Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A wonderful year at The Caledonia Rose Preschool - and a lot of thank yous!!!

It has been a long while since this blog has been attended to and in great part, this is due to the fact that we have been so busy on the ground that we have rather lost sight of the outside world!  However, we have not lost sight of the incredible provision and love and encouragement we have had from all of our loyal friends and supporters all over the world over the last year.

It is so wonderful to look back on where we have come from to where we are today.  We started off with a piece of land that was overgrown and untended and we now have a buzzing little centre that is filled with smiling happy faces every day.   We welcome 83 children a day into our classrooms and another 120 children into the centre each day to provide them with a meal and a place to play and be loved.
We started with an empty plot of land 

Children coming to school

Our first classroom - a grass mat in a teacher's back yard 

This year has seen the biggest changes at the Caledonia Rose Preschool.  Thanks to generous donations from Anthony Haggie and Ed Robrink, we have erected 3 more classrooms, increasing our student body from the 27 we had at the end of last year to the 83 children we accommodate at present.  We have been donated wonderful play equipment that the children use to the point that it has to be repaired every 3 months!  Last year, we constructed 6 blair toilets but due to the very high water table in Caledonia, we have had to construct a proper ablution block with soak away system and flushing loos.  Thanks to Alistair Geddes and Impact International as well as the Hand in Hand Foundation Worldwide, we now have 6 flushing loos for the children, 3 for girls and 3 for boys, and one for the teachers.

Our old blair toilets - a good start! 
The building of our new, very smart ablution block

Our new, nearly finished ablution block 

The verandah of our new classrooms 

Bright new playground equipment in front of our new classroom block

We have transferred our feeding programme container from the bottom of the site to an area just inside the entrance and have renovated it and painted it bright red.  We have constructed a verandah with concrete chairs and tables and the children come in well-behaved, happy little groups to receive their meal.  Thanks to Nicholas Simpson and Marta Gonzalez we have been able to carry out these renovations and will be able to feed the children until August next year without worrying about where we will find their next meal.
The feeding container before renovations 

The new feeding programme container - children washing up after eating 

Caregivers cooking porridge for children from the community 

Children enjoying their porridge 

Thanks to the Beit Trust, we are currently erecting a skills development centre which will become a space for counseling and training, in partnership with the Child Resource Institute of Zimbabwe (CRIZ) and their Support for Young Women and Girls (SWAG) programme.  This centre will open in January 2016 with reading and project resources to be used to educate the girls and to train them so that they can start projects of their own.
Construction of our new skills development centre 

Near completion!!! 

Our plans for 2016 include the construction of a sports area where the children can be taught ball skills and carry out other such activities in a covered, appropriate space.  Alongside this, we aim to run the nutrition garden where each class will have their own allocated garden and where they will learn to grow vegetables and have the opportunity to eat their own products and to give them away to those less fortunate than themselves.  We also aim to improve our water source, digging a deeper well and providing clean water to the children at the school and those on the feeding programme.  With donations from David Ryan, Juila and Andrew Mama, The Hand in Hand Foundation Worldwide and Ed Robrink and the staff of BR Status, we will be able to carry out these projects as well as cover some of the ongoing costs of the centre in the early months of next year!  

As well as the many physical changes we have seen taking place on our site this year, we have seen the most wonderful change in the children thanks to the remarkable people with whom we work.  The teachers themselves, unqualified and paid very little, are the most fantastic group of dedicated, hardworking women.  They truly love the children and are always on call to help out where needed.  They have been hugely encouraged by the formidable group of volunteers we have had join us this year.  Jo Craig, Freya Ritchie and Sarah Blythewood have uninhibitedly given of their time and effort to train the teachers, spend time with the children and be a hugely significant part of our little school.  They have added so much joy and light to the project and it is clear to see that their presence is hugely appreciated.  The other day, I was about 500m out of the school gates, around the corner from the school and a whole lot of little children ran up to my car shouting ‘Auntie Jo, Auntie Jo!!!’  They were hugely disappointed to see that it was only me!

Auntie Jo doing exercises with the children
Happy little faces having their school photo taken! 


Martha has, as per usual, been the rock of the project.  She was very ill at the beginning of the year but has come back stronger and more determined than ever before.  She is my heroine and truly teaches me so much about humility, love, fortitude and faith.  I have so much gratitude and respect for her and will never be able to thank her enough for all she has done to make this all happen.  She has been hugely assisted this year by Tammy Dykes, the director of CRIZ, whose unwavering determination and drive has seen much change happen in TFP and at the Caledonia Rose Preschool.
Martha works so hard to see all of this happen 

Our UK trustees, Charles Wentzel and Bryony Dobson, have seen the registration of The Foundations Project (UK) carried out and have both been out to visit us in Zimbabwe.  They are both on hand with advice and assistance and have been solid advisors when I have wavered every now and again.

And so, we end our year with 40 children graduating and going on to Grade 1 at various schools in the area.  This will allow us to register another 40 children next year to join us in our classrooms and my hope is that we have provided those who are leaving with the hope for a better future, a future filled with confidence, joy, physical and emotional strength but most of all with the gift of education that they can take with them into the world and hopefully one day give on to others.  

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

What a fun day we had!!!!

On 5 December, 2013, we were given our first Christmas party as children of the first Foundations Project preschool.  We arrived at 10am in our smart uniforms and we all sat down while Auntie Memory made a speech about our first year at preschool.  Some of our parents also made speeches, saying thank you to Auntie Charlotte and Mai Damu and to our teachers who work so hard to look after us and to provide us with the best early childhood development we could get. 

We watched as 12 of our colleagues got certificates as they have left our school and are going into grade 1 this year.  After this was the best part of the day when we each were given a plate of yummy treats including delicious cupcakes made for us by Jess Irvine. Jess joined us at our party and we also welcomed Caroline Kaschula, Jess Lovemore and Kristy Fennel who helped make it even more fun!  

