RCI co-founder Christel DeHaan helped shape the global timeshare industry as we know it. And she’s still inspiring change in the world through her international children’s charity, ChristelHouse. The organization now serves more than 4,100 impoverished children through learning centers located in India, Mexico, South Africa and the United States.
These are destinations where timeshare industry professionals like you live, work and send people on vacation every day. That was part of Christel’s vision—to give back to the communities that helped build our thriving industry. Thanks to the support of those who believe in the Christel House vision, students around the world are poised for success and self-sufficiency.
We’d like to introduce you to three of those students—Christel House graduates who are proving themselves to be valued employees, productive citizens and contributing members of society.
SIHLE, 2012 GRADUATE | CHRISTEL HOUSE SOUTH AFRICA
Born in the Langa township on the outskirts of Cape Town to a single mother, Sihle is the youngest of four siblings. “My mom is my role model. She raised four children single-handedly. She has a strong will and stayed positive under tough circumstances, shielding us from the social ills in my community. She is my source of inspiration to do my utmost best and she is the story behind my hard work and perseverance.”
When Sihle enrolled at Christel House South Africa in second grade, she spoke only Xhosa, a local dialect. But today she has a powerful command of the English language and a clear vision for her future, as evidenced by her own words.
“I started off as an English interpreter for other Xhosa learners. Then I taught basic English to my mom and siblings—and even some neighbors in Langa. At Cape Peninsula of Technology, where I am currently studying Events Management, I am sometimes asked to be a motivational speaker and to emcee events.”
“I am very passionate about people, learning about them, exceeding their expectations and creating a fun, welcoming platform for them to meet and share their interests. These skills allow me to create a sense of belonging and fulfilment at my events.
“Ultimately I want to establish my own events management company and develop my personal brand. I want to share my success story with the world. My mom, my biological family and Christel House will be on my giving-back list.”
MITCHELL, 2014 GRADUATE | CHRISTEL HOUSE DROP OUT RECOVERY SCHOOL – INDIANAPOLIS, IN
Empathy, humility, respect and candor are hallmarks of Mitchell’s interpersonal relationship skills.
This 2014 DORS graduate is now majoring in engineering at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. He plans to earn his Associate’s degree, and then transfer to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He hopes to become an officer in the National Guard, supporting himself and his family in a “life that is comfortable, peaceful and happy.”
But getting to this point has been a struggle for Mitchell. “If I can get my life back on track, graduate from high school and go to college, then anyone can.” He uses his own experiences as examples to others, encouraging them to learn from mistakes and move forward. “I was lazy and made other things a priority over school,” he says. “I chose to hang out with my friends and party. I put my education in the back seat and those poor choices cost me my diploma.” Mitchell is the first to admit his own shortcomings—which makes him a valued friend and confidant.
“In school one of my best friends was making poor decisions. I told him, ‘At this rate you’re going nowhere and will accomplish nothing. You have so much more potential.’ It was a very tense, stressful conversation, but I wanted to see him do more with his life.”
Always respectful in thought, word and deed, Mitchell values honesty and unselfishness in his relationships. Mitchell knows what he’s talking about—he has reclaimed his own life and has a clear vision for his future.
SUMAIYA, 2011 GRADUATE | CHRISTEL HOUSE INDIA – BANGALORE
Sumaiya’s parents wanted to withdraw her from Christel House when she was in 8th grade. As conservative Muslims, they felt further study was unnecessary, and that she should marry and follow the expectations of her family. But Sumaiya had her own hopes and dreams. With help from the Christel House social worker, she convinced her parents to allow her to remain in school. She was determined to study and work, in spite of opposition from relatives. “My grit, determination, interest and commitment towards my studies made my parents realize how important it was to me,” she says.
Respect and admiration for her Christel House teachers led Sumaiya to choose teaching as a career path. She wants to pass along the gift of knowledge to others. The teaching profession is respected within her community, and enabled Sumaiya to balance religious and family expectations with a career she knows will truly make her happy. She writes, “I am following a traditional pathway, but never letting tradition become a barrier to fulfilling my dream.”
Today, Sumaiya works at St. Paul’s School in Bangalore, and continues to pursue her teacher credentials. “In my community, everyone was against me and my family relating to my decision to study further,” she writes. “My relatives advised my family to stop my studies. They thought a girl should get married and serve her in-laws by being at home. But now that I have persevered, they are proud, and all my cousins have joined colleges and are pursuing their studies.”
This is what transformation looks like. To learn more about Christel House students and graduates like Sihle, Mitchell and Sumaiya—and how you can support them—please visit www.christelhouse.org or contact Becky Arnett at Barnett@christelhouse.org or