I have a wonderful habit of collecting people! I am not sure what the attraction is but I seem to draw them in! So, when Marysia Nash visited the Cavern in 2015 and asked to meet with me because she thought she may be able to assist with our Khanyisela Project I have to be perfectly honest and say I was a bit worried. Did we need helping? And could she really help? A Scots lady with the most beautiful accent but would our lovely Zulu teachers even understand? Did I have the capacity to collect another person?

Well, I have also learnt that it’s always good to go with the flow. Life can take you to the most marvellous of places and spaces and so we made a time and we sat in a corner of the main lounge to talk. Marysia had been involved in a project in the Eastern Cape, she’d worked with many second language learners back home and she is a specialist in her field. Yes, it’s Dr Nash!

We had identified that our greatest need in the Khanyisela project schools was to help improve teaching. Our little schools were relatively well established but we wanted to grow real learning and provide opportunities for stimulation so that the children grew their brains and this would make formal schooling a little easier.

So a date was set. May 2016, Marysia and her colleague, Gemma MacDonald, would trek out to Africa and spend 2 weeks working not just with the 2 mentors we’d identified from the community but with each little school (14 in total – we’d keep them busy!). They arrived and it was and has been the most special time! I don’t think you can bundle love and energy more intensely and these two ladies just exude fun. But, for me the most remarkable skill was the very subtle and safe environment they created for our rural teachers. No judgement, no sharp words, not a harsh tone. Just love and sharing and role playing. And, this created a space where knowledge and ideas could flow.

We saw the immediate benefit and at our teary goodbye we pressed for them to consider another time… And, it happened once more. May 2017! But, Marysia is a doer. There is always something more to add or to do and did we know that the first 1000 days are the most critical? What were we doing about this? Had we thought that far? Well, before we knew it we were being taken down a new path. Marysia and Gemma developed Baby Boost and Daphne & Dave identified a teacher and helper and pre-school that would host a few sessions…

In Marysia’s hand luggage (yes, you may only travel with hand luggage, Gemma!) came a baby from Scotland, donning its tartan clothing, and Baby Boost was born in the rural Amazizi Village. Mums and Gogos and Aunties arrived with the little ones and beautiful interactions happened. Singing, cuddling, talking, “reading”, responding, loving and playing. Providing a lovely framework for brain development.

These ladies inspire and motivate us all to do more. And I am forever grateful that our paths crossed in our Cavern lounge. Thank you Marysia and thank you Gemma. The impact you have made has been phenomenal. Here’s to meeting again!

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