My name is Meg Smyth, I am 71 yrs old and I come from Riverton in South Australia. In 2004 my friend Rose Argent and I travelled to Keep The Dream196 in Tzaneen South Africa to experience the real South Africa and not the tourist Africa. We wanted to see the real world, and we did.
My first sighting of South Africa was from the air as we came into J/berg. On the outskirts of the city well away from most development were the shanty dwellings of the peoples. This is a land where many still struggle to live above their daily needs for survival. Education has not been a high priority, so their prospects for work other than low paid manual labour, is the norm, and many have given up trying to rise above the poverty line. They live by their wits stealing and lying, many of them orphaned through HIV.
I was fortunate to stay in the village of Mokgwarthi for a few days in 2004 where we did see a change. Scouts had been recently introduced to children in some of the villages with local leaders, Mokgwarthi being one of them and we were able to see their enthusiasm. The day we were there the scout leader had been delayed, but the older children took it upon themselves to make a start with dancing and games, looking after the younger children.
The scout code had a dramatic effect on these children so that their former life of lying and cheating and disobedience and sleeping around was turned upside down. This caught the attention of the school teachers, who were very keen for scouts to be involved with other students. The demand at the time was almost outstripping resources.
The results of this has been phenomenal, lifting the expectations of the young people, and for the first time bringing them hope, wonderful hope, not just for them, but for the future of South Africa, which a short time before would have just been an impossible dream.
I encourage everyone to get involved with Keep the Dream 196 in whatever way you can with donations, volunteering, coming for a visit so that you can experience first had the great work being done by the team and have your heart irrevocably changed by the people you meet.