Making a difference in the Western Cape

We had a very successful road trip to the Western Cape, kindly sponsored by the Emirates Airline Foundation and Barloworld Transport. We were away for 10 days, drove more than 3 600km, ran 6 workshops for 142 adults, and reached 3 253 children from areas where access to educational toys is a luxury, not the norm.

Our first workshop was held at Vrystaat Nasorgsentrum (Free State Care Centre) in Bloemfontein, where we shared our ideas with teachers, Occupational Therapists, social workers, and sheltered workshop managers. It was such a wonderful group of people and their palpable enthusiasm and energy made us so excited to see how they are going to implement these ideas in their respective communities.

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“Thank you one and all for the absolutely wonderful training today”. “It wasn’t just a workshop, it was an experience.” This was just some of the feedback we got from the ‪Waste2Toys‬ workshop we ran in Franschoek in the Western Cape (approximately 1100km from Pietermaritzburg). Thanks to Lynn and her team at Bhabhathane Trust, who initiated this trip, 15 ECD centres and 5 Primary Schools had representatives present. What an impact these 39 ladies and 1 gentleman will make in their communities!‬

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The third workshop was held in a church hall in Maitland, Cape Town. Coordinated by Vernon, from Barloworld’s “Smart Matter”, this workshop saw principals from 14 different ECD Centres in 3 municipal wards of Mitchell’s Plain attend our training, meaning that the impact of this small group of ladies will have far-reaching effects. Zandile, from Nanny ‘n Me, a company involved in training ladies who are employed to care of small children, also attended and thoroughly enjoyed the course. Some of the feedback we received from the principals included comments like, “It was awesome, I never thought you can do so much with scrap!”, “Very informative, nice skills development for adults and children, exciting and an eye opener”, and “It was very informative, could take it home and explain to my teachers, will be doing workshop with them soon.”

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Khayalitsha is a stark contrast to the beauty of so many Cape Town suburbs, but nestled in the heart of it is Ikamva Labantu, an organisation that is working hard to bring hope and help to the members of this community. We were delighted to be able to train 39 ECD practitioners from the surrounding areas at their Early Childhood Learning Centre, and we have been asked to return soon to run more training for the other groups they teach. The ladies’ fascination with our “toys” and their obvious enjoyment when they were asked to try them out proved once again that we are all children at heart!

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The fifth‬ workshop was held in Delft. The teachers at this Educare Centre really enjoyed learning new information and had lots of questions to ask. The area they draw from experiences a lot of crime, especially from gangs and drug-related incidents, and these teachers have a big responsibility trying to create a safe zone in their centre.

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We finished our trip on a high, with a very successful ‪Waste2Toys‬ workshop held at Fikelela AIDS Project. The participants included foster mothers, carers from the Children’s Homes and facilitators of community projects. It was wonderful that a representative from the Emirates Airline Foundation, which sponsored these workshops, was able to participate in the training with us and see the light-bulb moments for so many for the participants. When a delegate comes to you at the end and says, “You have given me something in my heart today. I feel like I now have something special to offer to my community”, then you know you have done something right!‬

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As the sun rose on our final day and we began the last 12 hours of our journey home, the team reflected on how grateful we are to the many people who had enabled us to reach so many children in the Free State and Western Cape. Our humble thanks goes to the Emirates Airline Foundation (and all the people who so kindly donate on their flights!); to Barloworld Transport, whose sponsored Ford Ranger got us safely to Cape Town and back; to Sunshine Bakery, who provided us with most of the 12 000 bread bags we used on this trip from their schools’ competition; to St. John’s Diocesan School for Girls, whose pupils provide us with a consistent supply of clean recycling; to each of our Rainbow Champions whose monthly contributions ensure that our organisation continues; to Waltons Stationery, for giving us a better price on the sharp scissors and markers that we give each delegate; and to each person in and around Pietermaritzburg that makes an effort to wash and deliver their recycling to us for us to use.

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We are constantly humbled by the enormity of the task that we are entrusted with, but we start every day believing that we have to do what we can, where we are, with what we have, and it is thanks to our amazing donors that we are able to give so many children a chance at a brighter future.