Laura du Toit
Four hefty shipping containers, three blue and one white, flank the upper end of the Malacca Road informal settlement in Red Hill, Durban North. The boxy metal structures, slightly blistered by the sun, have an unassuming air that belies the world of opportunity hidden within.
The Seed Fund is aptly named for its humble beginnings. In 2009, Arianne Hayes-Hill established a Vineyard church in Durban North and chose the Malacca settlement as a part of church outreach. Despite its years of success, Hayes-Hill felt that the interaction between the church and the children they sponsored lacked in substance. There was a pressing need to have a tangible impact on the Malacca settlement.
In 2017, Hayes-Hill and her team created the Amaphupho Yezingane Seed Fund non-profit organisation (NPO). Its registered name means dreams of children. “We focus on awakening the dream locked inside every child and empowering them, through education, to help them realise these dreams,” said Hayes-Hill.
This grand vision has blossomed and continues to bear fruit in the inconspicuous shipping containers. In the afternoons, the Seed Fund is a hive of activity as the space in front of the containers hums with the chatter of primary school children and volunteers. “We started offering an after-school homework centre for the kids, helping them with English and mathematics homework, but we began to see that the children were battling with English and as a result struggling through their schoolwork,” said Hayes-Hill.
Most of the children attend English-medium schools, which inspired the Seed Fund to introduce an English literacy programme. This produced remarkable improvements in school results. The library, tucked into one of the containers, has also expanded the children’s minds and exposed them to worlds beyond their own. “Imagination and education are key to them realising their dreams,” said Hayes-Hill.
Through generous sponsorship, the Seed Fund has been able to send two boys to Northwood School for the past three years. However, owing to a lack of good foundation phase teaching, the children have battled with the school’s high standard of education.
The realisation of this gap in their education catalysed the formation of the early childhood development (ECD) centre in the fourth container. The centre is run by two women from the community, both of whom are currently studying for ECD diplomas. Sthembile Buthelezi, one of the ECD practitioners, says: “We are teaching the children to have positive minds, which leads to happy lives and a bright future.”
In the last year, the ECD centre has been a stimulating and nurturing environment for the pre-school children, all of whom have shown a profound improvement. Buthelezi has observed the impact of education on learners. “Ever since we started the Seed Fund, the community is seeing a difference in their children’s lives, their behaviour and their school progress,” she said. “[The parents] are very happy and supportive as they are looking for the best for their children.”
Finding funding can be a challenge. “We use social media extensively to advertise what we do. This has been an incredibly impactful medium for us,” said Charlene Steytler, administrator and ECD headmistress. Through their Instagram page and word of mouth, the Seed Fund has secured funds from the 31 Club and the Angel Network, as well as several private donations.
Steytler is most proud of the Seed Fund’s child sponsorship programmes, School Buddies and Budding Stars, which are the main form of funding for education. Donating R250 per month is enough to fund one child’s education and participation in the Seed Fund’s programmes. Benefactors will also get copies of the particular child’s reports as they progress. In 2021, one of the Seed Fund’s dreams will become a reality when they send six pupils to better schools in the Red Hill area.
The Seed Fund places substantial value on educating children beyond academics. In late November 2019, a 14-year-old girl from the Malacca community went missing. She returned after three days, traumatised and deeply scarred. The teenager had been taken by a stranger to a house just kilometres from the community, where he drugged and raped her. Her testimony shook the community and galvanised the Seed Fund to act. During 2020’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign, they organised for the Jes Foord Foundation to talk to the pupils, catalysing a full anti-gender-based violence campaign.
“Over the next few years, we want to solidify their awareness and ability to prevent this from happening. We want to raise up champions who will be a voice for the children in the community,” said Steytler. Educating the community, both children and adults, about their rights and responsibilities has become an integral part of the Seed Fund’s workings. Buthelezi agrees that “the more we speak about the bad things that are happening in our country, the better our world can become”.
Not only does the Seed Fund provide education for children, but they have established several skills development programmes for adults, including business and entrepreneurial skills, decision-making skills and coping mechanisms. These initiatives have helped many community members find jobs and even start their own businesses.
The Abenzi initiative, for example, started in July 2020. The women of Abenzi, who have their own Facebook page, constantly receive orders for their handcrafted baskets, pots and bags.
To the Seed Fund, education is more than homework – it has made strides towards the holistic development of an entire community. The Seed Fund encourages pupils to look beyond their environs into the enormous possibilities that education provides. Just like the shipping containers-cum-classrooms, all it takes is a little imagination. DM/MC
Laura du Toit is a final year journalism student at Rhodes University.
"Do you not know my son with what little understanding the world is ruled?" ~ Pope Julius III
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