Group creates reading stars in honour of girl

2015-11-17 06:00
Pupils stand with reading materials during a session at Jennifer’s Reading Club.

Pupils stand with reading materials during a session at Jennifer’s Reading Club.

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“Parkwood has a good story to tell.”

These are the words of Esmé Padayachee, who has invested three years of her own time and money to help children of Parkwood read and build their reading skills.

Jennifer’s Reading Club was started by Padayachee in 2012 to commemorate the life of nine-year-old Jennifer Williams, who was brutally murdered.

Padayachee says she wanted to turn the outcome of the heinous crime around by bringing hope to the youth of Parkwood.

“I know the Parkwood of yesteryear. This is not the community I knew of that time and it is sad, but I only know of good things in Parkwood and that is why I have started this club – to bring out the good in our youth,” Padayachee says.

It was hoped that by taking children off the streets on a Saturday and teaching them literacy skills, Padayachee believes, they would not only be in a secure environment and have lunch but would also learn social skills that would eventually enable them to break the vicious shackles of grinding poverty.

“When we started the programme in 2012 we had about 200 pupils visiting the centre on a Saturday. However, these numbers have dwindled and now we have about 80 pupils visit every week. I believe that a child cannot be taught on an empty stomach, so when they come to the programme they are given a light meal as well,” she says.

Padayachee adds: “To break the vicious cycle pupils are trapped in, community interventions such as literacy and numeracy skills development can offer children an escape mechanism and a fighting chance to become responsible citizens.”

Pupils of the four schools in the area frequent the class every week in which they sit down and read for two hours.

The children meet to read at the Methodist Church in Willow Road every Saturday between 10:00 and noon.

“I have a team of dedicated retired teachers who come out and assist with the classes every week. The children are very receptive and they really enjoy engaging with each other in the space,” she continues.

More plansPadayachee adds the programme is currently undergoing restructuring. New plans await in the new year.

“We have registered as a non-profit organisation and are just awaiting confirmation of our registration number.

“All the years the group has been funded from my pocket and the good will of sponsors and friends of mine who felt the cause worthy.

“These kids come from broken homes and all we want to do is create a space for them where they can be children again. With the restructuring we are looking at incorporating the mothers of these children as well,” Padayachee says.

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