We were each given a pair of shoes for us to wear to school this year and they look so smart!  Most of us got given shoes that are too big but that is ok because it means we will be able to wear them all year!

We ate all our treats and danced to music in our new shoes and we also had a clown organized for us by our teachers and parents who painted our faces and helped us to break open the pinata and eat all the sweeties!

We invited some of the other children from the community who don’t go to our school to join us for the day.  It was fun to include them in our games

Thank you so much to the people who donated money towards our shoes.  We are so grateful and love wearing them! We hope that next year you might join us at our party. 

Thank you to the following for our shoes:
James and Tania Perkins
Helga Kohler
Kath O’Neill
Louise Payne
Jo Fothergill
Natalie Demblon
Holly Hudson
Grace Hudson
Linda Hudson
Jackie Fingland
Nicky Slater
Jess Irvine
Jane Irvine
Shelagh Tozer
Gen Tozer
The Lorimers
Gemma Parvin
Sasha Ferreira
The Soles
Mim Haggie
Isabel Essery
Nick Birkby
Mea Lashbrooke
Niki de Quelen
Bryony Dobson
Lottie Wylde
Lynne Shelley
Meghan Magnussen
Julie Mercer

Here are some photos of our great celebration!
We were so blessed by donations that even children who arent at our school got given a pair of shoes

The clown made us all funny hats out of balloons

Beverly loves her shoes even though they are a bit big! 

Everyone was very proud of their presents

The clown explaining the piƱata

Everyone got a turn to try to break the paper

Brand new shoes were a great excitement in Mabvuku 

Yum, sweeties! 

The clown and the volunteers painted our faces with fun designs

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Progress in 2013

2013 has been a year of a few setbacks but also some great progress for our work at The Foundations Project.  We started off the year with a piece of land and a plan to have children learning and have ended the year with 25 children having attended preschool for 9 months with twelve of those going off to Grade 1 in 2014.

Music for Hope was the fundraiser of the year and Theresa Craig, Muzi Dube and Tammy Dykes helped us tirelessly to pull off a superb, world class event (Live Aid here we come!)  We had amazing artists donating their time and musical talent and put on an afternoon of entertainment including the Chisipite  and Hellenic School orchestras and ending with the main event, The Rusike Brothers, getting everyone off their feet and dancing late into the night.
The Chisipite Orchestra play at our Music for Hope concert 

Our teachers enjoy the music and dance until it is dark 

Unfortunately the event was rather overshadowed by the rain and the rugby so we did not make much money but all who came learnt more about The Foundations Project and our wonderful volunteer teachers got to have a day of fun away from the day-to-day life of Caledonia.

We held a St Patricks Day function at Elcombes Restaurant in Graniteside where we had fantastic donations of food and a live band that played late into the night. We were joined by guests from the Irish Embassy as well as other supporters who ate and drank in celebration of St Patrick and of our work. 

Our wonderful volunteer, Alice, worked tirelessly to pull off a great St Paddys celebration 

However, where the fundraising was slow, we were moving quickly in our work in the community.  25 children paid $5 to register at the Caledonia ECD centre and our teachers underwent training provided by a local organization.  They learnt a great deal and were able to take what they had gained back to the children and start to provide them with the intellectual, physical and emotional stimulation that they have been lacking.  We feed these children a meal a day and hope that in the future, we will be able to provide this service to those children in the community who do not receive even one meal a day and who are in dire need of such a programme.
Children enjoy a treat of chips donated by Miracle Missions but eat ePap on a daily basis, a porridge that provides them with all the nutrition they need to grow big and strong 
Blessing enjoying her lunch 

In July, we bought a shade cloth to protect the children from the heat of the day.  And in October, we bought our first container classroom, a renovated container that was very kindly delivered free of charge by Brendon Malloch-Brown from CONTAINAWISE who has been incredibly supportive of our work thus far.  We could now transport all the toys, books and puzzles that we have had donated to our classroom.  The children’s eyes were out on stalks when they suddenly had the chance to play with the toys that had been donated.  They laughed and played and shared together that day and have done so ever since.
Proud teachers and students under their first classroom 
And the arrival of their real classroom!!! 
There was a great deal of excitement and joy over new toys and games to play with

We held our Christmas party at the Caledonia centre last week where those who were leaving us next year received a certificate and every child received a pair of shoes donated by a generous supporter.  We invited some of the other children from the community to take part in the festivities and it was incredible to witness the difference between the children who have been going to our school and those who came to see what was going on.  They are so much more socially and physically developed and they are confident and proud of who they are.  The hope is that we can ensure that many more children end up this way in the years to come.
Children leaving our school next year received certificates for their attendance at our school 

Our children in their new uniforms wait to have their hands washed before they enjoy the Christmas treats they were to enjoy 

The parents and teachers organised a clown to entertain the children - he made their day! 

55 children at our school and in the community have received a pair of shoes thanks to those who have donated $10 towards our shoe project - thank you!!! 

What we have to look forward to in 2014 is a small farm project that we hope to take on and assist with renovations and teacher training in the year ahead.  The ECD centre on the farm currently caters for 33 children but they are all taught by one teacher, no matter what age they are and they learn in a run down classroom with no resources to speak of.  Our hope is that we can provide renovations and resources and open up the school to many more children in the area.   We also hope to feed the students at the school as well as those in the community who are not so fortunate as to receive any form of nutrition during their day. 

So much can be done to renovate this school and make it into a wonderful place for the farm children to go to school
We thank you all so much for your interest, prayers and ongoing support of our work and look forward to updating you as we move into a new year with new possibilities – the sky is the limit!