Our University of Northwestern Team Experiencing Adventures with Elephants

It is winter here in South Africa and our first team for this season from the University of Northwestern, in St. Paul, MN, is just completing their work with us. James Smith, an IT professor with the college, is leading this team of 9 people. In addition, we have had a global health professor, from the University of Iowa, here exploring our site for potential clinical rotations for her medical students and residents. We also have 2 interns from Iowa State University spending 3 months with us helping with various projects.

Team Members Built Playground and Planted Seeds at Del Cramer

The winter season here is turning out to be an excellent time for us to work with college students from North America. The University of Northwestern team funded and constructed a beautiful playground for our orphans and vulnerable children at Del Cramer Children’s Campus. Well over 100 children will be enjoying this new equipment. The new playground consists of 3 treated wooden structures with lots of swings and slides. The only thing we have left to do is to paint it with beautiful, colorful paints. The children could barely wait for us to finish to begin playing on it. This team of IT students have also been busy enlarging and updating our computer lab.

Student Praying with Man on an Eyeglass and “Days for Girls” Outreach

We will now have 14 functioning computers all connected to the internet to improve the education of our children at Del Cramer. This is essentially the only computer lab available to the children in this tribal village. Professor James Smith has also been working with our Iowa State University interns in developing a research program to scientifically measure the benefits of what we are doing at the Del Cramer Children’s Campus. This week they have been measuring the height and weight of each of the children we are serving. We also would like to include other statistical data like teen pregnancy rate, school performance and health status of our children. We will also be getting data from a control group of students that are impoverished, but not yet receiving the benefits of the food supplements, the educational support, and the social and spiritual encouragement that Blessman International provides.

Team Members Measuring Child to Collect Data at Del Cramer

There is no question in my mind that what we are doing is benefiting these children, but we hope that a scientific research program may assist us in accessing future funding from government and private foundations. This is planned to be a 3 year study. Professor James Smith is hoping to come back in January for an additional 6 months of work here in South Africa. I am praying that additional interns will come along and help us to complete this program with excellence. We will likely be partnering in this effort with Meals from the Heartland and Convoy of Hope.

New Murals in our KC Live Children’s Church at Del Cramer Children’s Campus

One of the members of this team is also a talented artist and painted some beautiful murals on the walls of our children’s church.

Beth and I have also been busy this week working with a large district Rotary conference in Polokwane. Dustin has been on a well-deserved vacation, touring Austria and Italy on a motorbike. I am sure that he will soon post many photos and stories of his travels.

Our US staff and members of the US and South African boards met recently for a day-long retreat.

Here are some of my thoughts following the retreat:

Board retreat with most of our U.S. and a few of our South African Staff and Board Members.

My goals going into this retreat were for both the American and South African boards to get to know each other better and to understand the roles of how we can all work together smoothly. From the South African side we had Dustin and René Blessman, Kabelo Bopapé, Beth and l present. From the American side our U.S. staff and all but two members of the board were present.

Photo of Blessman International staff and board members, at the Jester Park Lodge, in Iowa.

I came out of the meeting with the feeling that the role of the American board is to maintain a governance structure that permits us to maintain our non-profit status in America, to raise funds and to build teams to travel to South Africa. The main role of the South African side is again to have a governance structure that helps us maintain our non-profit status in South Africa, to begin raising more funds from the African side and to manage operations of the ministry in South Africa. Dustin is the president of the South African board and I am CEO of the American board.

Photo: Justin Rogers Photography. Taken at our annual spring gala this year.

Our spring gala held just days prior to the board retreat was a great success with us raising nearly $450,000! Thank you to all everyone who helped make it a special evening.

One of our “Mission Moment” videos. Click to watch on our Youtube channel and view our other videos while you’re there.

We are busy reviewing and possibly updating our mission and vision statements, a committee is working on that with the help of the marketing firm, Love Scott & Associates. Our marketing committee is also busy upgrading our website, possible additional advertising for our mission trips and a new weekly one minute video, “Mission Moments”. I will also do my best to restart my blogs that were quite popular and helpful in the past.