Don’t just stand there, do something. Make a difference
Early mornings see Ansie Jooste heading across the hills to little schools tucked beneath gum trees or hidden in a valley. She spots interesting birds and often buck cross the road on her journeys off the beaten track. As a fan of ‘all creatures great and small’ this is a daily joy as Ansie traverses the bumpy Van Reenen roads.
When her car arrives in a swirl of dust along the road at Sandriver Valley Primary, Sibusiso races to open the school gates for ‘Khanyisile’ as Ansie is fondly known. In the bustle of excited kids, one small boy tugs at her shirt, pulling her aside to tell her proudly that he is definitely going to pass this year. Principal, Mrs Shezi, greets her warmly. “Yoh, Ansie is a blessing in disguise” she says. “When she came, you could see things get going. She is our provider and has made a big difference in our school.”
Besides providing blankets, beanies and shoes to ward off the biting winter cold in these parts, Ansie has, through the N3TC Khanyisile Community Trust, helped build kitchens, install water tanks, create food gardens and put up shelves to store text books. “Ansie is not lazy, she can really work” adds Mrs Shezi. “She cleaned the walls and painted our kitchen building herself. She is like a mother for the whole school.”
Khanyisile means ‘bringing light’ in Zulu and is an apt name for the Trust which really does bring a ray of hope to rural schools in the Van Reenen area which have been ignored in the past. “It’s easy to work in a township school near the road, but no one notices the ones you need to travel by 4×4 to get to. I go and find them as they are usually the most in need of help.” She is in awe of the dedication of teachers who travel long distances every day to teach at these tiny schools; often multi-grade classes of hungry children who rely on the one meal they get at school. “The teachers have to cope with snakes, veld fires and medical emergencies on top of all the social issues and teaching. A school is the heart of a community – a post office and the first stop for help in an emergency.” Realising that there is very little knowledge of First Aid in these areas, Ansie arranged for all the teachers to get their Level One certificate. “You can save a life with a level one,” she says. However, as there would be no help during the holidays when the school is closed and teachers have gone home, Ansie has enrolled the school cooks who live in the surrounding community, to learn first aid too. Being so rural, assistance takes longer to arrive than you would expect. “Now the community knows who to call in an emergency and how to stabilise a patient until help arrives.” she adds.
As if this weren’t enough activity to squeeze into any given day, Ansie’s other job is as Intermediate Life Support practitioner and fire fighter in Van Reenen. Tales abound of her bravery – fighting a tanker fire with emergency service personnel and rescuing people stuck in the snow. Being a woman alone in the middle of nowhere might be daunting for some, but Ansie’s passion to assist when things go awry is astonishing. “It’s important to be able to help people. Everything is integrated – health, schooling, accidents – they are all part of life and I can help when things go wrong.” Ansie acknowledges that much of this work would not have been possible without a great team which includes N3TC and many other people that work on the road.
“I live and breathe my work – it is who I am.” Ansie concludes.