Paul Talliard overcame addiction and fifteen years of homelessness to become a successful entrepreneur. Working in partnership with the City of Cape Town and UNICEF, Talliard now specialises in the development of mobile classrooms to promote early childhood development in vulnerable communities.
Cape Town, South Africa (07 June 2020) – When the COVID-19 pandemic reached South Africa, Paul Talliard immediately saw the need to promote hygiene life-skills to children in informal communities.
In South Africa, approximately three million people live in informal settlements and the high-density nature of these dwellings, paired with limited access to basic services such as running water, sanitation and waste collection, makes their inhabitants extremely vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. Mindful of the dangers currently faced by these communities, Talliard developed the African Hygiene and Life-Skills Classroom on Wheels.
Talliard is no stranger to the educational needs of South Africa’s vulnerable children, having already developed the African ECD Classroom on Wheels – a compact, mobile classroom from which the early learning syllabus can be taught in all South Africa’s official languages.
Like the ECD Classrooms, the African Hygiene and Life Skills Classrooms each come equipped with a PC, powered by a built-in solar panel, from where a series of educational videos can be screened in all 11 official languages. At the rear of the unit, there is an array of activity boards, and the classroom can also easily be transformed into a puppet theatre from where hygiene techniques, such as social distancing, hand washing, and covering coughs and sneezes, can be demonstrated to children. The classrooms were developed in partnership with UNICEF and the City of Cape Town.
In 2018, Talliard won a R200 000 Seed Grant at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards. The awards aim to support promising local innovations that address social issues, particularly those faced by women, the youth, people in rural areas and people with disabilities. Since winning this grant, he has gone from strength to strength, increasing his annual turnover by 200% and growing his product range. He has also developed the African Teen Entrepreneur Classroom on Wheels and is currently working with Dr Tana Joseph, a South African astronomer with a PhD from the University of Southampton, on a STEM Classroom on Wheels
Talliard is uniquely situated when it comes to understanding the needs and challenges faced by impoverished communities. Initially, after graduating from high school, he became one of the first firemen of colour in Cape Town, a role in which he enjoyed 12 commendable years of service. However, his life took a turn for the worse when he succumbed to a drug addiction and found himself living on the streets for 15 years. It was a simple act of kindness that finally inspired him to change his life. And, when a penniless vagrant gave up his last remaining cents to buy Talliard a meal, he was motivated to get his life back on track and return the same kind gesture to others who were down on their luck.
“I believe hard work pays off, and if you have something that you believe in, you should never let it go, despite challenges. Tenacity is the ability to bounce back after failure. Work towards your goal and never stop until you succeed”, says Talliard.
After beating his addiction, Talliard started the Hands of Honour support programme, giving homeless people the opportunity to generate an income through an innovative upcycling programme. When a large amount of wood was gathered as part of the programme’s recycling collections, he had the idea of handcrafting basic book nooks to distribute in informal settlements. Through this distribution, he became aware of the lack of access children in these communities had to ECD opportunities.
According to UNICEF, children who have access to ECD in their early years do better at school, earn more as adults and enjoy better health. They are also less likely to be unemployed, have a criminal record or rely on welfare. Unfortunately, in South Africa, fewer than half of children under the age of five have access to ECD programmes. A desire to address this issue inspired Talliard to develop the first prototype for his African ECD Classroom on Wheels.
Since then, classrooms have been distributed to schools, childcare facilities and ECD centres in over 60 townships and informal settlements. This has directly benefitted over 7 000 children and teachers in Somerset West, Khayelitsha, Lavender Hill, Steenberg, Philippi, Retreat, Mitchells Plain and Vrygrond. Talliard has gone from living on the streets, to running a successful enterprise that employs 14 people (eight full time and six part-time) and generates an annual turnover of more than R1.3 million. He is working hard to expand his business into even more communities throughout South Africa, so that every child gets the education they need to make their dreams come true.
To find out more about Talliard’s selection of mobile classrooms or to purchase one for a community in need, visit www.handsofhonour.co.za.