In June 2016, Alex St John, son of Anthony St John, spent two weeks with Christel House South Africa as a volunteer, along with his partner, Olga. These are his reminiscences on what was a very special experience.
“Immediately upon our arrival at Christel House we were met by more love and warmth from children and staff members than anywhere I have ever been before. All of the staff members were incredibly kind and welcoming to us and with a clear dedication and love for the students, clearly knowing all the students personally and creating an environment that I feel was much more conducive to learning than my more impersonal experience at Westminster School in the UK.
I was placed as Assistant Teacher to Class 2A for the two weeks I spent with Christel House and my only regret was not staying for longer. Every student in the class showed an incredible love for school, beaming from the time they got into school in the morning until the time they left. I was greeted by every student giving me a big hug and proceeded to have 20 small and loving faces by my side for the next two weeks, showing an incredible drive to work, constantly asking me questions and reading to me. With the cheerful faces of the students it was hard to picture the conditions they live in on a daily basis, making the work of Christel House even more spectacular.
I aided the children in Xhosa, Afrikaans, Maths and English classes, even in the two weeks I was there they showed a clear improvement, a lot of this being due to the class teacher’s perfect balance between showing enough discipline for the children to work but also showing the love and care to ensure that they all truly understood the class material.
At the end of the two weeks I had an experience that I will never forget; the children had each written me a thank you letter and read these out to me at the front of the class, these kind words will stay with me forever and even now bring tears to my eyes.
I can’t thank Christel House more for the life-changing experience I had there, if I was able to benefit the children one hundredth of the amount that this experience benefitted me I’m sure that the school will maintain its course as a beacon of education in South Africa.
All the best and I hope to visit again soon."
Alex St John
Christel House wishes Alex St John the best of luck in the Wimbledon Common Half Marathon on April 2, in support of Christel House South Africa. Having worked at Christel House as a volunteer for several weeks last summer, Alex knows from personal experience the extent to which the lives of impoverished children can be transformed. You can find out more or donate at: