Postcard from Jean & Tom Penny – Florida, United States

July 2014

Postcard from Jean & Tom Penny - Florida, United StatesFirst, grateful thanks to the Dreamcatcher Foundation for providing us with the opportunity to be of service, even in a small way, in beautiful South Africa. This individualized two week project was meticulously developed on our behalf by the founder of Dreamcatcher & orchestrated seamlessly by Dreamcatcher field personnel & representatives. It was an impressive feat to coordinate from half way around the world, but things went more smoothly than we had any right to expect.

Everywhere we worked, the schools & children were simply amazing. Because we arrived just in time for winter school holidays for the students, our actual classroom exposure was limited. However, frequent opportunities to work with groups of learners ranging from three to fourteen years were provided. Activities were divided into three broad categories: (a) practice in speaking, reading, & writing in English & basic math; (b) self discovery–“How I See Myself,” “How I Want Others to See Me,” “What I Want to Be;” & (c) motivational–“A Dream is a Wish the Heart Makes,” The Persistent Power of Perseverance: NEVER give up. “Shoot for the moon…Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”

Postcard from Jean & Tom Penny - I want to be a doctorWe have scores of heartwarming photos of children proudly posing with their masterpieces,.. the huge smiles, the loud applause, & the genuine bear hugs were testimony to their enthusiasm. It was our experience that regardless of age or skill level, praise & positive regard were the highest motivators. It was a privilege to watch them stretch & grow, right before our very eyes from one afternoon to the next.

The potential of confidence building to promote positive change among at risk populations, regardless of age, cannot be overstated. The Internet abounds with useful resources on this topic, my point in bringing it up is that it represents a simple, portable, individualized, highly effective technique to increase confidence & effectiveness. Since it works with all age groups & since it is so easy to teach & implement, maybe other volunteers would want to include it among their DC repertoire. If a Dream is a Wish the Heart Makes, then a Positive Affirmation is a Roadmap to Fulfillment. And helping people learn to dream & then teaching them how to make their dreams come true is what the Dreamcatcher Foundation is all about.

Postcard from Jean & Tom Penny - WheelchairsKatrina S. at the Home Office deserves special mention not only for her overall competence but her ability to multitask with such ease. It has been said that she is a rock…since diamonds are rocks, we fully concur. Whatever comes her way, she is prepared. The DC Children at Risk Program is in capable hands & the children clearly reflect the care & attention they receive & bask in the easy good grace in which it is given.

Mary & Dave at Mary’s Home for Kids in Need at Worcester are quite simply saints. What they have been able to accomplish there is nothing short of miraculous. Against all odds & with few resources, not only are the children clean, properly nourished, & well socialized but they are happy & content. They glow. They readily reach out to others & are considerate among themselves, despite the wide disparity in age & functional level. That these are children with serious medical, emotional, & developmental issues makes it all the more noteworthy.

Vermont Home for the Aged & Physically Challenged was likewise a revelation. I can say that in a decades long career of exposure to the best & the worst in institutional settings, Vermont Home has raised the bar on excellence. Thanks in huge part to the excellent & caring staff. It is they who make all the difference.

Postcard from Jean & Tom Penny - Dreamcatcher kids eatingIn closing, I want to personally thank not only Anthea but also each & every one of our new Dreamcatcher friends & associates for their part in making this trip a success. All of the Kamammas (& some of their spouses & other family members), the drivers, the guides, the teachers, the coordinators, the carers, the whole Conradie family, & also the crew who coordinated our Leisure Program. You know who you are. Not once–in nearly an entire month of sometimes daily pick-ups, drop-offs, grocery store expeditions, long distance transfers, meeting arriving flights, dropping off for departing ones, crossing borders, etc–did anyone leave us hanging. If the designated individual couldn’t appear, a substitute did. If a vehicle broke down, another one replaced it. That is quite simply awe inspiring coordination & teamwork. From Tom & from me, from the very bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU ONE & ALL. We think of each & every one of you as new friends, but it is more than that, you are now like family to us. Baie dankie (thanks very much in Afrikaans) & Mungu akubariki (God bless in Swahili).

Jean & Tom Penny
St. Augustine, FL
22 July 2014

Special thanks to Magdelene J. for not running over the bride as she made a quick u-turn so Tom could snap a wedding photo from the car window on the sidewalk in Knysna. We may have missed the reception but we got the photo.