Last week we had the opportunity to sat farewell to Doreen Zanyiwe who formally retired from her role as the head of Ikhaya Labantwana Crèche in Masiphumelele. Masicorp has a long history with Doreen that goes back to 2001 when she first met up with John and Carol Thompson. At the time Doreen had given up her job in a hotel in Fish Hoek to run a small pre-school for a handful of children from her own one-room shack. She was part of a group of Masiphumelele women who wanted to change their lives and had written an article in The False Bay Echo asking for support for projects they wanted to set up. The Thompsons went in to the township and met her and her group and set about helping them with their requests. Masicorp was eventually able to transform her shack into a spacious, well-lit, two story facility. The pre-school now employs eight people and looks after more than 80 children between the ages of 2 and 5.
As Doreen said in her farewell speech “I asked John for a complete creche”. Subsequently the Thompsons funded the building of a house for Doreen which then expanded to an adjoining creche which then expanded further with a second floor. Doreen then undertook to complete her Matric, proceeded to gain her Level 5 ECD qualification and eventually to run one of the first pre-schools in Masiphumelele.
More recently Doreen has been studying for her Education Diploma which she has now completed. She decided last year that it was time to ‘retire’ to her home in the Eastern Cape, but it seems she will be continuing to teach! She has been offered a teaching position in a primary school near Butterworth.
One of the most inspiring moments at Doreen’s suprise farewell party was the choir who sang “Never ever ever give up!” This appears to be something of a motto for Doreen and reminds us of a poster that is on the wall in her office – a picture of a heron with a frog dangling from its mouth, hanging on for dear life!
We are delighted to have worked with Doreen over the past 15 years and wish her well in her retirement. In the meantime Ikhaya Labantwana continues to provide an essential start in the education of many of the youngsters from the Masiphumelele community.
Saturday was graduation day for Grade R at Masi Educare. We are pleased to share some of the photo’s of what was a very successful end to the academic year.
It started with a lot of preparation – from the kitchens to the exterior of the building.
And of course a lot of preparation for the learners.
Eventually we were ready to begin.
Certificates were awarded.
And we finished with refreshments.
Congratulations to all of the graduates, who now move on to life at primary school.
Masicorp has recently started working with Cape Town based Active Hearts to provide outdoor activities for the children at Ukhanyo Primary School. Active Hearts have a mission to involve and train children, from differing, disadvantaged areas across Cape Town, in various sports and activities not normally available to them.
This very much matches our awareness of the importance of physical education. As Active Hearts state on their own website:
The benefits of sport and activity are immense and far-reaching, giving confidence, teaching discipline, teamwork and a sense of security and belonging. A ‘family;’ being part of something you can rely on; equipping the children to face the very real challenges in their lives with a renewed optimism.
Active Hearts have been providing monthly hikes for selected children from Ukhanyo School. School sports coach Nceba Jonas has brought groups of around 25 learners to meet with Active Hearts and together they have hiked through the local mountains and along the beautiful beach at Nordhoek. The day typically ends with a picnic on the beach. We are pleased to share some of the most recent photographs from this month’s hike.
This will be an on ongoing partnership, with the next event planned to take the learners over the mountain and into the slightly different environment of the Constantia Valley. Our thanks to the team at Active Hearts for enabling the Masiphumelele learners to experience the wonders of their local environment.
We were delighted to recently welcome some of the local and international staff of the Reinsurance Group of America (RGA) to Ukhanyo School last week. RGA are an international global life and health reinsurance company with operations in 27 countries, including offices in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. Their visit was part of their giving 67 minutes for Mandela Day, which is an annual event in South Africa. Nelson Mandela fought for social justice for 67 years and the concept of the day is for everyone (individuals and corporations) to give at least 67 minutes of their time to Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes.
Our visitors from RGA generously provided an incredible 1,830 pre-prepared packs of gifts for the children, which were distributed one to each child. Every child in each grade received a pack. Quite a logistical feat for the visitors, staff and Masicorp volunteers. Each pack contained learning materials, health products (e.g., toothpaste) and healthy food (oranges and apples), as well as a few sweets as a treat.
It was also an opportunity for the staff of RGA to meet our team and learn about our projects at the school. Everyone was able to see for themselves by visiting the Maths, English and Science Labs as well as the new running track that has now been installed at the school. The Maths Lab in particular has benefited from a kind donation from RGA and was one of the highlights of the tour. We are hugely grateful for the interest of RGA in our work and hope that this can be the start of a longer term relationship as we further develop the sports and teaching facilities at the school.
