As one of Cotlands benefactors, I was invited to attend their Experiential visit which formed part of their #WorldPlayDay initiatives. The day included a tour of their head office as well as a practical demonstration of their transition from health focused initiatives to education.
Our tour began with visiting the current group of babies that are awaiting adoption, witnessing feeding time and some even getting bathed. At first, we felt a small reservation to go into the rooms but the sight of the smiles on their faces was enough to melt your heart! Following that we were taken on a tour of what used to be orphan rooms and are now the sensory rooms – sight, sound and touch. Viewing the tools used in each room really made me feel like I took nursery school for granted. I remember dressing up at school and fighting over who played what, yet there are so many lessons to be taught that many children don’t have the opportunity to experience.
We were also shown the hub of the Johannesburg Toy Library, a room where all the toys are grouped by the lesson it teaches, some brand new, some donated. This is where the ladies that travel to the different schools collect their packs from each week, depending on the lessons to be taught. I really felt special to have been able to have played with some of these toys as a child!
After having our faces painted, Europcar Vans were on hand to take us into Soweto. Our first stop was the Faba household in a more informal area, where Cotlands have been providing support and education to the 2 disabled grandparents of a small child. She is HIV positive and Cotlands have educated her grandparents on how she should take her ARV’s, as well as how to provide basic child learning. Cotlands also provide seedlings to help generate an income for families as these and some of the funds raised will be used to send the child to Grade R which, in addition to her health and extra education, will give her a better grounding for success in Grade 1.
Our next stop was to a little playschool at the Dube Hostel. We had to receive permission from the Chiefs to be able come in as visitors
to the hostel. Here people live without electricity and under political divisions. The residents have generously donated what was their Community Hall so that the children from the two opposing political parties can have a place to play, learn, develop and be looked after during the day. Some of their parents work, others do not and these children would normally not have done anything constructive. Now Cotlands sends a teacher with the latest Toy Library box and lessons for the week, to see them and help advance their development.
After playing with the kids at Dube, our day was completed by having lunch with Sakhumzi at his restaurant in the famous Vilakazi Street where he gave us a very inspirational talk!
He explained how a speech made by Nelson Mandela inspired him to lift himself out of unemployment and to help those around him. Focussing on something he loves he was already providing full bellies to his friends and family. He then opened a restaurant at his house. He now employs 70 people from Soweto at his restaurant, where he serves a buffet of traditional South African cuisine to locals and foreigners alike.
I felt so humbled to be spending the day with people trying to make a difference in our country – I even got to meet Miss South Africa, Marilyn Ramos, who is a Cotlands Ambassador.
Lois Moodley, National Marketing and PR Manager, was on hand to take receipt of donations from our staff members. Thank you to Kerry, Charlene, Bonita and Aimee for your kind donation!