Gail, Ted, Joe, and Jenny Yates have made their devotion to Universal Promise a family affair.

It began in 2011 when Joe Yates, then a junior in high school, proposed bringing electricity to an informal settlement UP served in South Africa. Several months later, the entire family found itself on-site while Joe enjoyed an internship at a Port Elizabeth, South African company that focused on green systems. Following his one-week stint at Kestrel, Joe and his family traveled north to Addo, where he oversaw the erection of a wind turbine that has now powered a nursery school and a community center for five years. As a 13-year-old watching her older brother change lives, Jenny started planning her project for when she came of age. 

Jenny's idea was to construct a full-fledged outdoor classroom for 100 kindergartners in the larger, nearby township of Nomathamsanqa, South Africa. Jenny met with American teachers and collaborated with South African educators to design and then oversee the construction of an enormous "playground" that emphasizes physical, intellectual, and social development. The space, which includes a small version of a netball court and soccer pitch, vegetable gardens, two massive swing sets, a sandbox, racetracks, hopscotch grids, and two Wendy houses to act as a pretend market and clinic, is a symbol of the re-birth of Vusumzi Primary School. Its position in full view of passersby sends joy to all and underscores for all the importance of and the wonders of play.

As Joe and Jenny carried out their efforts, parents Gail and Ted were by their sides, working intimately with the Xhosa population to help bring the impactful and sustainable initiatives to local schools. Gail and Ted, along with Joe and Jenny, rolled up their sleeves and grew increasingly enamored of the resourcefulness, warmth, and music of their South African friends. Gail and Ted continue to show their devotion to UP via their attendance at all fundraising events, their willingness to help set up and clean up at all UP events, their offering of live auction items that have brought in several thousand dollars, and much more.

In recognition of the Yateses' past and ongoing commitment to Universal Promise and those we serve, and of the financial sacrifices they have made on behalf of our mission of education for all, UP has named a Vusumzi Primary School classroom in their honor.