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Cleon from Phoenix High School . 2011

There has been a school partnership of Heinsberg Grammar School and Phoenix High School in Manenberg, Cape Town since 2009. For two years we had exchanges from the North to the South. In 2011 we expected the first return visit of Phoenix High School. To our great disappointment we heard that only three students and two teachers were able to take part and to pay the money for this expensive journey to Germany.

Immediately we had the idea of raising money. We asked our boys and girls to do little paid jobs for their parents, relatives and neighbours. There was a choice of errands: mowing the lawns, washing cars, doing the shopping for older people, baby-sitting, walking the dog, doing jobs in the garden – and even more. This turned out to be a great success – lots of the students just jumped into these ideas of funding, they organized jobs, gave their time, worked for hours on the weekends. After only two weeks they had collected 3000 Euro – what a big amount! Thus four more pupils from Manenberg were able to take part in the exchange.

The most remarkable girl of the exchange students was Cleon Botha. Her friendliness, her laughing eyes and her ability to make contact in no time were outstanding. She was everybody’s darling. Already on the first daytrip to Brussels she was the most talkative one who asked the most meaningful questions at the European Parliament. During our daytrip to Cologne she was competing with me while climbing up the stairs of the tower of the Cathedral. And she was always laughing and joking, that she can never be as fit as Mr. Backhaus. She was also full of energy while the learners were painting a mural at our school and came up with some beautiful artistic ideas.

When she visited our home she talked a lot about her family and her living conditions. What a difference between “her world” and “our world”! She was very impressed by our huge garden with all the old fruit-trees.

She left such an amazing impression on the teachers of our school that seven of them – including myself – were ready to pay a monthly sum of money for her to study “Beauty and Healthcare” at Cape Town College for two years after graduating from Phoenix High. And she finished her tertiary education as one of the best in her class!

As all the students at Cape College she also had to do an internship. With real joy and pride she showed us that she got a job as an intern at The Westin Cape Town, a five star hotel, where she could learn and work in their outstanding wellness area.

It is wonderful that Cleon is still in contact with us and her host family in Heinsberg. All the Heinsberg people who have met Cleon are very happy that her son Keano has completely overcome his long-term life threatening illness, can start to go to primary school in 2021 and that Cleon can now move on with her business plans.

We – all the Heinsberg people having met her in Germany and in Cape Town – wish her and her son all the best. May the sparkling dreams in her eyes become true in real life!

Josef Backhaus

I am 69 years old and from 1979 till 2013 I taught English and History at Heinsberg Grammar School. For a long period of my adult life there has been a lasting curiosity about the huge continent south of the Mediterranean Sea. In 1990 I visited Uganda and in 2003 I organised a sponsored run for the aid organization „Wir für Ruanda“.

In 2010 I helped with the fundraising for the visit of Phoenix High School learners from Manenberg in Heinsberg, and in 2011 I visited Cape Town as a member of the official delegation of the partnership.

The older I become the more I try to help people in need. For the last four years I helped asylum seekers from West Africa and other countries by organizing official German language courses in our area and by making them take part in a three-year professional job-training.

My personal motto is:  “Look into the mirror – and you will see all the people of this world.”