We have had the most exciting couple of weeks. The Scottish travelling language specialists, Dr Marysia Nash and her colleague Gemma MacDonald, arrived to check on the implementation of our BabyBoost programme and to help begin a new group. As individuals they are packed with a purpose of boosting children through parent power.
It’s always quite exciting because the build-up is mammoth. There are visits to toy fairs and charity shops, gathering of funds from friends and supporters, and much paperwork and planning before they eventually head out from Edinburgh. This visit was made all the more exciting with 3 bulky suitcases, a forgotten passport plus a golf tournament which caused chaos on the roads around the airport! But, thankfully, as things do normally it all worked out, the team re-grouped in London and they were bound for the SA Spring.
The travellers arrived on a Saturday afternoon in the Drakensberg laden with 70.3kgs of toys, books and resources thanks to British Airways and a host of friends, supporters and funding. And then it was the large un-pack with sorting, categorising and planning.
Team BabyBoost, Fikile, Sibonelelo & Irene, have been running 2 groups since March. These groups are held at a Khanyisela pre-school and are made up of approximately 10 babies, aged 4-18 months, and their carers. We are focusing on the first 1000 days. Both groups had completed the 6 workshops and were meeting every two weeks for playgroup sessions and to swap toys and books at the recently established Toy & Book Libraries.
So why BabyBoost? This is an extension of our work through the pre-school project and works with the vital stages of development when a child’s neurological pathways are developing. It helps extend the mothers’ and caregivers’ understanding of rearing infants and toddlers.
Part of this visit included some very important focus groups. A group of 6 men were interviewed about their understanding of growing babies and their brains. Fact: 75% of brain development has taken place by the age of 2 and 90% has happened by the time a child is 5 years old. Some adults believe that learning only begins when a child begins talking and others are under the impression that we need only worry from the time a child is 7 and heading for school. We have much to do. Our purpose is rooted in helping develop not only the children but the broader community.
Most encouraging was the feedback from the carer’s focus group. They were directly involved in the programme and it’s awe inspiring and heart-warming stuff…
One described how “I feel like a mother now, I didn’t care at first”
Another said “it taught me it’s very special to be a mother”
“The team taught me how to talk to my child when bathing feeding or changing”
“(there were) so many things I didn’t know as a parent like singing… I didn’t see the importance”
There had been a definite shift in carer’s knowledge and a positive change in behaviour. We are making progress and we each have a purpose!
Purpose is the reason why we stay. Purpose is the reason why we do. Purpose is the reason we build relationships and make positive things happen. In many ways it has been a dark few weeks in SA but our BabyBoost Team and the great network of support is creating waves of positive change in the rural part of the KZN Drakensberg Mountains. And for that, we are forever grateful.