Thanks to the public’s generosity, just over R81 000 was raised to help people and organisations affected by the fires that ravaged Knysna in 2017. Now, the Full Tummy Fund has added additional funding which will be used to assist two day care centres in the area – Tinkerland Nursery School in Concordia and Bitou Round Table Crèche in Hornlee.
Investing in early childhood development is known to be one of the most effective means of eradicating poverty. It is for this reason the Full Tummy Fund, a Spur Foundation initiative, remains focused on early childhood development and nutrition for children from disadvantaged communities up to the age of six.
The Full Tummy Fund is taking the long-term view – South Africa can only grow if we are able to address the developmental challenges facing its citizens. By starting with children in the first six years of life, we are laying a strong educational foundation upon which a healthier, more prosperous and better society may be built.
Chief Financial Officer at the Spur Corporation and Chair of the Spur Foundation Trust, Ronel van Dijk, says while these educational facilities in Knysna weren’t directly affected by the fires, many parents of children who attend these centres lost their homes and/or their jobs to the flames. “As a result, they have been unable to pay their children’s school fees. However, the two day care centres were not prepared to turn the affected kids away, despite both facilities struggling financially and still having to keep up with the maintenance of the schools, pay teacher salaries and feed the children. Through the funds raised from public donations, as well as our own efforts, we will be upgrading the facilities at Tinkerland Nursery School and providing nutritional support to Bitou Round Table Crèche for the 2018 school year,” Van Dijk explains.
Tinkerland Nursery School, which cares for 69 children ranging in age from six months to six years, had been battling for months to secure its own premises after many setbacks. While relocating temporarily to a rundown shack, the school raised funds to construct its own building and finally moved into the new facility mid-2017, only to have the roof ripped off during the storms that fanned the Knysna fires.
Although the roof was repaired, there are gaps between the ceiling and the walls so the cold, wind and rain get in during winter and in summer it heats up making it very uncomfortable for the children. In addition to painting the facility with fireproof paint, waterproofing and insulating the building, the Full Tummy Fund will be connecting the school to the plumbing and electricity available on the plot as well as increase security with the installation of burglar bars. Other items being donated include a fridge, solar power geyser, shelving, teaching equipment and educational toys.
Tinkerland Nursery School Principal, Elmarie Maxim, says the support will make a real difference. “I believe that your environment has the ability to bring out the best in you. I think that my teachers will be more motivated to go on with their daily activities and the children will be excited to come to school because it will be a beautiful place for them, with new things to see and do. Most importantly, it will be a safer space where they can learn and develop,” Elmarie says.
“Our aim is to assist Tinkerland to get up to standard so that the school can be registered with the Department of Social Development. This will enable the facility to receive a government grant and allow us to step out and assist the next school, which is in line with our philosophy of giving a hand up, not a hand-out.” With the grant Elmarie can become a small business owner, and employ more women from the community – contributing both to gender empowerment and sustainability, Van Dijk explains.
Bitou Round Table Crèche has also endured considerable setbacks due to the 2017 Knysna fires. With the manifesto of the Full Tummy Fund being to fill tummies and feed minds, the nutritional support provided will enable the facility to free up funding that is currently being used to feed the kids to be used for other critical needs such as building maintenance and teacher salaries.
“We are incredibly grateful to everyone who donated and Falcon Creek Spur Steak Ranch for hosting a Spur party to celebrate the completion of this project. Regardless of whether it was R5 or R500, it will make a massive difference in these children’s lives,” Van Dijk concludes.