I write to you to report on the start of our second year of operations at Siyabonga Thembanathi early childhood care and education center. After months in the US focused on fundraising for our new building project, I was really excited to head back to South Africa last month to visit the project, see the old and new faces at the center, catch up with staff and community members, and make plans for next steps. I'll be in South Africa for the next year or two and plan to visit the center frequently, oversee our new building project, and provide all of you with regular updates and stories as things unfold.
In December, as the South African school year came to a close, the Siyabonga staff and committee members organized a small celebration for the first group of 12 children to graduate from the new center and go on to primary school. They invited parents and community members to join them at the center to celebrate the children and the success of the center's first year. After a year at the center, the children are much better prepared to start school and we look forward to watching them continue to learn and grow. We also believe it is essential to continue to support and care for the children in primary school and beyond and, to this end, when our new facility is completed, we hope to expand our services to include after school programming for older children in the community.
On January 16th, the center opened again for the new school year, welcoming a new cohort of young children. It's amazing to witness the powerful differences between the children who have attended the center for a year already and those who are just arriving in the program. The children who are in their second year are confident, articulate, and social, and keen to help teach the new arrivals all they've learned.
In other news, the capital campaign for our new building has been a great success so far, and we are getting ready to start the design phase of the project here. With your support, we hope to reach our fundraising goal in the next six months so that we can complete the new center by the start of the next academic year in South Africa in January 2014. As we described in our July 2012 update, our goal is to build a larger permanent center that will accommodate 60 children in the early childhood care and education program, and will serve as a community center at which a range of other community services can be offered, including after school programming, community gardens, and income generation projects. Through the new center, we aim to help this community provide opportunities for vulnerable young children to learn, to develop socially, and to play. In addition to making a difference for children in this community, our model of partnering with local community groups to establish programs to provide critical services for children is one we believe could be replicated in other areas facing similar challenges. We are hoping to use this new center as a model program for how to develop such services in new communities. We hope you'll help us achieve this goal.
Thanks for your support!
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