Reunited across space and time

2016-07-05 06:00
At the back (from left) are Lynn Phillips, Ashley Potts, Abie Isaacs and Anastachia Roman. In front are Galileu Antonio Saldanha, Lorne and Maria Raymond and Jermaine Isaacs.       PHOTO: Samantha Lee

At the back (from left) are Lynn Phillips, Ashley Potts, Abie Isaacs and Anastachia Roman. In front are Galileu Antonio Saldanha, Lorne and Maria Raymond and Jermaine Isaacs. PHOTO: Samantha Lee

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It has been 12 years and thousands of kilometres between them but an emotional reunion has confirmed a bond that will last for a lifetime.

In 2004, a project aimed at uplifiting youth from an underpriveleged background through an exchange programme saw the ball rolling to get 10 Mitchell’s Plain teens to Canada.

Lynn Phillips, secretary of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum, says they were tasked to find these participants.

“In 2004, Bush Radio and the Volunteer Centre tasked the CPF to coordinate the project and identify 10 youth from under privileged areas and Mitchell’s Plain being one of those communities we identified the young people for an exchange to Mozambique and Canada,” says Phillips.

One of the 10 chosen was Jermaine Isaacs from Lentegeur. Isaacs says it was an opportunity of a lifetime. He was just 17-years-old at the time and had just finished matric.

“As a Mitchell’s Plain boy it was a privilege to go beyond Mitchell’s Plain and see how things are done in other countries,” he says

He recalls his visit to Mozambique and how it made him appreciate what he had back home. “Seeing the poverty in Mozambique I realised I was so privileged. I had running water and a plate of food every night,” he says.

He says the exchange programme has changed his life for the better. “If I did not go over, I could have ended up on the streets in a life of drugs. I am still in contact with some of the friends I met 12-years-ago and they are now like brothers to me.”

The exchange project saw the group spend three months in Mozambique and another three months in Canada, working and learning aout cultures and trades in other countries.

The criteria for the 10 youth was that they all needed to possess leadership qualities and have a vision in life.

Now 12 years later Isaacs received a surprise visit from the people he calls Mom and Dad. Lorne and Maria Raymond, who hosted Isaacs and Galileu Antonio Saldanha from Mozambique for three months paid Isaacs a visit at his Lenteguer home on Sunday 26 June.

Phillips says the visit was more than just a holiday for the Raymonds.

“They came to look at what the boys are up to 12 years later,”she says.

Abie Isaacs, CPF chairperson, says they appreciate the Raymonds visit and input in seeing the boys making good decisions.

With them they also brought Saldanha who they hosted along with Isaacs.

“We wanted to bring Galileu (Saldanha) with us because they also hadn’t seen each other in 12 years. And just watching them together, they have a special relationship,” says Maria.

Saldanha is now a doctor and recalls his journey with fond memories.

Maria recalls him being very shy in the beginning. “I shared my dream of becoming a doctor with my mom (Maria) but it was only a dream,” says Saldanha.

After a year of being home, the Raymonds decided they wanted to make that dream come true. Through various fundraising events, they secured enough money to pay for Saldanah’s fees for his 10-year studies.

Maria says they had no plans to be part of the programme and found out about it at a farmers market. “They came into our home and we felt such a responsibility toward them. We fell in love and the rest is history,” says Maria.

Lorne and Maria also have three sons of their own.

The Raymonds have now set a challenge for Jermaine whom they believe can be an ambassador. They spent the week with him in Lentegeur and walked the streets to meet the community.

Maria says the experience of meeting them have made them sensitized to the issues and cultures of other areas. “When we went to visit Galileu we wanted to be on the bus with him. We didn’t hire fancy cars,” says Maria. “Same in Mitchell’s Plain, we could have stayed in a hotel but we wanted to experience the community. Mitchell’s Plain is a very special community and it was special to see the impact Jermaine has on the people in the community.”

The project no longer exists in South Africa. Phillips and Abie challenged businesses in Mitchell’s Plain to help fund this project and get it back up and running.

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