Warming HEARTS at Mother of Peace

2016-07-27 06:00
Gaby Waakhuijsen (front) teaches drama and dancing to MoP children Photo: supplied.

Gaby Waakhuijsen (front) teaches drama and dancing to MoP children Photo: supplied.

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GABY Waakhuijsen is a volunteer from Holland who assists at Mother of Peace (MoP). Since her first visit to South Africa and MoP, she has returned every year.

“To work here with all the children and the smiles when you arrive is the most rewarding feeling one can ever get, it keeps bringing me back here. I receive so many heartfelt letters, when I return - ‘Please come back and dance with us, we miss you’, it breaks my heart,” she said.

Waakhuijsen said she struggles to combine her two lives. “Here [at MoP] I am so at home, and also at home. I am never complete, I am torn between two worlds. Even now after eight years,” she said.

Waakhuijsen visited MoP the first time with her mother, Denise and her sister, Chella from Holland in 2008. The family was so overwhelmed with the children that they quickly become part of the MoP family.

“We wanted to do something that will help the children and realised drama works in Holland, so why not here? “We decided to create a theatre and completed it in our four-week stay. Nobody thought it would be possible, but we did. We engaged with drama and dancing lessons and did a puppet show for the younger ones. At first the children were very shy, but now I can see how much they have grown in self-confidence. The children were three when we did Lion King, and now in their teens, they still remember it,” she said.

Waakhuijsen added the children have a natural ability and are also very willing to learn.
“It is especially rewarding for the children who are not good at school to learn there is something they can do.”

Beside the dancing she noticed that many children are also good at sports or music.
“It is great to see that MoP is trying everything so they can now practise what they like to do and are good at. It helps the children to see their individual needs and individuality recognised. The fact that they are now allowed to hone their individual skills is extremely valuable. It is so important to build skills, teach them honesty and that they are entitled to their own opinion.”

Upon the family’s return to Holland, they started an organisation called “Sihla Africa” to raise money for MoP and all funds raised are used to do projects for MoP, of which they have undertaken many.

“We returned in 2009 and since then we return twice yearly. More recently my sister moved to Malaysia, and I come alone. Unfortunately, due to economics, I can now only see the children once a year. I also run my own drama theatre in Holland, which is very time intensive. It is a pity because the holidays are so different I can stay only four weeks.”

Waakhuijsen said in Holland people start school at the age of four and then complete Grade 1 to Grade 9 in primary school. In high school there are different levels. One can do four years and then go into a trade or five to six years to enter university.

“I was 11 did two auditions for a show and then got selected. At the age of 13, nearly 14 I started dancing at a dancing school and I was nearly 16 when I started teaching dancing at that same dancing school twice a week.
“Later on, I was teaching four times a week and had to get special permission to miss classes at school when I was approached to teach at a theatre. I focused on drama, acting and dancing. I eventually left dance school to become co-ordinator at the theatre school.
“In 2010, I left my job to come to MoP for six months. When I returned to Holland it was a growth period and after six months I was asked to take over the whole school. I asked my mother to help me and since then we have done it together. Chella is doing all our graphic design, it has now been four years,” she said.

The school has 350 children and their children perform in big movies and drama productions, the value of the skills bought to the children to MoP can simply not been measured, but more importantly so is the love and acceptance given so easily by this volunteer and her family.

Waakhuijsen says her life’s motto is “Do things from your heart,” and in so doing, she has captured the hearts of children, many whom have been abandoned by their families.

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