The Legacy of Grace
While I was traveling in South Africa, I visited the Drakensburg Mountains in the northernmost Royal Natal and the adjacent Summit called the Amphitheater, a world-famous National Heritage Site. My guides were Cheryl Blackburn, a native South African who is co-owner of Three Trees at Spioenkop, and Elijah Mbonane, a Zulu Native Guide from Siyaphambili Tours and Travels.
Elijah was so passionate about his beloved country and specifically about the Drakensberg’s natural architecture of imposing rock walls, deep green valleys, and the threatened treasures of the Drakensberg rock paintings and San art, which was painted by Southern Africa's earliest inhabitants, the San Bushmen.
Elijah explained that the Amphitheater gained its regal prefix Royal Natal after the 1947 visit of Britain's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It wasn't unusual for those with the means and influence to be able to “own” a piece of extraordinary beauty in Africa.
But once the Royal Natal was proclaimed a World Heritage Site, everyone—no matter what social status or influence—was now "Only able to come to see, not to have," in Elijah’s own expression.
At the moment Elijah uttered these words, something changed inside me forever. I truly understood how nature’s wonders, frequently defaced by the public with spray paint or purchased by those with great wealth to be reserved solely for their own enjoyment somehow needed the world’s collective protection. A World Heritage site is created for natural locations that have outstanding universal value based on cultural and preservation principles but that have become vulnerable to irreversible change. I believe that this shouldn’t apply solely to a natural phenomena or exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. It should apply to cultural traditions as well. While it’s important to allow room for the natural evolution of a civilization, there is also great value in preserving a civilization’s culture and outlook on the world. In Elijah’s case, it was important to help preserve the unique brand of human values and the innate instinct to protect the environment of the Zulu tribe from which he came. The missing link that would help them prosper in a way that was best for their tribe was the ability to communicate in a universal language. To bridge this gap became Elijah’s mission.
Elijah has lived his entire life at the base of the Amphitheater in his native Zulu village. When Nelson Mandela became president, one of his lasting legacies was to return the land to native black South Africans who were forcibly removed by the apartheid government by way of the 1994 Restitution of Land Rights Act. President Mandela highlighted the need to undo the damage of the past and redress the injustices of apartheid by creating a path for job creation, agricultural production, and the development of an inclusive rural economy. With no fear of land dispossession and economic exclusion, Elijah was free to pursue his personal mission to not only create success in his life in order to give back to the people in his village but to help them attain their own personal achievements.
Elijah explained that he recently was able to purchase a small piece of property in his village. When I asked if he was going to build his home on this land, he replied, "No, I want to build a nursery.” At the time, a lovely resident grandma named Mabel took care of all the village’s the young children in her own home. Elijah's goal was to build a nursery that would not only care for the kids but also educate them, teaching them English so they would not be hindered when they eventually went to the mainstream school.
At that moment, I said to Elijah, "I will build that school for you." And I did. The Sakhile Centre of Learning opened on November 27, 2015, sponsored by the Legacy of Grace, a group formed by me and my two guides, Cheryl and Elijah.
On opening day, a few children and their parents came to inspect the new preschool, built by the hands of the men in the village under the direction and guidance of Elijah. Soon books, toys, and an English teacher arrived and the school grew from mere curiosity to more than 50 dedicated children between the ages of 2 and 6.
This school and the Legacy of Grace are my own personal lasting legacy. We have committed ourselves to work tirelessly for the Zulu community of South Africa and the Sakhile Centre of Learning school in the hope of creating a contagious representation of transformation and prosperity that will be modeled in other areas worldwide. We believe that the power of word of mouth will take this inspired movement to a world legacy to help every child reach their life potential—especially those who may not have initially been able to do so due to their humble beginnings.
My dream is now a reality and you can be part of leaving your own lasting legacy with your donation. With the current exchange rate of the U.S. Dollar to South African Rand, our dollars go very far to help others that are less fortunate than we are. 13 multiplied my initial US Dollar donation in 2015 with the exchange rate in our favor. It doesn't take a lot of money to supply English books and wall charts, puzzles, toys, mattresses and blankets for nap time, etc.
The Legacy of Grace's focus is on Education and the Environment. Please empower these Zulu people to become the Superstars of their next generation. And you, too, will be a part of a Movement that is greater than any one of us alone. Together, we can change this world, one project at a time.
Give generously. Thank you! And please share your efforts and the Legacy of Grace on your social media platforms. It's word of mouth that will take this inspired Movement to a World Legacy of change that matters.
NOTICE OF NONDISCRIMINATORY POLICY AS TO STUDENTS OF THE SAKHILE CENTRE OF LEARNING
The Sakhile Centre of Learning, located in the Province of KwaZulu Natal, uKhahlamba District in the Amazizi Community admits students of any race, color, national and ethic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.
SAKHILE EARLY EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT AND ECO-TOURISM CENTRE
The Sakhile Centre of Learning, sponsored by Legacy of Grace SA, was founded in 2015 by partners Cheryl Grace, Elijah Mbonani, and Cheryl Blackburn. Sakhile is a non-for-profit, privately funded, non NGO Centre for Early Childhood Education, located in the Amazizi Community in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The school supports children ages 1-5 and uses a play-based approach for a curriculum that includes basic English and Zulu language, sustainable environmental practices and life skills, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving and social awareness skills, the planting and maintaining of vegetable gardens, and the creative arts.
The current school building is a one room classroom with 60 children and 2 teachers. With the generous support of our donors and investors from around the world, our goal is to build a new educational complex over a period of 5-7 years.
The original building will be preserved for cultural and historical perspectives, but enhanced to include an Tourism and Welcome Centre. 100% of the donations received go to the building of the school and the education of our children.
Legacy of Grace SA invites you to help us achieve our goal of building an Early Childhood Centre, designed by Kevin Kimwelle, a SA Community Architect in Green Design and Sustainable Community Development.
A full project brief is available below. Legacy of Grace SA motto is: "If you always give, you'll always have." We thank you for your support.
UPDATE: Site Survey, revised budget, and timeline for 2019 for Phase 1, new building of Sakhile Early Childhood Education and EcoTourism Centre in South Africa, sponsored by Legacy of Grace SA.
About the Partners
Cheryl Grace was born in Newman, California, a small town of 2800 people and raised by loving parents, Gilbert and Elsie George. They were determined to send their only child to college and upon Cheryl’s high school graduation, she departed from her childhood home to pursue a college degree at Fresno State University in Fresno, California. READ MORE
Cheryl Blackburn was born in the Kruger National Park, South Africa to parents that were passionate about people and wildlife. Her father, a chef, kept guests well fed whilst her mother entertained and arranged all that needed to be done in running a busy bush lodge in a remote wilderness. After moving extensively throughout South Africa, to mostly wild and remote places, Cheryl decided that she wanted to pursue her career in nature & wildlife and so applied to all the lodge in South Africa at the time for a position as a guide. READ MORE
Elijah Hlanganani Mbonane was born in Ladysmith, December 3rd, 1980 after a communal prayer gathering was held for his mother, who had lost 4 daughters all under the age of 2 before this time. Elijah’s father, a politician, had left his mother by this stage. He had no faith that she would ever produce a son or even a child that would live to adulthood. He had already left and started a new family. READ MORE