Help South African H.S. Grads Attend College

by Christel House International

Congratulations to the 2016 Christel House South Africa Matriculants. Christel House South Africa (CHSA) celebrated the beginning of the year with great news – a 100% pass rate for the Grade 12 learners, with zero retakes. This makes the 8th consecutive year that 100% of the Christel House South Africa 12th graders have passed the National Senior Certificate exam. “I am very proud of the pupils and the passionate teachers who go above and push the bar for better results,” says CHSA CEO Nicky Sheridan.

Christel House South Africa engages with their students by offering unique opportunities to support their learning. That includes giving the students a chance to explore potential careers after graduation.

Recently CHSA hosted the FutureMe World of Work Festival, an amazing career fair that featured 36 exhibitors. Microsoft South Africa, KPMG, South Africa SPAR Western Cape and Investec sponsored the day-long event that gave students a chance to meet potential employers and explore career options. Special guests at the World of Work Festival included musician Jeremy Oliver who discussed careers in music with the students and even performed for the crowds. Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape also visited with students at the event.

It was an amazing opportunity for the graduates to ask questions of businesses, to determine what studies are required after high school, and the types of positions that companies are most looking to fill.

As part of the Christel House model, the College & Careers program is a key part of developing student potential for success. 98% of Christel House South Africa graduates continue on to university, are employed, or both.

Taariq at the 2016 Christel House Concert
Taariq at the 2016 Christel House Concert

Christel House South Africa (CHSA) graduate, Taariq, shares his experience growing up in gang ridden neighborhoods of Cape Town, South Africa and how, despite the odds, he is now studying law at the University of the Western Cape.

Read his remarks below or watch Taariq share them with an audience at the 2016 Christel House Concert. 

“My name is Taariq. I am a CHSA graduate currently studying law at the University of the Western Cape.

At 6 years old, I started my journey at Christel House not knowing what lie ahead of me. I thought it was just an ordinary school, but as the years went on, I became aware of the positive influence the school had on me.

At the time, I lived with my parents and my two brothers in a shack with two beds and a broken cupboard. My mother was unemployed and my father was struggling to get work. But, I am happy to say, my father is a tailor now.

I come from a neighborhood filled with gangsterism, drugs and violence. It’s almost impossible for a CHSA student to say that they have never heard gunshots before, that their families are not getting destroyed by drugs or that they have never witnessed a murder before.

At the age of 11, I witnessed my first murder and just last week one of my childhood friends got murdered. I use these social issues as motivation because I know I have a school that supports my dreams.

Christel House has a structure that supports children's dreams, creates a vision for youth and helps students become self-sufficient citizens. The children in my neighborhood have no vision, no support and no guidance.

For children in public schools, finishing high school is a milestone—which should not be the case. Finishing high school should be the norm because education is a basic right every child should have. I am the only boy from my neighborhood that finished high school. I work hard every day because I know my parents never had the opportunities or education I have. Never mind education, my parents did not even have their basic rights. They grew up in the time of Apartheid where they were taught in a language they do not even understand.

Christel house is more than just an organization, but a haven for children, taking them away from their social issues.At the age of 19, I made it out of my neighborhood. Christel house got me an apartment at the University where I am safe and can focus on my studies. The only reason I go back to my old neighborhood is to visit my mom and show the youth that we can make something of our lives. It does not matter where we come from, but where we are going.

Christel House has staff members who are not only interested in teaching students, but also helping them build character—Christel House staff like our math teacher, Mr. Singley who sacrifices every lunch break to tutor students or Mr. Shaun who’s always there to give us guidance and advice when we need him. Both of these teachers had a huge impact on me because they were there to support me during difficult times.

Miss Christel, just by creating the organization, Christel House will act as a catalyst for thousands of good deeds being created by students. It might not be on such a big scale, but we will make a difference in our communities.

My plan for the future is to graduate and go into criminal law so that I can help the criminal justice system of my country. 

To everyone supporting Christel House, thank you so much. You are not only providing children with education, but changing our lives.

Thank you for listening to my story.”

Taariq with Founder, Christel DeHaan
Taariq with Founder, Christel DeHaan
Taariq at CHSA 2014 Graduation
Taariq at CHSA 2014 Graduation
Taariq in 1st Grade
Taariq in 1st Grade


Zola, Christel House South Africa Graduate
Zola, Christel House South Africa Graduate

Abandoned by her mother, raised by her father, valedictorian of her graduating class and admitted to Stellenbosch University—one of Cape Town’s most prestigious institutions—heartbreak, struggle and determination mark Zola’s journey.

