Yesterday morning , Wendy and I travelled comfortably all the way to an informal settlement known as Mamela near the Vaal Dam, some 140 kilometres south of Johannesburg, with the KASvan loaded to capacity !
Our visit was to the Sakhisizwe Day Care Centre which is beautifully run by Elizabeth Shabalala (Lizzy) and her group of dedicated helpers who care for 65 pre-school children and also oversee a group of a dozen small babies just down the road!
This was not our first visit to Sakhisizwe – Erin and I distributed KAS items at “Lizzy’s crèche” in July 2010 and although the situation was very different three years ago, we were taken with the level of perseverance shown by Lizzy under difficult circumstances. In those days the centre was housed in two shipping containers and, although Lizzy’s meticulous care and attention to detail was evident even then, the facilities were meagre by comparison to the current situation.
Ronda, Lizzy and Bruce unpack the KASvan - Lizzy is so grateful for your contributions!
Today we met up with Bruce and Irene from the Vaal Marina community who have mentored Lizzy’s project, amongst others, for some years and have helped keep the Department of Social Welfare true to their word. Sakhisizwe is now fully registered and benefits from the correct level of financial assistance and food support promised to such ventures by the government. In addition, and again, thanks to the dedication of Bruce, Irene and others, Lizzy has also received material and financial help in terms of B-BBEE funding, from local commercial enterprises. The centre has playground equipment, a good sized kitchen, attractive garden features and two new containers to house store-rooms, office and, in due course, more classrooms. The centre is grassed, fenced and gated – freshly painted, well-maintained and clean.
We have said it before … the women who take it upon themselves to care for the children in their communities, on an informal basis, are the backbone of South Africa ! The circumstances under which they operate are fraught with problems and yet they strive to feed, entertain, protect and encourage large numbers of small children in completely inadequate accommodation. Many of the children are unwell, most of the parents are out of work and unable to pay for the service they are receiving and there seems to be little hope of receiving assistance … unless a strong mentor comes along and is prepared to take on the formidable and frustrating and hugely time-consuming task of wading through kilometres of red tape – repeatedly!!!
And yet, as the women struggle on with perseverance and good humour, the children are invariably cheerful and welcoming, unspoiled, sweet, smiley, affectionate, grateful and enthusiastic about their blankets, beanies, jerseys, soft toys and other gifts – even if they are being wrapped up warm on the hottest day of the year !!!!
The younger children with their blankets and beanies.
I guess that’s why we just love what we do – and why we love you for giving us the privilege of doing it!!!
And that is also why today was such an amazing eye-opener and wonderful treat … to see Lizzy’s day care growing, thriving and prospering in the way it is doing gives so much hope that the same level of mentorship and upliftment CAN occur elsewhere !
Let’s keep that in our prayers!!
The slightly older children with their tops and beanies.
Thank you Ronda for another report. It is fantastic to see and hear about the work that you do, and its lovely to see where all our knitting goes. The smiling faces of the children are all the thanks we need.
Ronda, what a great read! Bravo to these selfless women who care for so many children.
How wonderful to read about the dedication and determination of women like Lizzy and her helpers, and to know that there are people like Bruce and Irene who step up to act as mentors and give them the help they need to negotiate the red tape.
Thanks too for the wonderful photos - I just can't stop grinning as I look at those dear little faces.
What a real treat to hear of such solid progress for Sakhisizwe and Lizzy! I gave a huge sigh of relief that here, at least, we can see solid concrete progress being made. Yes, situations are still dire for these children's families but thankfully they now have a toehold on properly caring for the kids. Love the photos and the settlement shot (first photo) really points out how blessed I am to have my non leaking roof and 800 square foot house. It's a palace compared to what these people live in, even if it's an old farmhouse! So glad you ladies have the van to safely ride in now and no more worries about breakdowns. I really appreciate seeing the piles of hats in the Un-Challenge for October--it reminds me to do squares and more squares...my yarn stash needs to go on a severe PJ diet anyways! :)
What a happy and fulfilling trip you had. The ladies like Lizzie are amazing and deserve all the help they get. Your reports keep our hooks and needles busy. I feel honoured to be a small part of the circle.
Thanks Ronda and your wonderful team.