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Garden project a ‘blessing from heaven’ in South Africa

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LOXTON, South Africa — A garden project in this small town in central South Africa has produced more than just vegetables. With produce grown on their own patch of ground on four acres donated for use by a member family, local children earn money for school tuition and help feed their families.

"The advantage of this project is the children are developing a sense of responsibility, growing food for themselves and their families, and learning that self-help brings benefits, and also a knowledge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," said Elder Gerald W. Jensen, who is serving as a public affairs missionary in the Africa Southeast Area with his wife, Sister Carolyn Jensen.

In correspondence sent to the Church News, Elder Jensen wrote that the project began with Ron and Barbara Robbins, members of the Church living here. The nearest LDS branch is more than 300 miles away, so for Church services they meet weekly with the Roddy Fraser family, also active members. Recently, the Robbins were talking with Valley and Jean Jacobs, members from Johannesburg who were visiting the area. The two couples discussed the plight of school children who most often go to school hungry in this economically depressed town.

Brother and Sister Robbins own four acres of land near the school the children attend. The property has two wells with a reservoir to store water, but there is no means of powering a pump to fill the reservoir. They decided upon a project to help the school children if they could get electricity and a pump to provide the needed water. The land would be plowed and prepared for division into small plots for each school child. Then, each child would be responsible for the planting and production of vegetables on his or her small plot of ground.

The Robbins contacted the Africa Southeast Area presidency, and Elder David Boucher and Sister Natalie Boucher, welfare service missionaries, visited the project site. Under guidance of the area presidency, the project commenced.

The local non-LDS townspeople were anxious to help with the project. A local farmer, Bob Mentjies, donated his time and machinery to transport the electrical components, dig the trench for the cable, erect the meter and control boxes. George Adams, a village electrical foreman, donated the knowledge and labor needed to connect the wiring and pump. Ben Bruwer, a local resident, offered to plow and prepare the land. Jan Wiese, a local farmer, provided the electric motor to drive the pump for water, and Johan Nel, a retired resident, has undertaken to advise the school children on how to plan and maintain their plots.

In addition, the youth of the George Branch, Cape Town South Africa Stake, will furnish the needed seeds each year as a service project.

"The children who have been assigned plots are about 7 through 12 years old," Elder Jensen wrote. "They have planted spinach, carrots, melons and many other vegetables. The children care for, weed, water and pick the food for their own family to eat, or sell to the town neighbors. The children use that money to pay for their school tuition.

"This project is a blessing from heaven."