Triumph over adversity

Esmerelda P., Guidance Counselor, Christel House South Africa

By: Esmerelda P., Guidance Counselor, Christel House South Africa


Georgevine D.’s story is one of triumph over adversity.  The biggest obstacle related to poverty is emotional trauma. So to fight trauma, we create dreams.


Now in her first year at False Bay College in Westlake, Cape Town, studying electrical engineering, Georgevine believes that she is on her way to living the life she always dreamed and she says that it’s all thanks to the commitment of the principal and teachers of Christel House.


 “I didn’t have it easy, as most learners from Christel House can attest. It was always just my mom and me, after she fetched me from my granny to live with her.  She tried very hard to stay employed and make enough money to look after the two of us. But, she often had to go knocking on doors begging for work. She did whatever she could though I recall a terrible time where we were homeless and had to live with neighbours – anyone who would take us in.”  


It was during that time that a teacher at Christel House, Randall D., invited Georgevine to stay with his family for a week.  Again in 2011 when she wrote her matriculation exams, another teacher, Vivienne S., also let Georgevine stay with her over a period of two months to prepare adequately for her finals.


Georgevine’s mother, Hermina, also recalls all the hardships but says throughout all of it – having been lucky enough to get her daughter into Christel House when she was in grade four – that she didn’t have to worry too much about Georgevine. “During our challenging times I knew my daughter was getting the best education possible, receiving the school supplies and uniforms she needed; being fed and picked up for school every morning and even getting the opportunity to partake in sports. Georgevine was a good student and performed well in sports. She is doing well now too. I am a very proud mother and very grateful.”

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Thanksgiving with the Christel House Cousins

Becky A., Director, Christel House

By: Becky A., Director, Christel House


My first real job out of college was at RCI.  I started as a vacation guide 22 years ago.  As a small town girl from the middle of Indiana, working for RCI opened my eyes to different people and cultures and created a broader view of the world for me.  I learned to embrace and celebrate cultural diversity.  After all, isn’t that part of the magic of traveling to a new place?


In my role at Christel House, I love working with RCI and all of the timeshare companies that support our efforts.  But, my favorite thing is spending time with our kids. I personally know most of the young people you’re hearing from this week on the blog.  Some of them have been to the U.S. to attend a summer leadership camp and have stayed at my house on numerous occasions.  They are part of my extended family and like all families, we have special traditions, including an annual Thanksgiving feast.  Only, our feast takes place in August at the end of camp and green bean casserole is nowhere on the menu.


We give thanks the Christel House way, with Indian flat bread, guacamole, curry, tacos and other “family” favorites from the across the globe. The kids each pick a food from their home country that they would like to share with their Christel House “cousins”.  That’s what they call each other – they may be from different countries, but to them, Christel House is home and we are all family. 


The kids do all of the cooking.  My job is to make sure no one cuts themselves or burns the house down – they aren’t used to sharp knives or cooking on a stove that has more than one heat setting.  The end result is a humble meal made from the most basic of ingredients.  Yet to me, it is far better than a gourmet meal in any five star restaurant.  It isn’t just about the food.


Just like with lots of families, some of the best conversations take place around my kitchen table.  The kids take so much pride in sharing their unique customs and traditions with each other.  It is something we all have, regardless of whether we are rich or poor.  They also love to find the common threads that run through all of our cultures. That’s what happens when people of different backgrounds come together through travel or over a shared meal; it breaks down barriers and promotes mutual understanding and respect.  And, that is the magic of what happens in my kitchen each August.


A photo of me and the “cousins” cooking our Thanksgiving dinner.

A photo of me and the “cousins” cooking our Thanksgiving dinner.


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Giving students their “wings”

Beschi A., Social Worker, Christel House IndiaBy: Beschi A., Social Worker, Christel House India


I would like to share the story of one of our graduates with you. His name is Deepak.  Deepak joined Christel House India during the year 2003, in Grade 5. He comes from a single parent family. He has an elder brother and a sister. Deepak’s mother worked as a house maid to support her children. But due to extreme poverty, she was forced to place Deepak and his sister in a shelter run by a charity.


Deepak and his sister were able to attend school while living at the shelter. His sister just completed her studies and received her certification in Electronics. His elder brother was not as fortunate and was only able to study up to the 9th grade. He is currently unemployed.


Deepak completed his studies and graduated from Christel House in 2011. He joined the Oberoi, India’s luxury hospitality brand, that same year, as an apprentice in the Food and Beverage department.  Along with his training, he is pursuing a degree in Tourism via the distance education program of the Indira Gandhi National Open University – India. 


Now that he is working, Deepak supports his mother so that she no longer has to work as a house maid. His dreams are big. Christel House just gave them wings.

