A club with many stories to tell

2017-04-27 06:01
Volunteer, Noluthando Skota mesmerizes th e group with stories.

Volunteer, Noluthando Skota mesmerizes th e group with stories.

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Every Saturday morning the KwaFaku Vulindlela Reading Club not only opens its doors, but a world of reading to dozens of children in Lower Crossroads.

At 10AM club members, including confessed romance fan Sesethu Skota, 14, start streaming in.

“We learn a lot here,” she says.

It is not only her love of books and stories that has kept the Grade 9 pupil a dedicated club member for the past five years.

The club is a safe space for her and her friends to share their opinions and use their imagination.

And as one of the club’s founding volunteers, Malusi Ntoyapi says, here “they learn to use their voices”.

Sesethu, who says she has grown confident enough to even address a school assembly, agrees.

“It gives me courage,” she says.

A typical Saturday starts with free reading as members arrive and volunteers go about temporarily transforming the African Gospel Church venue into the KwaFaku Vulindlela Reading Club.

Once everyone has settled down, the children are given a chance to tell the group about the highlights or lowest points of their week.

When City Vision visited, highlights included school trips, while one of the members says his week was spoilt after he didn’t get a present for his birthday.

“Let’s give him a hug,” volunteer Luleka Mehlomakhulu says to the group seated in a circle.

“Aaaaw,” they all say, with arms wrapped around each other.

The “group hug” is apparently very popular among members.

“Sometimes I just want to share my feelings,” explains 10-year-old Asanele Tibisono, who says the “group hug” helps when she’s feeling down.

Club members put down their thoughts after hearing a story.

Started almost six years ago at the KwaFaku Primary School, the club is now in the process of trying to establish satellite clubs, started by members themselves, closer to their homes.

Tibisono is among those who have taken this task on.

Two groups give positive feedback on how their efforts are going.

However, one of the new clubs has encountered a challenge.

Some new recruits disappear as soon as the snacks, including apples which they cut up and share, are finished.

But they promise to keep the after-school club going.

After Thandile Ntshingana, one of the longest serving volunteers, leads the group in a numbers memory game, it’s time for a story.

Either read or told, the stories are used to encourage critical thinking and understanding.

The exercises that follow also help strengthen one of the club’s core principles of viewing reading and literacy as a social practice that children can use in their everyday lives, not only to do better at school, but to help them have more meaningful interactions with their peers and adults.

When Mehlomakhulu tells a story about a bear which, along with his cubs, is stung to death by bees after he steals their honey, some of the members wonder why the honey bees didn’t die soon after stinging the bears, as nature dictates.

Some of them are concerned by the bees’ decision to kill the innocent cubs.

The club relies on donations from volunteers and supplementary sponsorships from organisations usch as Fundza, Biblionef, Nalibali and Shine Literacy.

A significant amount of support comes from the children’s parents and residents of Lower, as Lower Crossroads, is popularly known.

“If it wasn’t for the community of Lower, the club wouldn’t exist,” says Ntoyapi.

When the KwaFaku Vulindlela Reading Club went on its first camping trip last year, parents chipped in with donations of money and food for the weekend away.

‘These people are like my family’

Some donate stationery, while one parent gave a presentation at work about the club to secure a donation, Ntoyapi says.

“Our materials are kept by a lady who lives nearby. She opened her house to us,” says Ntoyapi.

During the wet and cold winter months she sometimes makes them soup.

And if the congregation of the African Gospel Church hadn’t given them the use of their church for the past five years, there wouldn’t be a clubhouse.

But perhaps the greatest gift the community of Lower Crossroads has given the club, says Ntoyapi, are the volunteers who, driven by a passion for childhood development and literacy, give freely of their time to help children in Lower Crossroads learn how to navigate the world with confidence.

For most of the members, the clubhouse is a place where they do more than read or listen to stories.

It is a place where they learn special hugs and claps. It’s one more place to belong.

“These people are like my family,” says Sesethu.

What you can do to help the club grow:

Volunteer

The club has put out a call for professionals to participate in a career awareness programme by giving talks to members about their careers and taking a child to work.

Volunteers are also needed to help restart a Friday afternoon reading programme and to monitor satellite reading clubs.

A volunteer, Noluthando Skota dazzles the group. The club is planning on expanding its activities to include an arts and crafts and life skills programme including cooking and sewing. Donations of kitchen equipment and supplies, art and sewing supplies are needed, as well as books and stationery.

For more information visit KwaFaku Vulindlela Reading Club on Facebook. To help, contact Malusi Ntoyapi at mntoyapi@yahoo.com/072 343 3552.

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