Jemaine Isaacs of Lentegeur was paid a surprise visit last weekend by a couple who had hosted him during an exchange programme trip to Canada more than 10 years ago.
At the time Maria and Lorne Raymond had accommodated Jemaine, now 30 years old, and Dr Galileu Saldanha, 32, from Mozambique at their home in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.
Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum co-ordinator Lynne Phillips, who recruited Mr Isaacs into the exchange programme many years ago, said she was surprised that the Raymonds had come to visit, and thanked them for their support.
“The exchange programme was initiated by Bush Radio, Cape Town Volunteer Centre and Mitchell’s Plain CPF in 2004. I was tasked to recruit disadvantage youth in the Mitchell’s Plain area to be part of our programme. We were working together with Mozambique and Canada and each country had to send six people – and Jemaine was among them,” she explained.
Ms Phillips said they had initially selected about 150 youngsters who were put through training and assessment before they selected the final six to be part of the exchange.
She said they stayed in each of the participating countries for three months. “We went to Canada and stayed there for three months and moved to Mozambique for another three months and came back to South Africa in January 2005,” said Ms Phillips. The aim, she said, had been to teach them leadership skills, learn about different cultures and exchange ideas.
Mr Isaacs said he joined the programme after finishing school in 2003. “I was just finishing my matric and I was the youngest member in the group. I was also involved in the church youth. So I wanted to learn more about leadership skills and also other people’s cultures. And the programme helped me to appreciate small things in life because I was working on a farm in Canada,” he said.
“My goal is to be involved more in sport programmes in the community,” said Mr Isaacs, who is currently involved in local soccer.
Dr Saldanha said he had also worked on a farm – producing organic food for patients in hospitals. He said that, with the help of the Raymond family, he had managed to raise enough money to go to university and fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor.
“In 2006 I registered as a medical student in Mozambique and I finished last year. My dream was to provide good health care. People have problems with medical care, particularly in rural areas,” he said.
Mr Raymond said one didn’t have to be a millionaire to assist other people. “We didn’t have financial resources, but we managed to generate money to send (Dr Saldanha) to school. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to accommodate these young gentlemen and work together. There were nine other the families who were accommodating other children. We were like one family,” he said.
Ms Raymond described Mr Isaacs and Dr Saldanha as humble people, saying: “We fell in love with the boys.”