When Zola M. tells the 12th grade class of Christel House South Africa to get their heads in their books, they listen. The no-nonsense 24-year-old is one of Christel House South Africa’s most respected alumni, who overcame difficult circumstances to fight her way into one of the country’s top universities.

Her father, Zolile, raised her from the age of 18 months after her alcoholic mother deserted them.

“He always wanted the best for me. I am from Langa, a township known for extreme poverty, but was sent to schools in more prestigious areas even though the fees and transport costs had to be shouldered by my dad, who worked as a driver for a car dealership.”

Her father was laid off when Zola was in the 3rd grade. He struggled to keep their heads above water, she recalled.

“One day, just before I was to start Grade 4, he sat me down and explained he could no longer afford to pay for me to attend school. He promised me he would sort it out soon and until he did, I was to go to the local library every day and read.”

On every school day in 2001, Zola would be at the Langa library when it opened. Her father would join her in the afternoon and tutor her in basic math.

“My dad wasn’t an educated man. He had passed Grade 4 when he dropped out to work and provide for his family. But he believed in the power of education. He wanted the best for me.”

That year her father, who later started a small takeaway business, heard of an independent school aimed at improving the lives of needy children. He took her to Christel House South Africa.

Full scholarships

Christel House offers full scholarships, meals, transport, uniforms, textbooks and learning materials to impoverished children.

Because Zola did not have a school report for that year, she was assessed to determine in which grade she would be placed.

“I was found to be competent for Grade 5. Because of those hours in the library, I was able to skip Grade 4.”

Her years at Christel House were among her best, she remembered.

“I took part in everything – choir, public speaking, you name it; I was there.”

In Grade 12, she was named the valedictorian.

“I was in tears and almost unable to talk when I spoke of my gratitude for my father and all he had done for me. My friends later told me my dad had been just as emotional. This was weird for me. My dad never cried.”

Zola applied at a number of universities after graduation, eventually settling on studying political science at Stellenbosch University.

“I remember my dad and me taking the train to this faraway place. We were broke. He had a bank bag of 10c and 20c coins to pay for our tickets.”

“My registration and fees came to over R10,000, but my dad stood outside as I followed the registration process without the cash.”

Kept going

“He told me to tell the assistants that he was a pensioner and to show them the marks I had achieved. When I did, I was sent to see a man in the finance department. He looked at my report, nodded, and signed a slip which I had to take with me. I didn’t pay for anything that day.”

Her father was proud that his daughter was going to attend one of the top universities in the country,” Zola said, smiling.

“He wasn’t a man of many words, though. But his face said it all. The years had been stressful for him and everything was finally coming together.”

After she completed her first year, Zola’s father died at the age of 70. She lost her home where she grew up after he passed.

“I kept going, remembering all he had taught me. He always told me to speak up and to be proud of where I came from. He insisted that I never allow anyone to make me feel inferior.”

She suffered from depression in her third year and dropped out of university in 2012.

“I realised I had no one. My dad had been the one who was always there for me,” she said.

“But in the past four years since I left, I have realised that I need to go back. After all the sacrifices he made, I owe it to him and to myself to get that degree. My dad didn’t spend his last coins to get me to Stellenbosch for me to simply walk away from it. I need this.”

She hopes to complete her studies part time while working at Christel House as the executive assistant to the CEO.

She spends time encouraging pupils, especially girls, to aim high and go on to bigger and better things.

“I try to teach them to be proud of who they are and where they come from. My dad taught me that. And I believe in looking people in the eye when I tell my story. It’s who I am. I need to own it.”

(Adapted from an article written by Tammy Petersen, News24)

Zola at the Langa Library where she went to study
Zola at the Langa Library where she went to study
Zola at Christel House South Africa
Zola at Christel House South Africa
Zola visiting the Langa community
Zola visiting the Langa community


Nontando at chemistry class in college
Nontando at chemistry class in college

This month, Nontando, a 2009 Christel House South Africa graduate, has been sharing her inspiring Christel House story in a 3-part update.

