Philani Day Care Centre founder Pamela Mkohlwa is passionate about early childhood development and through the help of Eastern Cape-based NGO, Ripples for Change, has been able to expand on what she offers those in her care.
For the last eight years, Mkohlwa has looked after youngsters from the community of Sandile extension in Tsholomnqa, providing meals and a stimulating environment using what funds she is able to generate from the small fee she charges parents, as well as donations.
Her struggle for adequate funding began to ease in 2015 when she met Galit Cohen’s Ripples for Change, which supports Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in rural communities around Tsholomnqa and Mooiplaas.
The programme’s aim to provide appropriate cognitive stimulation, nutritional care and health services for pre-school children. Among the workshops offered to daycare practitioners at these centres is one on HIV/Aids, which Mkohlwa says has been very useful.
“She [Galit] introduced us to Fort Hare where they offer us free workshops, including HIV/Aids workshops. The parents are comfortable with us and tell us about their child’s status knowing very well we will be able to deal with it professionally.”
Mkohlwa says over the past few years, through the help of Ripples for Change, she has been trained to make items for her daycare centre out of almost anything.
“Using any kind of material I can make book bags for the children. This allows them to take home books and puzzles to learn while they play.
“Galit showed us we can also make a big difference in our children’s lives even while we are in the rural areas,” she said.
And finally, last year, Mkohlwa began to receive funding from the department of social development to further help feed and educate the 28 children in her care.
Cohen, 47, believes social and economic transformation happens through the ordinary people of the community who have a passion to see change.
Her foundation seeks to ensure there are equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of their geographical position.
It was in 2013 that Cohen finally took on her dream of helping rural communities to develop themselves.
Explaining the name she gave her foundation – “each of the individuals or organisations create ripples around themselves and together we are all creating waves of change”.
The organisation has partnered with traditional councils in many communities offering opportunities in a number different programmes.
The foundation supports 62 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in Tsholomnqa and Mooiplaas by offering them professional training and mentoring their ECD practitioners, as well as offering them toys and books.
“We advocate for the provision of quality ECD services in each village that we work with. We also support communities by linking them to resources and services offered by other organisations, government departments, government agencies and the private sector,” she said
Chulumanco Mjekula, 24, who has always dreamt of being an entrepreneur, had his dream realised when he was offered a business level 1 training course through Cohen’s Ripples for Change, which linked him up to a National Youth Development Agency course. The short course covers the basics of business, and includes a module on advertising.
“The training made a huge difference in my life and I learnt a lot.
“Now I know about suppliers and the training boosted my confidence in business. I now have my own business growing and selling chickens, pig feed and piglets and I know how to take care of my profits.”
Cohen says the foundation works with Fort Hare University and a number of other organisations to train hundreds of ECD practitioners and principals. It has also trained 102 community-based organisations (CBO) to help their members register with state departments, learn about finance and know where to look for funding or bursaries.
“We strengthen existing centres and community structures.
“Our long-term goal is expanding on our services to other proactive passionate rural communities in South Africa if funding would allow,” said Cohen, who has a Master’s degree in Public Health and specialises in disaster management.
Cohen has spent the last 13 years working in the rural areas of South Africa and another four years heading emergency missions to disaster-hit areas such as Haiti, the Philippines, US and South Sudan. — firstname.lastname@example.org