Charity: Community Helpers
Julie Hay, from Hilton in the Natal Midlands, took up the role of Early Childhood Development Specialist at 1000 Hills Community Helpers as part of the Vodacom Change the World initiative in April 2011. Due to a severe staff and skills shortage, the organisation had been forced to utilise unqualified volunteer members of the community to educate its children, so Julie’s appointment was met with great relief.
In just one year, Julie completely transformed the school and her host NPO by transferring skills and creating structure and systems. Julie established everything from ensuring there was a daily story time in order to develop the children’s language and imagination skills, to establishing rosters, reports and record keeping systems. “When I arrived, all the children from ages 2 to 6 were together doing the same activities. It was chaos as the older ones became bored and naughty, the younger ones became lost and naughty and the quiet children were forgotten about. I divided the children into age appropriate classes, showed the teachers the importance of a routine to assist with discipline and taught them how the toys and teaching aids they had could help in the children’s development. It was rewarding to see how the children blossomed under this system and how the teachers became skilled educators. The local schools even commented on how the children who came from 1000 Hills were doing much better than their classmates that year. My most memorable achievement involved a 2 year old boy who used to suck his thumb and completely shut out everything around him. I made an effort to give him a hug every day, take his hands to do the actions during song time and eventually was able to coax him into playing games with me. After months I heard his deep-belly laugh and from then on, he started to participate and play with the other children. What was even more rewarding was that the teacher started to imitate me with the rest of her class and she soon had the most content class in the school,” says Julie.
“For a number of years, I have wanted to get involved in helping those who have not had the advantages that my own children have had, and so in 2010, together with two friends of mine, I started a Non-Profit Organisation called Singakwenza Education and Health. One of the primary purposes of this NPO is to upskill crèche teachers, particularly those in the more rural areas who have limited access to resources. I have designed a programme that uses almost solely recycling for toys and teaching aids, so the crèche teacher will only require a pair of sharp scissors and a marker pen, and she will be able to get the rest of the materials from the rubbish bin to create a stimulating ECD programme for her children. Sponsorship for any NPO is always a challenge, and when I saw that the Vodacom Change the World programme would sponsor me to upskill the teachers in an area that I would normally not be able to reach, I jumped at the opportunity.”
“The year that I spent as a part of the Vodacom Change the World programme has had an enormous impact on my life, as I was able to clearly see the difference that a small amount of stimulation could make in preparing the children for the demands of formal schooling. Building confidence in the teachers in their ability to engage actively and positively with their children was one of my greatest challenges and my greatest achievements. I have continued to volunteer one day a week at the 1000 Hills Community Helpers Centre to ensure that the programme that I started continues to run.
“The rest of my time is dedicated to expanding the Singakwenza model, and we are now actively involved in two new crèches where we are impacting on a further 65 children’s lives. Singakwenza has been shortlisted as potentially being one of the charities where the Vodacom Change the World programme for 2013/2014 will place a volunteer. We would love to have a project manager who would be able to help us to expand our reach and hopefully change the world for hundreds more children!” Julie concludes.