In case you missed her earlier updates:
Nontando Update (Part 1 of 3):
Nontando: Growing up in the Township
Nontando Update (Part 2 of 3): Nontando: How Christel House Impacted My Life

(Part 3 of 3)

I am currently working at Chevron Refinery, which is based in Cape Town, South Africa. I am an Environmental Specialist which means I am responsible for ensuring our waste facilities are operating correctly. I track and audit the quality of groundwater at the refinery, schedule hazard assessments, provide field oversight for groundwater consultants and oversee contractor safety.

Outside of work, I am married to a wonderful husband whom I met at the University. He is a good man who has helped me grow and further develop my character and work towards my dreams. I am furthering my studies and working towards a second degree—a Bachelor of Technology in Quality Management, at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I also serve at our church in the ladies’ leadership ministry.

My life is very different from the girls I grew up with. Many of them became teenage mothers which resulted in them dropping out of school to support their children. Some were exposed to gangs and became involved in drugs. Some have even died from drug and alcohol abuse. Others were forced to find work because their parents passed away and they needed to provide for their younger siblings.

I look at their lives and know I was just steps from where they are now. I could have been another statistic to teenage pregnancy, drugs, unemployment, etc. Growing up in an environment where there were no role models could have steered my life in the same direction. But because of Christel House, I look at my life now and realize how fortunate I am to have been given such a great opportunity to break those chains in my life.

Seeing how my life could have ended, was a great motivation. Seeing the world through the spectacles given at Christel House, NOW that made me work harder, sacrifice and reach for my dreams.

For children with statistically bleak futures, your support of Christel House South Africa opens the door to a brighter outcome. Your investment is so important to the lives of our students. We cannot do it without you. Thank you. 

Nontando, Environmental Specialist at Chevron Oil
Nontando, Environmental Specialist at Chevron Oil


Nontando as a Christel House student
Nontando as a Christel House student

This month, Nontando, a 2009 Christel House South Africa graduate, is sharing her journey from shanty town to Chemical Engineer. If you missed part 1 of her update, you can read it here: Nontando: Growing up in the Township

(Part 2 of 3)

Christel House transformed my life by breaking the cycle of poverty I was born into. It did not give me a fish to eat but taught me how to fish in order to be sustained for a long time through a free, quality education. I quote Tata Nelson Mandela, “Education is the greatest engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm worker can become the president of a country, for education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The quality education that Christel House freely gave changed life for me, the daughter of a domestic worker.

It was not only the quality education I received at Christel House, but character building and values were instilled from a very young age. I learned the true meaning of Respect, Responsibility, Integrity and Independence—the Christel House core values. I use these values daily in my job at Chevron as I relate to colleagues and rise to the challenges of my work.

My life was greatly impacted by Christel House through teachers who loved and cared for me and my classmates. My life was really paved with a brighter and more meaningful future. At times, my teachers even opened their homes so that I could study in a peaceful, safe environment. When my mom passed, I was in my second year of university studying Chemical Engineering. It was hard. Yes, my dad was there, but she was the bread winner and my emotional support. Who was going to support me like she did? One of my professors even suggested I take a break from my studies and return the following year. The day following my mother’s funeral, my dad took me to the train station to go back to class. Although I was already at university, I do not think I could have gone through that period of my life without the support from Christel House staff who became surrogate mothers for me. They supported me emotionally, spiritually and even financially.

Christel House changed my life by opening doors for me when I had absolutely nothing to offer. I arrived in 2002 as a below average student, could not speak English and was very shy. I graduated in 2009 as the first valedictorian of Christel House South Africa. My school planted a seed in my life, watered and nurtured it through all my years at Christel House, during university and even now through career and life guidance.

I was fortunate to have opportunities which I never thought possible. I was able to travel to the USA, where I learnt leadership skills, developed self-confidence and met friends from all over the world. I was able to participate in extramural activities, like the school choir, public speaking, sports and art.

Not only did Christel House impact my life, but my family’s too. My parents had access to monthly programs ranging from budgeting to health and wellness. Through it all, hope was raised for a better tomorrow.

Thank you for your support of Christel House South Africa students. Check your inbox soon for Part 3 of Nontando’s story.

Nontando receiving an award in 7th grade
Nontando receiving an award in 7th grade
Nontando at her high school graduation
Nontando at her high school graduation



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Organization Information

Christel House International

Location: Indianapolis, IN - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Bobbi Bosch
Indianapolis, Indiana United States
$2,695 raised of $25,000 goal
25 donations
$22,305 to go
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