The new year began on a very positive note for Thembanathi. Our new early childhood education center in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa opened for its first day on January 16, 2012. We have enrolled an initial group of 20 children. The children and their families are all excited for this new service. Prior to the center’s opening, there were no early childhood services available in this community to assist young children and their families. Parents told us of the struggles they have experienced finding care givers to look after their children and provide them with appropriate developmental support. One single man, for example, who had no other relatives in the area, told us about how he had to work to feed his family but didn't earn enough to pay for care. He felt he had no choice but to leave his two-year-old son alone while he was at work and his elder child was attending primary school. The center's director said a number of people in the community face similar difficult decisions. While most of us understand the importance of early education and intervention for children, these circumstance really show the critical need for providing this service.
Over the holiday season, we were busy completing essential renovations on the building we are using as the initial child care center. These included: fencing the yard, wiring the building for electricity, installing a rainwater collection system, insulating the tin roof and installing a ceiling, plastering and painting inside and outside, building a new latrine and washbasin, and adding a large covered porch for sheltered play in bad weather. We set up and equipped the building’s new kitchen and office, large classroom, and quiet room. In addition, we equipped the center with child-sized furniture, toys, art supplies, and books, thanks to the generous contributions of donors. All of this work was done with the support and involvement of the center’s new director and governing committee.
It’s already apparent, after only one week of operations, that there are many more children in need of services than we can accommodate in the existing structure. To address this need, our goal for this year is to raise the funds to construct a brand new building to serve as a model early childhood development for the area. We plan to build a large enough building to serve up to 60 children. Once the center is established, we plan to expand our programs to include other services for the community, such as after-school programs for older children, income generation projects, community garden, and health programs. We’ll be asking for your support throughout the year to accomplish this goal, and take the next steps in our exciting new project. Thanks for your support!!
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