What started out as a dream of a young man studying in a foreign country became reality for many children thousands of miles from DeWitt. When Hans Sleichter began to work in South Africa, he heard compassion in the voice of a friend wanting to change the living conditions of small children and their families. But with limited resources available, Hans knew where he could go to get support for his friend’s mission, which also became his.
Hans, a native of DeWitt, e-mailed his parents, Tony and Piper Manatt, asking them to contact the teachers of their sons, Beau and Hunter, at St. Joe’s to see if a clothing drive could take place. Kindergarten teacher Jayne Riedesel and second-grade teacher Marlene McCloy were in favor of the drive allowing their students to give to others who were less fortunate.
Their classrooms began filling up with garbage bags and grocery bags, along with boxes with such items as slightly used clothes, shoes, stuffed animals, toys, personal hygiene products and money. Children were excited to bring in toys they no longer played with and clothes they no longer wore. They knew they would help children in need. After a month-and-a-half, the students had finished collecting their goods. Piper Manatt gathered the donations and filmed the groups putting items into a couple large suitcases.
As good fortune would have it, a local business person was contacted who generously offered to ship many of the goods to South Africa through his transportation business.
Piper Manatt made the journey herself to South Africa to help her son distribute the clothes and toys in November. The complete video journey was shown to the classes involved, and it was put on the daily school news broadcast.
What seemed to be impossible was possible thanks to the caring hearts of the kindergarten and second-grade students and their families. From those receiving in South Africa to those at St. Joe’s, “Nkosis Sikelele” (“God bless”).