In April 2019, Umthawelanga Educare in Mfuleni was on the brink of closure because of health and safety concerns. But thanks to an intervention from The Little Optimist Trust, the revamped school was re-opened on Tuesday, and will now be able to provide 32 children with a secure educational space in the new year.
Kholeka Hanise, who founded the school in 2002, intended to refurbish her space after new government guidelines meant that crèches and educares could no longer function in small shacks. She’d saved enough to buy new wall panels and spent weekends trying to complete the space, but uneven floors and a leaking ceiling meant she couldn’t legally operate a school.
It was at this point that her plight came to the attention of The Little Optimist Trust, which called on its corporate sponsors to help assist renovate Hanise’s school. “I kept praying and trusting that God will help me, and through many difficulties, I struggled. And then He sent me help and I am very thankful,” said Hanise. “I am excited for the new year so the children can all start school again.”
The Excellence Group renovated the kitchen and Italtile sponsored bathroom items, while Youngmans Roofing, Bluescope Steel, Rigifoam, Nouwens Carpets, HITT Fitness and AFS Productions donated various other items for the centre. Bacon Plumbing provided their staff and time to install the bathroom, while B&H Plumbing in Maitland donated plumbing material.
“Umthawelanga means ‘in the shade of the sun’, which is exactly what Kholeka provides to these children, figuratively and physically,” said Greg Bertish, the founder of The Little Optimist Trust. “She has created a warm and nurturing environment for them to grow and to learn, and we are proud to have been a part of it.”
The Little Optimist Trust raises funds for at-risk children. One of its annual projects is The Great Optimist Race, which sees celebrities and medical survivors raising money for charity by racing small sailing boats in the waters of the V&A Waterfront. Money raised from this project has gone towards the refurbishment of Umthawelanga Educare.
Creche Owner: Kholeka Hanise, left,the owner of the crèche, and Mary Noko, who noticed her plight and contacted The Little Optimist Trust. Credit: The Little Optimist Trust
Creche Kitchen: The newly refurbished crèche kitchen Credit: The Little Optimist Trust