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Forever transformed by Christel House

Laura D., Grants and Communications Manager, Christel House

By: Laura D., Grants and Communications Manager, Christel House


People get a very quizzical look on their faces when I tell them I have thousands of “bosses” around the world.  The children and young people of Christel House—all 3,300+ of them—are the reasons I do what I do every day.  Although I will never meet most of them, I did have the chance to visit some of my international “bosses” at Christel House India in Bangalore.


I am humbled by the memories of our children's precious faces, their innocent hugs and kisses, their welcoming spirits, their zeal for learning, and their sheer determination.  The sweet memories of the positive, nurturing Christel House environment are tempered by the cruel reality of what our children face when they go home every day--cramped family living quarters, no running water or private restrooms, limited meals, stray dogs roaming the streets, and enormous trash piles everywhere. 


No matter how you slice it, regardless of where you are in the world, poverty is a thief, robbing children and families of their dignity and potential, stealing hope and diminishing the human spirit.  So the magnitude of what Christel House offers—true life transformation—is overwhelming. 


I am honored to work for an organization that is releasing poverty’s grip by attacking its root causes—illiteracy, malnutrition, disease and lack of opportunity.  Around the world, Christel House is opening doors for thousands of children through education, nutrition, and comprehensive health care services.  We are helping families through parent and community outreach programs.  And even after graduation, we continue to provide guidance until our alumni are gainfully employed.


I am forever (and continually) transformed by Christel House because I see how my efforts make a positive difference for others.  And I am resolved to give my “bosses” my very best…every day.

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A story from a Christel House South Africa graduate

Nontando B., a Christel House South Africa Graduate

Christel house- is it a school or a HOME? I have become the person I am not only because of the quality education I received but most importantly because of the lifelong values and love that I inherited in my childhood at Christel House.


When I think of the paradox of my time at Christel House, I can't help but get butterflies in my tummy. It brings so many tears upon my eyes and gets my heart to pound because the young woman I've turned out to be today is through the values that brought transformation academically, emotionally and spiritually that were instilled in me from the age of 11. The beauty about Christel House was and is still to not only be equipped for excellent academics but to face the world out there in terms of social responsibility to the people and environment.


Today, it’s easier for me to interact with other students from other cultures and countries because that was introduced to me as I grew up at Christel House. Wow, even thinking about the great seeds that were planted in me brings so much joy because talents and skills that I never thought I had, came about. At first, I could not speak in English but public speaking quickly became my second nature. Opportunities were created which were beyond my imagination, like going to the United States of America to attend Culver Summer Leadership Camp for 2 summers; giving speeches across my country and singing in an Opera production. I’m so grateful for my teachers, who were not only educators but parents, at times even opening their homes so that I might have a better study environment.  That is how much they wanted to see me go further in life. Even when I began studying at University two years ago, Christel House was still here, providing for my transportation and food.  I go back to Christel House when I can and volunteer as my way of giving back.


I lost my mother a few months ago and my blessed teacher from Christel House (Ms Carmen B. and her family) stepped in to make sure I was ok and lacked for nothing. I thank God so much for giving a vision to Ms. Christel because thousands of lives are being changed. Although I have graduated from Christel House, the core values of respect, responsibility, independence and integrity are like my shadow, making me face every day as an independent young woman. I also have a different perspective about things in general. One of the many things I took with me from my time at Christel House is that poverty is not an excuse to deny a child a good education and life principles, especially when a mission of transformation is laid as the foundation.  That mission is TO BREAK THE CYCLE OF POVERTY. My heart praises God for the love and warmth I received and still receive from Christel House.

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Nothing but the very best…

Deborah N., Master Teacher, Christel House Indianapolis, IN

By: Deborah N., Master Teacher, Christel House Indianapolis, IN


I have been a part of the Christel House family since 2003. I started out as a 2nd grade teacher and now work as the Primary Master Teacher. Each year we are adding a new grade level which means we have 10th grade this year and will be adding 11th next year. I cannot express what it feels like to have 10th grade students, who I used to have in my 2nd grade classroom, come to me and say they still have the poem we wrote together in class or the song I taught them to help with math. I have watched these kids grow in ways that not only reach, but exceed, the hopes and dreams I had for them 8 years ago.


That isn't just by chance.


We are a family here. When I pass a student on to another teacher that doesn't mean it is the end of our relationship. The teachers believe in collaborating to make each child become a success story. We work hard to make sure the students know how much we care, which is a really easy task when it is the truth. Christel House Academy offers many ways in which it is possible for me to stay a part of the lives of all the students. I can connect with the students by coaching a sport, running a Summer Enrichment Club or by running one of our Saturday Stars classes. Often I have had multiple siblings from the same family pass through my classroom, which means I also am awarded the opportunity to develop strong relationships with the parents of my students. When you work so closely with a family, you really get a good look at the trials and tribulations some families endure.


At Christel House Academy, we continually work hard to make this school the best it can be for our children. Because when it comes to family, nothing is acceptable but the very best.

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