Donations to Prison Letter of Thanks (2)

Tue, 16 Jan 2007 12:42:45 +0200
Dear Al,
I would like to take this opportunity to follow up on my previous attempt to inform you of
the status and overwhelming effect of the computers, donated by Teachers without Borders to
the ODi Correctional Services in Mabopane – South Africa in 2006.
Hereto attached also see the response from Mr Robert Jooste, Coordinator of the Thuto-Phetogo
Learning Centre at the ODi Correctional Services Centre and a copy of their newsletter
acknowledging the donation. This newsletter is forwarded to the Minister of Correctional
Services on a monthly basis and he also visited the Centre recently to view the newly
established computer centre at this prison – the first computer centre established in this
prison and the Minister was absolutely overwhelmed with this initiative!
About five years ago I was brutally hi-jacked by three youngsters and nearly lost my life due
to shooting wounds – they were caught in the act and was sent to prison for 19 years each.
The sentence was based on armed hi-jack as well as an attempt of murder. I felt extremely
sorry for these youngsters and forgave them for what they have done I also gave them Bibles
each to find peace in their hearts and the direction needed. I visited them in the prison
and personally apologized and ensured them of my forgiveness – this on its own was a
wonderful experience. I undertook to help them with rehabilitation and to pay for them to
further their education whilst serving their time. I felt it was my contribution to rectify
what apartheid has done to these people and I established a NGO which allows me to find
donations, contributions and the involvement of the community at large. I had the
opportunity to see the enthusiasm and work of Yunus Peer and his community work through
Teachers without Borders and this was such an inspiration that I have decided to endeavor
into enhancing the lives of our people in the prisons for the better.
I have gone through many channels to start this project and today I can look back and see the
ripple effect of my hard work in this regard. It is astonishing to look at these young faces
and to see what a change it has brought about in their lives. Instead of just sitting in the
sun, praying for the time to go by, getting involved with gangsters, drugs etc they have
become so involved in education, life skills, aids projects, contribution to their monthly
newsletters etc and this is when you realize that through people like Teachers without
Borders, they managed to get a second change and their lives will not be wasted whilst
serving their time.
Just have a look at the newsletter which for the first time could be done in this prison –
thanks to the computers which was donated to them by Teachers without Borders. Not only have
they managed to learn computer skills, but also mastered the skills to communicate, to
motivate, to share, to write poems etc etc….. I have got no other words but to say: Teachers
without Borders has given them the light in this dark tunnel.
As from January 2007 plans will be on the table for the computer skills to the inmates –
unfortunately only a few will be able to enroll due to the lack of computers, but optimal
time will be scheduled in order for as many as possible to undergo these training. We have
managed to obtain qualified people from outside in the community to present these courses and
the first course already took place in 2006 in terms of “Understanding your Computer inside
out” and all enrollments were taught about the computer. It was interesting to see how they
dismantled the computers and each part was given its correct name and afterwards they rebuilt
all the computers again with the assistance of the experts training them – wonderful
wonderful! Some mentioned it was the first time in their lives they had an opportunity to
learn something let alone a computer!
Through my NGO company I have also managed to purchase the necessary computer programmes
needed for them to get started, many of my fellow community members and friends assisted to
put these into place for them. I also managed to obtain the latest schoolbooks for them and
for the first time ever, they had an opportunity to study from an updated book and not
outdated copies of books. The schools I have approached gladly supported the project and I
was running around organizing trucks to deliver the books at various prisons.
It was heartwarming to see how the Correctional Services Department staff started planning on
the computer centre which meant, identifying place, electricity, space, furniture, books,
stationary etc for this centre and proudly today the centre has been established – fully
furbished and ready to start with their planning for 2007. Even a library came to light with
the donation of books etc. I have also had meetings with the higher authorities of the
prison to involve the skilled, qualified inmates in presenting classes to the underprivileged
students who started their education for the first time – this materialized and those persons
presenting the classes feel they got back their dignity and sense of living – what a
wonderful way to take hands after so many years of isolation, even if it had to happen in the
Al, be assured of my sincere appreciation with this project, you can be rest assured you have
made a huge contribution into the lives of people who thought they were lost forever – it is
people like you who made the difference between live and death – lost and found and you will
be blessed richly for this contribution.
I thank you sincerely and will keep you posted.
Kindest regards
Engela Pienaar
HOD: International Relations
Vaal University of Technology
(Formerly known as Vaal Triangle Technikon)
South Africa