This past March my wife Alice and I made our fourth safari to South Africa and our third with a SCI Flint Chapter Blue Bag. After the long flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg we chose to spend an extra day near Pretoria acclimating to the time change and recharging our batteries. The following morning we were off again on an early morning flight to George laden with not only our gear but several cases of supplies for a school and a boys home we would visit at the end of the hunt. My PH Charles met us at the airport and we were off to the hunting property in the Western Cape. There over the next few days I was fortunate to take a Lechwe, Blesbok, Common Reedbuck and an Eastern Greater Kudu. While I was hunting Alice was busy with Junita, the property manager’s wife, exploring the local area, doing some shopping and seeing the magnificent sights of the surrounding hills. They were also busy sorting supplies and putting together small bags of pens, pencils, toothbrushes, toothpaste and candy for the children we would visit.
While hunting with Charles and Somerby Safaris is always a special treat for Alice and me due to their long friendship and professionalism we also always look forward to visiting with and delivering supplies through the Safari Club Blue Bag program to local children who have so very little. Sune and Lindie, both with Somerby, did a great job in locating a nearby children’s home and a school. We scheduled two days following my hunt for this purpose. First was a visit to Huis Triomf in the nearby town of Oudtschoorn. This is a home for up to 30 boys between 8 and 18 who for different reasons have been separated from their families. While the home is operated by very caring staff and teachers, there simply isn’t enough funding to come close to providing for their needs. One of their basic needs was for a washer and dryer. We concluded that such a project was doable for us and were able to transfer the funds well in advance of our trip. The purpose of our visit this day was to ensure that all was well with the washer and dryer and take something for each child along with some group supplies. In addition to the small bags mentioned earlier each boy and staff member received a “Beanie-Baby” stuffed toy. We knew the younger children would enjoy them but weren’t sure about some of the older ones. There was no need for us to worry as the toys were a hit with everyone including the adults. Supplies from crayons to soccer balls, table games and learning supplies such as calculators, rulers and Afrikaans dictionaries were also much appreciated. Both the boys and the staff seemed amazed that people from so far away could be aware that they exist and be willing to reach out and offer help.
The following day we visited Voorbedag Primary School very close to the lodge where we were staying. This school has about 55-60 learners in Kindergarten through 6th grade and is very short on basic supplies. Like many schools in South Africa they need most everything. Our visit here was occurring during the local school holidays so we were not sure whether there would be any children present. As we were driving and got to within about a mile of the school we knew that many children would be there. Lining both sides of the road were children walking, many with their mothers toward the school. What a wonderful sight! Virtually every learner was present along with many parents. They had gathered to honor our visit and show their appreciation. As happy as they were to see us we were equally happy to see and greet them. We were able to deliver many school supplies that will help improve their learning experience for hopefully some time to come. Like at Huis Triomf each child, parent and staff received a goodie bag and a “Beanie Baby”. Even the adults seemed to enjoy the candy and stuffed animals. We never fail to be amazed at how relatively small things can make such a difference for children who have so little and how much those things are truly appreciated. Smiles and hugs abounded. All too soon it was time for our visit to conclude and with some final farewells, hugs, and a group photo it was time to depart. As we returned to the lodge again the roads were lined with children and adults, this time walking back to their homes with many smiles and many waves to us as we passed.
C.J. and Alice Merriman
SCI Flint Chapter Members