Director’s Mid Year Update June 2014

The first half of the year has been a very busy time with lots of visitors and training, in addition to constantly meeting in order to engage the coordinators and facilitators in assisting us to explore ways to seamlessly merge the two projects and the work that they do, without compromising the identity and value of the work that was previously done by the two separate projects. In addition to this, which I must add is progressing very productively, I am adapting to an office bound approach, while I grapple with funding proposals and the unique reporting requirements each funder requires. It has been a steep learning curve that continues to engage me, yet I relish the wonderful opportunities that this merger has provided for us to meet more needs and share the valuable learnings each project can put bring to the table.

Partnerships and Pilots:

FLP constantly looks at ways in which we can forge partnerships with other NGO’s as well as development organisations in order to develop more variation and at the same time, extend the expertise and reach of FLP. Our current partnerships are with the following organisations:

The African Storybook Project: (ASP) – The reading literacy levels of most of the continent’s children, after the foundation phase of schooling are far from adequate, both in providing the basic ability to read as well as the literacy necessary to proceed to the next level of schooling. There are many reasons for this.

One of the fundamental lessons learned from the FLP Rural Libraries, whether they be box libraries, or the actual library buildings that we have built, is that one of the key obstacles to learning to read is the paucity of appropriate stories for early reading in languages familiar to young African children. Since the majority of young Africans have very little to read in familiar languages, they often do not learn to read well, or enjoy reading as much as they could. This in turn means that there is not a market for African language books and publishers cannot afford to produce many such books. So young learners end up with very little to read and the cycle often continues.

FLP is constantly engaged in sourcing the most appropriate books in order to nurture the love of reading, amongst children as well as adults. The success we have experienced in developing a love for reading, individually and as a shared pleasure, has required a constant “search and source” for good material, that will provide the necessary stimulation to keep this love of reading sustained.

The FLP provision and administration of Rural Libraries, along with the story telling and writing workshops that we run, allowed for the African Storybook

Project and FLP to develop a partnership and agree that FLP will pilot the use and development of the stories used for the open source Project. FLP and ASP encourage the development and nurture, within the FLP Groups, of collecting and translating local stories. This extremely exciting venture is well underway and we are very excited about the inclusion of stories that FLP has translated and versioned, as well as stories that are currently being collected in our groups.

Nal’ibali reading for pleasure initiative – FLP has 27 children’s reading clubs and 1 teen club for research purposes – 637 children in total. Children love making their own books from the Avusa supplements, and Phumy Zikode, our literacy coordinator, produces learning units that our facilitators use in their Reading Club sessions. The Nal’ibali website and the supplements are full of ideas on how to get children reading, writing and telling stories. We are very proud to announce that a total of 1150 Children from our various FLP groups participated in the National Read Aloud Day, on 5 March. In addition, Nal’ibali runs workshops for our Facilitators in order to “spark” them into running the most interactive reading clubs for children that one can imagine. We have children absolutely enthralled at these sessions!

The Community Work Programme – We are training 175 women as home visitors in Sisonke District in the Community Works Programme. We have been shocked to see that there are still so many children who are living in extremely difficult circumstances within our district. We train small groups of 15 women once a month, so we have opportunity to work closely with them over time to ensure they are learning, developing, and constantly improving the quality of their work with families. Jill Frow, Zimbili Dlamini and Florence Molefe continue to do a wonderful job working with these women who have no ECD background.

The Valley Trust – we are still currently training coordinators and facilitators to run adult groups in their catchment. The groups are trained in family literacy and the Reflect approach, to equip them to work with adults. Chris Gibson continues to cover the IMCI materials.

Save Act – Our partnership with Save Act is flourishing. They have started training further FLP groups as well as other community groups in the area. Save Act recently appointed a field worker that is dedicated to the Sisonke Municipal region. They make use of our Resource Centre for all of their local training and meetings. This has allowed them to use the central venue for training. It assists them to work very productively and they have access to our resources. Five FLP network groups have been successfully running their savings club for the past three years.

Africa!Ignite Story Tents – This innovative project is travelling around KZN visiting provincial libraries, erecting a story tent for a week at a time, in order to encourage people to visit the libraries and participate in a variety of literacy related activities. Phumy Zikode, the FLP Library Coordinator, will train their staff to read to children.

Uthando Doll Makers – Uthando Dolls, has continued their support for FLP by donating dolls for the Khulisa CWP groups. Georgia Efford, the founder of Uthando Doll Project, is also currently working on dolls, with Australian doll makers, for our Dlalanathi Bereavement groups. We continue to be deeply touched by these volunteer doll makers, who give so freely of their time and resources to make beautiful, soft black dolls for our children.

Peace Club Initiative – We are running very successful Peace Clubs with our children. We are finding that they are being challenged to resolve conflicts peacefully by providing them with the requisite skills necessary to enable this. Phumy Zikode writes the units for the Peace Clubs, and these are then used in conjunction with the Peace Club Manuals to learn and practice the necessary skills that provide the necessary platform for them to learn new skills, exchange experiences, teach others and apply the knowledge of peace in their everyday life. Sharon Kotze, who heads up the Peace Club initiative in SA, will be continuing the FLP training, in order to ensure that our Facilitators remain Peace Ambassadors.

Khulisa Underberg – The Grindrod Family Centenary Trust has supported an ambitious programme where they have co-funded the development of new material for the home visiting programme, where there is new material included on health and nutrition as well as psychosocial skills for parents. Snoeks Desmond has co developed this material and we are very excited to begin piloting this in the existing FLP groups in the second half of 2014.

In addition to this, a pilot home visiting programme is being conducted in the Underberg and Himeville RDP housing developments. The programme is progressing well, with a lot of “new learning” emerging from the pilot. We are striving to have lots of homes in the township benefiting from the ECD skills that the home visitors bring.

Generation Joy Foundation – We are very happy to be hosting the Gen Joy Foundation during July. The partnership that we have forged over the past 10 years has seen us extend our programmes to include many schools and areas we would not have been in a position to assist were it not for their selflessness. We will supply Sports Uniforms to our teen sport’s groups, conduct training with the FLP facilitators and Coordinators, local educators as well as community members, in counselling skills. Two Psychologists will conduct these workshops in order to build upon our psychosocial programme that we already offer.

The stationery, art supplies and school resources that they provide and ship to SA through the generosity of Children’s Chance for Life, assists all of our partner schools to ensure that no child lacks the material resources to participate completely in the school programme.

Plans for the second half of the year:

– ASP African storytelling and gathering workshops in Ndodeni, Mpumlwane and Underberg;

– Nal’ibali Storytelling workshop Underberg;

– Implementation of Psychosocial Groups in Stepmore and Lotheni;

– Drama skills, role playing workshops in Lotheni,

– Generation Joy Psychosocial skills workshop – ‘Counselling skills for 0-16 year olds’;

– Generation Joy School’s Intervention visit;

– Host Peace Club and Save Act training;

– Underberg School Mastery Unit training.

Pierre Horn