Lambs
Photo Credit: Supplied

The story behind one of the most successful ECD centres in South Africa began and continues with women at the helm of the ship. Celebrating Little Lambs heritage means celebrating these women, and this is their story!

 

Imizamo Yethu, South Africa (25 September 2023) — The Little Lambs centre in Imizamo Yethu, built by the women of Hout Bay has become a beacon of hope and one of the most successful ECD centres in the country. Its remarkable story keeps growing thanks to support from the local community.

In Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, Little Lambs Christian Daycare and Educare Centre is known for its high-quality holistic care, Early Childhood Development (ECD) education and nutritious meals to 300 preschool children.

It also ensures that its teachers get fully qualified and sources ingredients for the meals provided from the local community, making it integral in community endeavours.

Not to mention, it has been the catalyst of empowerment for many women to ensure better lives for themselves.

But, 25 years ago, the women of Hout Bay had no idea what Little Lambs would become.

“In 1995, my husband and I got involved with the Kronendal farm in Hout Bay through the church. It was a huge vegetable farm and the farm workers lived in extreme poverty under the dop system. We wanted to help them,” shares Marlena van der Walt, founder.

“I started by making soup for people working on the farm. Then our mission turned to creating a daycare where some mothers would look after kids, many of whom came home from school to a lot of drunkenness and terrible conditions, so that other mothers could go to work. Initially, the women on the farm did not want to look after the children because they were illiterate and couldn’t help with their homework.”

This opened the door to teaching women on the farm how to read and write.

“Soon mothers from IY, the neighbouring township, approached us and said they needed childcare too. And that’s how we slowly started, first with only 16 children in a double garage and portable toilets on the farm,” she says.

In 2003, Little Lambs secured a lease and established the formal school on the boundary between Penzance Estate, a middle-class suburb, and the IY township. Since then, the school has grown to take 300 kids working from 11 buildings and providing children with three nutritious meals a day.

Marlena adds:

“We did not do this alone. So many community women stepped in to help at the preschool. We realised that empowering these women was the key to bringing real change and progress to their lives and so we helped them become qualified teachers. Their transformation was nothing short of inspiring. Our first teacher, Tokkie Moses, was very committed, selling flowers in the morning and then coming to help with the kids. Ellen Silinga, a domestic worker who lived in the township, became our first qualified preschool teacher. And so we grew, and as we grew we educated more and more children.”

Above education, local women were taught other skills and learned to make handbags.

“It became a very sociable place,” says Marlena.

“Nurturing, educating and feeding children is the core of what we do, but it started with helping women, and with the women helping us. To this day, all the characters; the trustees, principals, teachers and our major funders – are all still women.  Little Lambs has been incredibly blessed with ongoing funding from remarkable women, in particular; Elke Zwicker, Marlis Schaper and the Kinderhilfe Kapstadt organisation. Little Lambs is now well-established and apart from funding and a few administrative tasks, is run by the women employed there.”

And, the future is looking bright at Little Lambs. After many years of successfully overseeing the school, the much-loved headmistress Geraldine Daniels has recently retired.

But, she has been replaced by a new principal, Ethel Kubalasa.

“It is my wish to lead with wisdom, truth and vision for Little Lambs Christian Daycare, to help shape the minds, conscience and future respectively. I am not just a principal, I have to inspire others, to change people (children, teachers, parents and the community) and to never give up even when faced with challenges that seem impossible,” Ethel Kubalasa shares.

“We’re excited about the future of this school. One of the best things about being based in Hout Bay is how the township and middle-class communities help each other. With our school literally right on the boundary between the suburbs and the township, we are a representation of this remarkable community spirit.”—SEEDS (Schooling, Education, Empowerment, Development and Support) Trust General Manager, Roger Falls.

You can find out more about Little Lambs here.


Source: Supplied
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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