Angels of Fairhills Daycare

9 Aug

Sweet potatoe, chicken and rice. That’s what’s on the menu today at Onderplaas Daycare Center, one of the three daycare centers in the Fairhills Project. The kitchen is filled with the smells of good food made with love by Anna Pieterse.

“There must always be a piece of meat for them,” she says. The kids receive two meals per day, breakfast, usually porridge or Weetbix, and lunch. The new foodstuffs for the month has just been delivered. Earlier that morning Cynthia Pieterson, head of all the daycare centers, was falling over her feet at the community hall to get the stock out on time. “Usually they see how far they get and let me know if they need something. But we try to work carefully,” she said hurriedly in between loading the bakkie.

As a mother of five Anna has learnt just that – work cost effectively, yet give your family the nutrition they need. On top of this life experience all the kitchen staff at the daycare centers have been trained by a certified nutritionist. Actually Anna has ten kids. Trained as midwife, she “caught” five babies in the Fairhills community. “It is so special, because you are forever part of that child’s life,” she says.  And she cannot think of a better job than working at the center where she is part of the young lives of another 30.

Being totally dedicated to the well-being of the children in their care, is what comes out when you speak to anyone involved at the centers, something worth gold in a community with so many social challenges. “You have to deal with it that not all the kids have the same home environment. When we suspect a child has a problem at home, we will speak to the parents. But you cannot speak attackingly to someone whose life is still affected by alcohol for example. That will chase them away,” says Fiela Jacobs, a teacher at the Tierstel Daycare Center.

The children receive medical check-ups on a weekly bases from a nurse and the services from a clinical psychologist and social worker is on hand if something needs to be addressed. Her colleague Fiela Jacobs agrees: “When there is a problem we don’t want parents to get so upset that they take the children out of school. Look, we cannot control what happens over weekends, but at least here, during the week, we know they eat their fill, they play, they are kids. And we watch them with eagle’s eyes to identify any learning or health difficulties.”

All the teachers have completed courses in pre-school training. Although many of them were involved in childcare informally, the advent of the project meant further learning opportunities in an area close to their hearts. A toddler with braided hair clings to Fiela’s dress. She is shy and looks away when you try to smile at her. She only wants Fiela. Loud music blares from a class room. A peek through the window reveals a bunch of 4 and 5 year old breaking it down to South African kwaito beats. There’s shrieks and shrills as they twist and turn with moves that give you muscle spasms just by looking at it. They seem deliriously happy.

In the kitchen the noise levels are not much less. Underneath much laughter and chatter Cynthia discusses the upcoming trip to the cinema with Tierstel principal, Victoria Seholoba. At the table Elizabeth Goeieman preps for the next day while talking to Karmen and Jeanine Vermeulen, two cousins, who are preparing peanut butter sandwiches in the corner. They help out over the school holidays with whatever needs to be done. Karmen just completed her three year teaching studies at the Cape Peninsuala University of Technology and will start at Lorraine Primary School soon. Jeanine is still studying public relations and hopes to do her practical training at a wine celler. To both of them it is important to give back.

“I just said today if I had lots of money I would open another care center for kids,” says Lettie. “They are our angels.” After a day spent seeing the dedication of everyone, it is very evident that in fact it is angels taking care of angels.


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