Rural school Lujilo voted most inspiring

Fellow change makers also honoured for their positive impact

Lujilo Mission School principal, Colleen Sternberg, second from left, stands proudly with some of her pupils, colleagues and family after the school's story was voted as the most inspirational at the seventh annual Inspiration Awards at Mercedez-Benz in East London on Thursday.
Lujilo Mission School principal, Colleen Sternberg, second from left, stands proudly with some of her pupils, colleagues and family after the school's story was voted as the most inspirational at the seventh annual Inspiration Awards at Mercedez-Benz in East London on Thursday.
Image: Randell Roskruge

The seventh annual Inspiration Awards saw a hall filled with hope, happiness and one truly inspirational organisation walk away with R70,000 this week.

After sharing their story with partners and community members, The Lujilo Mission School’s story was voted the most inspirational at the themed breakfast event at the Mercedez-Benz SA premises in East London.

Over 400 audience members erupted in applause as the announcement was made.

“I don’t even know what to say. This is amazing, it’s just – wow,” said an overwhelmed Lujilo Mission School principal, Colleen Sternberg.

The school is situated in a very poor and isolated community near Stutterheim and the Kei River. It began in 2007 with just seven pupils and aims to provide a safe, educational and godly environment for children to learn in.

Today the school has over 30 children aged between 3 and 19 and provides an English bible-based education using the accelerated Christian education curriculum (ACE).

The school was started in an effort to provide an education for children in or near the village, instead of having them travel over 20km to the closest school. Over 10 years it has grown from strength to strength and has even seen one pupil, an avid runner and athlete, travel to America to represent SA on the track.

“No one knows about us. We’re just a little school out in the bushes, but being recognised here today and having all these people hear our story has been a wonderful blessing. We want to thank the Lord for his provision and thank everyone for listening to our story today and for helping us to save lives,” said Sternberg.

The school bagged R40,000, donated by various partners, as a finalist’s prize, and an extra R30,000 funded by a portion of the proceeds from the morning’s ticket sales.

Sternberg said the money would go towards building a new school and hostel and would take them one step closer to their dream of having a Lujilo School Village. “We’re going to give the children a safe space,” said Sternberg while being congratulated by fellow finalists, family and friends.

But while Lujilo was the favourite of the morning, the good deeds of three fellow finalists did not go unnoticed.

Fellow change makers shared their remarkable stories and each also received R40,000 and were honoured for the positive impact they make in their communities. The finalists, chosen from 42 entries, were: Lathitha Development Centre, InspiraXion Developments and Breath of Life.

Lathitha is in Mzamomhle, Gonubie in East London and trains and upskills people to become more employable.

Aiming to motivate and inspire the youth in Dutywa, InspiraXion Developments runs specialised educational camps and motivational seminars for pupils in an effort to resolve issues of underdevelopment in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape.

Breath of Life was started in 2009 as a response to the high number of abandoned babies. Since then, the organisation has cared for and loved 149 babies and has counselled over 21,700 women struggling with unwanted pregnancies.

Of the 42 entries, a further 33 organisations received special awards from various partners, including courses, bursaries, training packages and free services.

Event organiser Brad Taylor said: “It’s been amazing to see and hear these inspirational stories today.

“A big thank you goes to our partners. I’ve seen the qualitative impact made with our 29 partners coming on board and the Inspiration Awards would not be possible without them.”

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