Jonathan and Ruth Appleyard: see something, do something

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From Maine to Rhode Island to Nomathamsanqa, South Africa...

While Jonathan and Ruth Appleyard were planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa, they knew something was missing, something that transcended the well-trod tracks of tourism. They yearned to feel and live and taste a country in churches, in schools, in townships, in the presence of locals.

The Maine residents' wishes were swiftly fulfilled through a visit to Brunswick's It's All Good, an upscale resale shop whose steadfast philanthropy funded and subsequently upgraded a green, clean water system at Vusumzi Primary School, a focal point of our efforts. A chat with owner Cindy Neprash led the Appleyards to UP, which set off a chain of phone calls and itinerary-drafting. In a blink, the Appleyards found themselves in UP's South African happy place.

Joined by our very own Moses Nqontsha and Charlie Josephs, the Director of the Mayibuye Ndlovu Development Trust and a member of the UP Board of Directors, the Appleyards enjoyed a memorable visit to Nomathamsanqa, spending most of their time at Vusumzi Primary School, where they jumped right in! They taught songs and learned local cultural renditions, worked with children in the UP computer laboratory, and inhaled the warm Xhosa welcome, all with an eye towards what they were receiving and what they would ultimately give. And give they did...

Shortly after returning home from South Africa, Jonathan and Ruth reached out to us to ask, "What is the greatest need? Where may we be of the most help?" Completing the Vusumzi Primary School kitchen was our answer, and that was all they needed to hear.

Within days, the Appleyards sent out a plea to family and friends, and the checks started arriving. More than $4,500 rolled in, which meant that just a few weeks later, the rejuvenation was unfolding: a refrigerator, a freezer, a water supply, storage shelves, cabinets, and scores of cooking utensils to add to the tiling and electricity. You never know the power of graters, parers, large forks, knives and spoons, storage containers, dishcloths, and mixing bowls until you see them in action, all in the skillful hands of the always hard-working and now joyful Vusumzi Primary School kitchen staff.

During a recent UP Board Meeting, Charlie Josephs said, "The kitchen is beautiful. This project dramatically improved a major issue: hygiene. It is clean, properly outfitted, and fully functional. I remember the Appleyards well. Please convey to them our gratitude for their vision and leadership and generosity."

We believe that one side of the volunteerism coin allows us to be privy to the lives of those we serve; the other side is less traveled. It is the one that compels us to continue serving once home. To Jonathan and Ruth Appleyard, and to all those who donated to this transformative cause, we join 750 Vusumzi Primary School students, their parents, and their educators in thanking you. You saw something, and you did something. We treasure those who choose that path.

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