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South Africa’s First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe (wife of President Cyril Ramaphosa) was the guest of honour at a significant outing when she visited several informal crèches in and around Alexandra to commemorate former president Nelson Mandela’s centenary birthday celebration.

Dr Motsepe is the chairperson of ASHA Trust, a not-for-profit organisation that provides Early Childhood Development (ECD) support programmes for home-based crèches in disadvantaged communities. ASHA provides professional support programmes, which benefit over 30 000 preschool children that attend over 600 community and home-based crèches in townships in four provinces.

The Full Tummy Fund (formerly known as The Spur Foundation) has been supporting ASHA Trust since 2014 and to date has invested more than R1 million in various training programmes, benefitting principals and teachers at 19 informal crèches. This month the Full Tummy Fund will increase its support and add an additional 20 crèches to participate in training programmes facilitated by the ASHA Trust.

“ASHA Trust works in disadvantaged communities where most households have insufficient resources to meet the nutrition and educational needs of young children. Informal, home-based crèches provide a vital service to these communities but are themselves extremely under-resourced” says Motsepe. “The caregivers are largely untrained. Our nationally accredited programmes deliver the skills and knowledge to facilitate effective child development. It’s through valued, long-term partnerships with the private sector that this is made possible.”

In South Africa, no reliable data exists on the number of sites providing Early Childhood Development services but estimates suggest that as few as 10% of pre-schoolers are catered for properly. Statistics indicate that approximately 4,5 million children between the ages of 0 – 4 years have no access to quality early childhood care and education facilities. The majority of these children live in conditions of severe poverty and are most in need of supplementary nutrition and stimulation programmes. It is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 5 children under age 5 in South Africa are developmentally stunted due to malnutrition.

The Mandela Centenary celebrations have special significance for Spur Corporation because the Spur Foundation (now known as the Full Tummy Fund) was established on Mandela Day, 18 July 2012, with a donation of R670 000 by Spur Corporation, resonating with the ‘67 minutes’ theme of Mandela Day, and the founding of the Spur family in 1967.

The Full Tummy Fund aims to uplift and improve the lives of South African families, especially children, in line with its core value of generosity and Ubuntu. Importantly, efforts are focused on early childhood development and nutrition for children from disadvantaged communities up to the age of six.

On Mandela Day this year, Spur Corporation staff visited the 9 informal crèches that were “adopted” by the Full Tummy Fund in 2016 to lend a hand with renovations and to deliver donations such as books, tables and chairs, mattresses and blankets, eating utensils, kitchen equipment and First Aid kits. Renovations included new ceilings, fresh paint, new fencing, swing sets and synthetic grass. The total value of this year’s donations and renovations amounted to approximately R200 000. Spur Parties were held at the crèches to celebrate this special day.  The initial ten informal crèches received mini make-overs on Mandela Day in 2015.

“As a group with a wide reach we’re taking the long-term view,” says Nazrana Hawa, Chairperson, Full Tummy Fund. “ Nelson Mandela’s love and concern for children is a constant reminder to all of us of where everything begins. 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 stronger educational foundation upon which a healthier, more prosperous and better society may be built.”

* The general public can support the amazing work of the Full Tummy Fund by purchasing a Feel Good Meal on various kids menus at a Spur, Panarottis and John Dory’s. For every meal bought, R2 is donated to the Full Tummy Fund. For every child that enjoys a Feel Good Meal, another child gets access to proper nutrition and a better chance to excel.