There was a lot of excitement among the pupils with their bags of goodies, but it was lovely to see them taking the time to thank the visitors personally. This included one of the pupils giving a hand written note of thanks to one of our visitors before they departed. Our team, the school staff and the learners all hope it will not be too long before the next visit.
Last weekend we held our annual bursary student mentor workshop at the new Masicorp offices at Chasmay Road campus. This event is an opportunity for the mentors to meet each other and share experiences as well as tips for good practice. This year’s event was also the first opportunity for some of the mentors to meet our new programme manager Louise de Waal who only recently joined the team.
Our thanks to everyone who gave up a couple of hours of their Saturday morning for what was a well attended event, with the majority of our 21 active mentors able to attend. The meeting was used to explain our plans for the future of the programme and to present a policy for how best to maximise the benefits of our donors funding to meet each students needs. We deliberately keep the bursary flexible because each student has different needs for their individual courses (e.g., laboratory clothing, extra books, field work etc.). The meeting allowed us to explain to the mentors their roles in assessing their student’s needs and feeding the information back to us.
The role of the mentors is not just to help us to administer the bursary, but is also crucial to the student’s chances of success. One of the reasons for the high drop-out rate among South African students is the culture shock and isolation they often feel when being away from home life and the structured learning environment of school. Our students from Masiphumelele are often the best in the class at the high school, but soon find that they are just one of the crowd in the large first year classes at university. Failure in any subject at this point can be a devastating blow. Our mentors play a crucial role in befriending students and guiding them through this difficult transition, and this is one of the reasons that we have managed to attain a drop-out rate of less than 10%. It is particularly beneficial for us to have our more experienced mentors present to guide and inform the new mentors who are stepping into this role for the first time.
This year has been enormously challenging with the continued student protests on campus, particularly at CPUT. We have a mix of students taking exams on campus or online from home. Some teaching has been cancelled and some exams will be postponed until next year. Some students have had to travel back and forth between Masiphumelele and campus as the security situation has fluctuated. It is a very difficult time for everyone involved and we cannot thank our invaluable team of mentors enough for their flexibility in responding to the needs of the students in another difficult academic year.
It is pleasing to know that something good came out of the load shedding period that South Africa experienced during 2008. On one of those long dark nights in Johannesburg, Sarah Collins leapt out of bed at two in the morning with a brainwave. She had an idea of how to overcome load shedding and provide economical cooking based on her childhood growing up on a farm in a remote part of the country. She had watched her grandmother bundle blankets and cushions around a hot pot of stew to keep it cooking and conserve her limited fuel. She also remembered watching the San people bury food in the ground while they were cooking and eventually came up with a prototype for a heat-retention cooker, the Wonderbag. After food is brought to a boil, the pot is placed into this heavily-lined bag where it slow-cooks for up to eight hours.
Last week, in association with the City of Cape Town and Greenaudits, we arranged a workshop for 22 cooks from the pre-schools we work with in Masiphumelele to introduce them to the Wonderbag.
The ladies got to sample, rice, soup and stew cooked in the bags and the environmental benefits and cost savings were explained to all attendees.
In the last five years 700, 000 have been sold or donated across Africa and elsewhere in the world. Their use has saved energy use and reduced indoor air pollution from cooking on solid fuels, especially wood. This of course has enormous benefits for the children in a pre-school environment. Smoke inhalation is decreased and burns from cooking fires are minimized. And by freeing up time spent cooking, the Wonderbag gives back time to the pre-school staff to spend more time with the children.
All 22 participants received a Wonderbag for use in their pre-schools and we look forward to seeing them in use in the future.
Many blog readers will be aware of Masicorp volunteer Elize Taylor’s efforts to raise funds for sports facilities at Ukhanyo School by trail running this year. We are pleased to report that she has just completed her final event on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. After the challenges of the mountains in the Cape Winelands and the arid conditions of the Northern Cape / Namibia, this was a very different challenge. The Wild Coast provides sandy beaches and coastal forests, but also many rivers to wade and even swim through. Elize ran from 35 to 44 km per day to complete the 112 km trail in the three days. She has now completed her series of three trail runs for the year – although we have the mention she still found time to run the Cape Town Marathon in between these events!
Elize used Backabuddy to collect funds for Masicorp. The fund raising platform is used by many runners/swimmers/cyclists who can become a “champion” and raise funds for their preferred causes. Typically champions raise around R2000-5000. The final total raised by Elize was a hugely impressive R11,938.16, which will be gratefully received by Masicorp on behalf of the school.
Her Backabuddy page is still open and further donations can be made if you missed the earlier opportunities. Many thanks to everyone that has donated so far and of course huge thanks to Elize herself, who we hope is now getting some much earned rest.