NPO team on a mission to bring centre back to life

2018-07-25 06:01
At the back, from left, are German volunteers Lena Mahnert and Miriam Schuab, Mihlali Nhavi, Sonwabo Deliwe, Nipa James, Andile Tshete and centre manager Melanie Kramer. In front from left are Davian Miggels, Vuyolwethu Ludwabe and Luciano Baadjies.                                            PhotoS:ZELDRÉ strauss SWANEPOEL

At the back, from left, are German volunteers Lena Mahnert and Miriam Schuab, Mihlali Nhavi, Sonwabo Deliwe, Nipa James, Andile Tshete and centre manager Melanie Kramer. In front from left are Davian Miggels, Vuyolwethu Ludwabe and Luciano Baadjies. PhotoS:ZELDRÉ strauss SWANEPOEL

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THEY have been looking after the special needs children from disadvantaged communities in Nelson Mandela Bay for 30 years, but many people do not even know they exist.

Located in the Windvogel area, Ithemba Special Day Care Centre initially fell under the auspices of Port Elizabeth Mental Health until 2012, before becoming an indepen-dent NPO.

The team of unsung heroes consists of three full-time teachers, three teaching assistants, a gardener, a chef, the centre manager and two volunteers.

Ithemba’s purpose is to care for the children and assist them to reach their full potential and optimal level of independence through physical, nutritional and educational programmes.

“The centre is really only here because the parents cannot afford to send their children to government centres,” said centre manager, Melanie Kramer.

Ithemba can currently only accommodate 45 children at a time and they are almost at capacity with 44 children between the ages of six and 18.

Kramer, who has only been at the centre for about four months, said she enjoys being there and seeing how enthusiastic the children are.

“They do schoolwork according to their abilities and we have projects like gardening, baking, which I get involved in, and a car wash.

“We take the bigger boys to the car wash. This is basically just to teach them skills they can use when they leave here.”

They have a garden on the premises where they plant a number of vegetables. A group of German volunteers are currently having a blast getting the area ready for planting under the watchful eye of Andile Tshete, the centre’s gardener.

“I don’t have to ask one of the teachers to give you Ithemba’s history, because he (Tshete) has been here for as long as the centre has existed. He has a very good relationship with the children,” Kramer said.

Since she started working at the centre, Kramer said she noticed there were quite a lot of challenges, the biggest being funding.

“It is our passion to be here. We are not here for the money, but we need it to keep the centre going.

“We only exist because of the funding we get from overseas companies, local sponsors and so on. The Department of Social Development only pays a stipend for one of our teachers.”

The rest of the centre’s challenges stem from the lack of funds, especially when it comes to basic maintenance.

“The building is a bit rundown and it is not safe for the children. Unfortunately, we don’t have the money to spend on maintenance.”

The rocky driveway needs to be paved, the playground upgraded, the ramps in entryways repaired and supporting rails must be put up on the walls. The building itself is also in dire need of a bit of tender loving care.

“Sometimes, like when it’s Mandela Day, we get someone who paints the outside walls for us, but they tell me it’s been quite a while.

“If there was a beautiful sign on the outside, people might respect the space more,” Kramer explained, following a recent incident in which their telephone cables were stolen.

The school also cannot afford its own transportation and one of the children travels from as far away as Motherwell every day.

“We really just want people to know about Ithemba. If there is someone who could help with maintenance so the children wouldn’t get hurt, I would so grateful,” Kramer said.

The centre provides two meals a day for the children and they often get donations of food.

However, they still need basic supplies for the kitchen, office, classrooms and bathrooms.

In celebration of their 30th birthday, Ithemba Special Day Care Centre’s management team is planning to bring out a recipe book.

For more info on Ithemba Special Day Care Centre go to www.sdcithemba.com or the Special Daycare Centre Ithemba Facebook page.

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