Dear Supporters, Sponsors, Friends and Family
When 2020 dawned a cycad in our garden, which had been dormant for 10 years, began to grow. We took this as the sign of a great new dawn and there was much anticipation for the positives that lay before us. We had worked hard on establishing an integrated new vision for our project work and in early January we set out some new goals for the year ahead. It was going to be fabulous, a few challenges in working out the intricacies but we were determined. And then, along came a global pandemic, which shut us down, created waves of anxiety and it looked as though all things would crumble…
1. A lesson in control
2020 has surely taught us that we cannot control all the happenings around us. Most important is to respond with love and care and continue always to give where we can. And, not all is lost… as you will see, in fact much can be achieved.
2. A lesson in community
As shutdown happened our business, after 79 years in existence, had to close. We felt devastated. For 4 months we had absolutely no income but we soon realised that we were truly fortunate. We could still afford to eat, we had a roof over our heads and we were locked in with our extended family, taking care of our mountain home. In the amaZizi Village, the pre-schools were all forced to shut too. The ladies that run these rather rudimentary, but important, facilities would have absolutely no income. They would not be in a position to feed their own families and sadly there was no safety net for them. Our extended community came to the party and we were able to fundraise to ensure that we could deliver food parcels to them. We knew this would sustain them and that they too would reach out to those in need. Our Khanyisela teachers were also fortunate to received stipends from Care for Education which propped them up in their time of need. It was a coming together of many for the sustainability of some of the most vulnerable people in our community and for that we are just so incredibly grateful.
3. A lesson in collaboration
Royal Drakensberg Primary also shut its doors until June but our teachers rallied together to create workbooks and activities for the children at home. Workbooks were emailed, they were collated and then we distributed them thanks to the help of our resident teachers from the amaZizi community. The children were able to continue learning and reading while they remained at home. Packets of fortified porridge were also distributed to the children through the teachers and the network of pre-schools in the village. An incredible team helped achieve much even when we were under such rigorous restrictions.
4. A lesson in giving
During this pandemic we have also been incredibly fortunate to partner with a fabulous initiative called Book Dash. Book Dash’s aim is for every child to own 100 books by the time they are 5 years of age. Through our project work we have taken advantage of their specials but we have also been the beneficiary of wonderful donations of stories which we have been able to pass on to the children. Initially we wondered why we didn’t just continue sharing books at school but research shows that owning your own books helps increase literacy levels and it helps create special bonds within a family. For children, who have never owned their own story, this was nothing short of a true gift. We have distributed more than 2000 stories into our community in 2020. It was also important to send Book Dash feedback. While we managed to get a few photos of children in the school environment, sharing stories at home was much trickier to capture, and so we ran a competition at Royal Drakensberg and the photo entries were delightful! Our overall winner won a voucher for the Tower of Pizza. And this was properly sought after!
5. A lesson in risk
Royal Drakensberg opened in June but our Khanyisela pre-schools remained closed for a long time. When murmurings of high court rulings reached us we knew it was time to start preparing for them to open safely. We got in touch with suppliers and we formulated documents and then we arranged a workshop. We discussed how we could venture into this unknown safely. We spoke about risk. Where were they? How did we minimize them? How could we operate safely? It was an informative morning with so much sharing and learning. The ladies were all treated to tea and eats and they returned to their schools fully laden with sanitizers and masks and detergents and shields and ready to take the next step.
6. A lesson in caring
In March 2020, when Covid was a haze in the distance, we ran a workshop with Dr Marysia Nash, who has developed the Baby Boost programme. We had high aspirations and a good plan for the year ahead. We were going to work with mothers and carers and really make a difference in the first 1000 days of development. While we did manage to begin our sessions, we have had to work creatively with our facilitators to ensure that the programme continued productively. Instead of gathering in large groups, Fikile & Sibonelelo, have spent many afternoons doing home visits. They have had one-on-one sessions and really helped develop play in the home. These valuable interactions of love, caring for your baby, responding to your baby, singing to your baby and playing with your baby develop the neurological pathways which are crucial. 95% of brain development happens before the age of 5. The earlier we begin the better!
7. A lesson in appreciation
This is possibly the greatest of all lessons in 2020. While we have had to operate with a Covid pandemic loitering above us, we have achieved much. Our teachers at Royal Drakensberg have grown so much. They have taken on the challenge of servant leadership and they have helped extend a hand into our broader community through mentorship. They assisted us with the Great Jumble Sale and have been willing to step up whatever the challenge.
For this we are greatly appreciative.
We are also appreciative of all the people in the side-lines who support us. We have zoomed, we have called, we have what’s apped and we have kept in touch. They are steadfast, they are willing and they engage as and when they are needed. Daph & Dave continue to administer from afar and have kept us on track, our School & Khanyisela Boards have supported and we are thankful for their input and wisdom always. To Marysia who has assessed and mentored from Scotland, and then our wonderful extended family and community who are always willing to lend a hand. Much gratitude.
We are thankful too for the funds that have come in to allow us to continue our work in education. We are grateful for the partnerships. Quality education, the sharing of ideas and knowledge and much determination is what leads to real change and long-term upliftment in communities.
Thank you. As we turn the page and cautiously step into 2021 we hope for continued growth. We pray for strength and resilience in times of challenge and we look forward to the smiles of the children and the laughter which carries us through.
My best wishes,