Ingo Harald van der Merwe

Following four years’ service in the South African Navy, Ingo van der Merwe went to Bible College. After graduation, he and his wife left for Namibia as missionaries and he became a Centre Director for Youth for Christ.

Six years later the young family returned to Johannesburg where Ingo entered the business world. Initially he developed his own business, but later sold it to go into business consulting.

In late 2007 he made another career change and became the Chaplain at HeronBridge College, where he continues to serve and to lead a local community Church.

“My adult life has always involved working with people: endeavouring to have a transformative influence on their lives, whether in a spiritual context, community service or the business environment,” he explains.

“My faith in the living Christ informs why I wake up in the morning; why I try to make a positive difference in the lives of people, especially the marginalized and disenfranchised.

“Being involved in a private school, it was not long before I discovered and aligned myself with the work of Lesedi (which means ‘the light’, in Southern Sotho). The disparity in education in South Africa is beyond massive; one cannot just sit idly by. I am happy to trade my time for lives improved and opportunities made possible by transforming the education of young people in our underprivileged community.”

Maryna Boddenberg

Maryna Boddenberg completed her BA Social Work (Hons) in 1982 at UJ and her Hons (Psych) part-time while working as a Project Coordinator at World Vision.

After completing her MA (Counselling Psychology) at UJ in 1986 she was employed at ABSA, ESKOM and the Chamber of Mines as a Psychologist, facilitating Management Training and providing therapeutic assistance to the employees of these organisations.

“When approached to become involved in growing the Lesedi project I did not hesitate for a moment,” she says. “I saw it as an opportunity to give back to our extended community, guided by the belief that all of us here are called to use our God-given talents, abilities and resources to help, support and guide our learners through the Lesedi structures.”

The value and purpose of Lesedi are unwavering, Maryna continues: a team of dedicated volunteers who are willing to invest their time, energy and skills to form sustained relationships with the learners.

“The tenacity, perseverance and grit of our Lesedi learners who continue to show up Saturday after Saturday inspires me to invest my time, skills and support and, through love and acceptance, show my belief in each one them, as they create a better future for themselves.”

Peter Eickhaus

A Life Sciences graduate with a BSc (Honours) in Medical Microbiology from the University of Cape Town, Peter Eickhaus joined Roche Products as a technical specialist in molecular biology in 2001, and has been with them ever since.

Afforded over the years the opportunity to explore various designations in the company, and in multiple locations, he has been Key Account Manager in Botswana, Export Manager in Johannesburg and Business Area Manager in Australia. He is currently Head of Sales, responsible for Anglophone Sub-Saharan Africa.

A volunteer at Lesedi since January 2015 Peter recognised the need, particularly in his home country, to help build the futures of children in underprivileged communities.

“I wanted to contribute something personal” he says, “not simply to donate money or contribute to charities; I believe that education is the cornerstone of a better, more equitable South Africa and was looking for a cause with sustainable impact. Lesedi offered an opportunity to give back something personal and – equally important – to understand the educational environment and try to remedy the needs of disadvantaged children.”

A Lesedi Board Member and volunteer teacher, Peter currently assists children from Grade 8.

Gareth Utton

I studied at the University of Johannesburg, graduating with a B.Com in Finance. I have worked in the financial sector since 2009 and am currently an Equities Trader.

Lured to the Lesedi project by Peter Klein, I have been involved for some years now. I believe education is of vital importance to our country; seeing how eager the kids at Lesedi are to learn hooked my attention from the outset. Being part of something as worthwhile as giving these youngsters the opportunity to grow and better themselves is what has kept me here.

Caron Cloete

Caron Cloete is the Assistant Cash Desk Manager at Gold Reef City Casino. She holds a BCom (Business Management), is a Ban-the-Crim Trainer, an NLP Practitioner and a qualified Theta (NQF Based) Trainer, Assessor and Program Developer.

The mother of two girls now in their ‘twenties, giving back and making a difference are important to Caron, something she has instilled in her girls. All three are involved in human or animal welfare in addition to Caron’s involvement with Lesedi.

“I also do life coaching part-time, and at work I divide my time between Training and Development and Operational Management. Both are challenging and fun, and because the Casino is 24/7/365 I often finish work in the wee hours of the morning. On Saturday mornings I then get to Lesedi by 08:30 before returning to work in the afternoon.

“I would not have it any other way; being there for the children is very important.”

In 2015 Caron began assisting at Lesedi with the Grade 5s. “It has been so rewarding to watch the children grow from unsure little beings to confident Grade 8s this year. I am now working with the Grade 9s, which is both rewarding and challenging – especially the maths!

“I am so proud of the way the learning environment at Lesedi has evolved, and of how we explore and use cutting-edge Learning and Development techniques. Among them are how executive functioning skills and whole-body integrated learning can be incorporated into Lego exercises, project-based learning and design thinking.

“The Lab-on-Line program helps the children to read more accurately and identify important information; each aspect of what the children learn allows us to send them into their lives armed with the skills to take on and conquer new challenges in the schooling system and, in due course, the demands of the 21st century work environment.”

Peter Klein

I completed my PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Wits in 2016 and am currently employed as a Senior Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, working on research into high temperature thermal energy storage. I have had the absolute privilege of being involved in Lesedi since our first day back in 2010.

Sometimes it is so easy to get swept up in our hectic schedules and forget about the tremendous inequality in our society. Lesedi learners are exceptionally hard working and with the right mentorship have the potential to achieve academic success, despite their circumstances. However, it is clear that there are serious challenges that they must face due to structural inequalities in our education system. As a researcher I have been taught to challenge the status quo and look for innovative ways to approach solving problems. I firmly believe that the teaching approach that Lesedi has adopted has the potential to have a significant impact, not only on our own learners’ lives, but on the wider education space in South Africa.

I am proud to be a small part of the Lesedi team and to work with such a diverse range of volunteers who are willing to get their hands dirty as active citizens. I would also like to acknowledge Taryn Grant and Greg Jorden who helped to found the programme, as well as Gareth Utton and Genevieve Vieira who helped to keep it going for so many years.