mankato student service-learning project and generous donations from Scheels of Mankato and private citizens.

Sixteen students and two faculty members from the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences traveled to South Africa in early May and distributed the shoes and shirts through CATCH (Caring Affirming Training Children), a non-government agency that helps meet the needs of South African children.

The students went to South Africa as part of a two-week service-learning project suggested by Minnesota State Mankato social work faculty member Christine Black-Hughes, who has volunteered at CATCH in Mzamomhle, and is teaching at the University of Fort Hare in East London, South Africa.

Mzamonmhle’s residents live in shanties or cement block government housing, and only a few buildings have electricity, running water, doors or windows. CATCH volunteers help Mzamonmhle community leaders teach gardening and other life skills and provide HIV/AIDS clinics and diversionary programs for boys and girls, peer education for young adults, and events for mothers and fathers.

Before the trip the Minnesota State Mankato students communicated via email with University of Forte Hare students, learning about the differences in university and community life, social culture and issues and academic goals. When the Minnesota State Mankato students arrived in Mzamonmhle, the Forte Hare students showed them their homes, introduced their families, and toured East London and surrounding communities with them.

The Minnesota State Mankato discovered found that many of Mzamonmhle’s children do not have shoes, or wear shoes that are too small. Members of the town’s winning soccer teams frequently share shoes, shirts and shorts; the Scheels donation ensures that every boy has soccer shoes.

Two of the students – social work majors Jordan Anderson and Mara Mosenden – work part-time at Scheels in Mankato. They talked with Brandon Scheel, explaining the South Africa project and the need for clothing, and Scheels donated more than 20 pairs of boys’ soccer shoes, 45 pairs of socks, 15 pairs of girls’ tennis shoes and 20 T-shirts.

The students distributed the clothing to members of the Mzamomhle girls’ and boys’ soccer clubs, and handed out other donations including black dolls, additional T-shirts, crayons, coloring books and pencils.

“The children were very excited about the shoes, especially when they saw the Nike swoosh; they were all going crazy over them,” Anderson said.

The Minnesota State Mankato students also participated in meetings and activities of the children’s daily “clubs”: boys club, girls club, teenage club, fish and starfish club, dance club, and the orphan group. And they spent five days visiting two national parks and museums, including the World Heritage Museum at Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and dozens of other political prisoners were held for decades until the prison was decommissioned in 1991.

Now that they’re back, the students are making improvements to the Caring Affirming Training Children website, developing an easier way for patrons to make online donations, and providing a better explanation of the organization’s purpose.

In addition, the students are considering a fundraiser for Mzamomhle, which recently was devastated when a flood destroyed 25 percent of the village’s homes.
Black-Hughes and corrections and sociology faculty member Sherrise Truesdale led the trip.

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 15,393 students, is part of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, which comprises 32 state institutions.

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