The community and children of Red Hill in the South Peninsula of Cape Town celebrated the official opening of a dedicated Early Childhood Development (ECD) facility in the settlement on 4 July. The new infrastructure will help pre-school and play school teachers and staff to host ECD activities in a safe environment.
The brand-new open-air timber deck was made possible by the generous investment of an American donor and was officially opened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on American Independence Day. The donation by the Biedenharn Foundation was made possible by Micato Safaris and its NPO arm AmericaShare who have been working and investing in Red Hill since May 2019 when they opened a library, computer and community centre for the benefit of the community.
Chris Owen-Collett, general manager of Micato Safaris in Southern Africa explains: “We saw the potential in Red Hill as an under-serviced community, and in consultation with the community stakeholders, have facilitated the investment and development of places for safe learning. Since the launch of the centre, it has become the heart of the community.
We saw the younger children at the library being normal boisterous youngsters, whilst the school-going children and the adults wanted a more ‘traditional’ library which provides a quiet space to concentrate on homework, reading, job and grant applications. So, a dedicated early childhood development space was the next step in the evolution of the project.”
Apart from the infrastructure development, the donation enables the employment of two dedicated staff members as well as furniture, equipment and art supplies and educational toys.
The Red Hill informal settlement is tucked away in the mountains on route to Cape Point and is home to approximately 1,500 disadvantaged households, most living well below the poverty line. Sadly, this means that most children in the Red Hill community are at high risk of not achieving their full potential.
According to a recent Thrive by Five Index report, the combination of risk factors faced by children in South Africa places some children at a massive disadvantage. Up to 55% of the 1.3 million children aged 4-5 years are not able to do the learning tasks expected of children their age with 28% of children falling far behind their peers from higher socio-economic backgrounds.
Fran Gebhardt, spokesperson for AmericaShare explains that the 75m² under-roof structure will help to address the challenges faced by the community.
“Red Hill is perched on a steep hillside and affords spectacular views over the Cape of Good Hope. This is the one extreme; the other is the day-to-day hardships of poverty and lack of access to basic services. This wonderful space offers the children a great place for educational activities, not to forget the inspiration of the amazing view which we fondly call ‘Umbono Wempumelelo’ – ‘A View to Success’.’” says Gebhardt.
The official opening was attended by Ross Walker, President of the Biedenharn Foundation, who was moved by the early childhood development needs in the community, when he visited the Micato-AmericaShare Centre in May 2021.
“It is ironic that Red Hill is situated on the Cape Point tourism route which sees more than a million visitors every year. Most tourists and even locals are not aware of this vibrant and close-knit community” says Owen-Collett.
“Micato and AmericaShare remain committed to continuing our support to the community through responsible tourism and the generous funding of our guests. This is a true example of how travel-with-a-purpose can drive positive change and increase the percentage of young children in South Africa who can thrive by five, setting more children up for success.”
Locals wishing to get involved are welcome, according to local librarian Ethel Tshandu; “We need volunteers to get involved with the various projects we are running. Locals can assist with homework and reading lessons as well as adult literacy and skills development. Your time is a valuable investment in the future of our community,” says Tshandu.
For more information on how to get involved contact: Glen Jones at [email protected].