Puzzle pieces are scattered across the floor in one corner of the room, while a group of teenagers works on homework in another. Later, a student leads the group in a series of stretching exercises.
They’re scenes that play out in after-school programs in the U.S. every day. But for the 22 children of The Village of Joy orphanage, the routine represents a new normal.
The memories are fresh on Stein Brunvand’s mind more than six months after returning from the trip he led to Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of the Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates—and they’re one reason he is working with The Village of Joy to secure its home and its children’s future.
Milly Jarvis started the home in 2002 when she began taking in children from the Diepsloot settlement whose parents had abandoned them or died from disease. Brunvand describes the village as quiet, peaceful—a place to heal from the past neglect.
“The Village of Joy is a miracle place for these children. It provides them with the chance to get a good education and to break the cycle of poverty,” said Brunvand, associate professor of education. “They deserve a chance at a better life.”
Brunvand and his students spent nearly two weeks at The Village of Joy. They helped with homework and school projects, prepared and ate meals together, shared stories and songs around the fire pit.
And, like so often is the case, those lending a hand came home reaping the rewards.
“Seeing the work that is being done there in order to help the children have a successful future was truly inspiring,” said U-M Ann Arbor student Chelsea Evans, who participated in the GIEU trip. “It was such a blessing for me to have that opportunity to learn from them.”
Once home, Brunvand focused on a new project: He began raising funds to keep Jarvis and the 22 children in their home.
Jarvis currently rents the home, but the owner intends to sell this summer. Jarvis has $200,000 put aside for the sale, leaving a $300,000 fundraising goal.
It’s a lofty goal, for sure. With about four months until the deadline, Brunvand is inching toward the $8,000 mark. But the slow progress hasn’t deterred him or the students who participated in the GIEU trip.
“I am really excited about Stein’s fundraising initiative,” Evans said. “There is so much that could be done there with any amount of funds that are raised, but I hope we can help them stay in The Village.”
Jervis, too, is grateful for the efforts.
“The children and I are so thankful and grateful to Stein for his generosity,” she said. “His kindness in doing this will be a lifesaver to our children. He is leaving a living legacy for our South African children.”