Friday, July 25, 2014

A Visit to South Africa

Starfish’s own Nicola Atherstone visited projects in South Africa. This is what she shares with us:

After a long ride on a dusty, dirt road crossed by cows and goats, we arrived at Keiskamma, an isolated, rural community without running water or electricity. Rainwater is collected in large, green JoJo tanks for daily use at the preschool.  The daycare center in Keiskamma cares for 34 children, who were all very happy to see us and showed off their knowledge of numbers, letters and days of the week with song and dance. The children receive two hot meals a day, which are cooked in a tiny kitchen over a gas stove, and a flourishing vegetable garden provides healthy, fresh food for the children.

The afterschool center across from the high school, offers students homework support, computer facilities, a library and driving instruction. We also visited Keiskamma’s impressive Arts and Crafts Co-op, which creates jobs for the talented women in the community (and where I collected the 200 beautifully hand-made orange Starfish keyrings for our NYC Gala!)

The following day we visited Loaves & Fishes Network, where a workshop on childcare was underway for childcare workers and parents, while the preschools we visited were training staff members on sanitation and nutrition for the children.  Their focus on training and development is a critical part of helping their community help themselves.

I was struck by how well cared for and happy the children are, and what an impact the teachers are making in daycare centers that are little more then a corrugated iron shack. These preschools receive teaching packages from Starfish, with educational materials for the preschool curriculum, and funding for the teacher’s stipends. Hot meals are served for breakfast and lunch,

Late that afternoon we stopped in at Nceduluntu, a community plagued by hunger, unemployment, poverty, abuse and neglect. The need for the newly hired Starfish social worker, Memory, was clear. The social worker makes regular home visits to the almost 300 children who come to the day care center and the 150 students who attend the aftercare center after school.

In Kwa-Zulu Natal we visited Ethembeni, (which means “Place of Hope”) with their well-equipped Family Center, staffed by enthusiastic foreign volunteers who were immersed in computer training programs for the community. Ethembeni provides over 50 families with food parcels, counseling and general support to families. Their Residential Care Centre cares for AIDS and TB patients on four hospital beds in a modest clinic.

There are many more projects planned for the coming year. How will you support the children of South Africa?