After several months of familiar people and places in Joburg, my schedule pushed me onward and southward: March and April have seen me traveling from Joburg to Durban to Margate, and now back to Durban, where I will remain until mid-May. There’s been so much going on, this will have to be the first of a series of installments.
Since the projects in Margate are already well-documented, I thought I would tell a story about one of my favourite days there. Disclaimer: I stole a couple of these pictures and a lot of great ideas from Caz. She and Ben are a force to be reckoned with, I learned a lot during my time with them.
Caz runs the CUDDLE project in Margate, having learned the ropes from Leona’s model in Joburg. She was just wrapping up a course when I arrived, so I got to tag along on one of the fun parts—crèche visits. These usually take place as a follow-up for the women that have graduated from the course: it gives Caz a chance to see what sort of preschool they’re running, how they’ve applied what they’ve learned, and in what areas she might be able to help them in the future.
This system is something that makes the CUDDLE project so effective, and so highly successful. Rather than just offering a 6-week course as a be-all and end-all, CUDDLE pairs the initial teaching session with follow-up visits, support, relationship development, theme workshops, grade R workshops, and the potential for crèche upgrades. And obviously all this investment in early child education is really an investment in the community at large, as so many children are impacted through the work of each teacher. And as I saw in Tembisa, it always ends up blessing our preaching efforts as well—crèche teachers come to sister’s class and the Sunday school teaching workshop; they send all the kids in their neighbourhood to Sunday school and Tuesday night class. God grants so much increase to the seeds that are planted.
While crèche visits in Joburg always involved a bit of creative navigation through the compact settlement of Tembisa (though Leona always seemed to successfully “follow her nose” to the correct location), Margate trips took us on so-called roads into the rural, rolling green that characterizes much of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
South Africa is so beautiful.
Caz did exceedingly well with the directions that we were given. For this specific crèche, we were told to turn at the soccer stadium. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t exactly what we had our eyes peeled for:
The crèche is run out of the stadium’s changing room by an amazing woman named Happiness, who attended both the crèche teachers’ course and the computer’s course that is run out of the Margate Good News Centre. As we walked through the crèche, she told us her story.
“This whole crèche was started by these 2 gogos (grandmothers), who knew that children shouldn’t be left alone during the day, and started looking after them. The community saw that we needed a place to keep the children safe, so they let us use this change-room, rent-free.”
“A company said they were going to build us a proper crèche building, and they put in a jungle gym and fenced off the property. But that was a couple years ago, and there is still no building. We walk to the other location a couple times a week so the kids can play on the jungle gym.”
“This baby started coming when he was 2 weeks old. His mother came and dropped him off, she was desperate. She had to go back to school, and had nowhere to leave him.”
She showed us the “kitchen,” which consisted of a single gas burner, and no running water. “And this Gogo, she does all our cooking, and is so wonderful.”
The walls, floors, and ceiling are bare cement. The kids sleep on a single piece of carpeting, spread on the floor.
To most of us, this situation would be deeply discouraging. How do you teach children when you have no supplies? How do you feed them when no one pays?
But Happiness didn’t complain about how others had let her down, or the bareness of her space. She just bubbled with thanks and praise, commending the dedication of the Gogos, talking about her plans for the new building, and her excitement over what she had learned at the crèche course.
She also went on to praise her community. “We had a problem with break ins at one point. So we had a community meeting about it, and then it stopped.” And she just carried on, praising God for all that He had provided, speaking so highly of the women she worked alongside. Stunning.
I only hope that one day I will be as full of gratitude and thankfulness as Happiness. I came to Africa with the impression that I would be doing some teaching, but I’ve come to realize that one of my most important roles here is being taught.