The playground at Blooming Stars Educare, in Mfuleni, was alive with excitement on Wednesday August 24, when close to 200 children received an educational boost with the opening of a purpose-built playground.
The day also marked the unveiling of a new astroturf playing field donated by a non-profit organisation, Starting Chance.
The facility includes a jungle gym, a climbing structure, sand and water play areas.
Western Province and Stormers hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who was the guest speaker, said the new facility would motivate the young ones and keep them busy so that they are not tempted by drugs and alcohol.
“This is to close the gap of the past where township children did not have sport facilities. It is wonderful to see such fantastic facilities for these youngsters,” said Mr Ntubeni.
“I hope this marks the start of a life-long interest in sport and the outdoors. Some of our children in the disadvantaged areas start very late with their involvement in sport and other activities. But this will ensure that they start early.
“I am impressed with what doctor Ali and Ian Corbett are doing,” he said, refering to Starting Chance founder Ali Corbett and the organisation’s chairman, Ian Corbett.
He said being among those who had come to experience the opening of the facility encouraged him to do something for the crèche. “This is a big task. I might come back and do something for them too. But I will see what to do,” he said.
Ms Corbett, who is also Starting Chance’s secretary and in charge of its education portfolio, said the project had been challenging as land in townships was in short supply.
”Less than 10 percent of the educares in the area have any play area to speak of. Most of these play schools evolved due to women giving up their homes to take care of children while parents are at work, keeping them safe off the street, but residential plots are small. This is exciting to us,” she said.
She said outdoor play was a crucial part of a child’s development as it helped with gross motor skills, social and emotional and fine motor skill development as well as hand-eye co-ordination.
“Yet, most township children have little or no opportunity to develop these skills in safe, quality learning environments. Starting Chance, together with our partners, is working hard to change this,” she said.
Ms Corbett said her organisation had worked in Mfuleni for the past four years, providing training and development for teachers and principals, shack to chic makeovers of shack schools, access to computer training and resources and a full time field worker to mentor and support. She said they are currently working with nine pre-schools.
Mr Corbett, the chairperson of the organisation, said he was happy because the day had been made possible by Michael and Lisa Levy, two South Africans living in Washington DC.
He said Paul Ackerman of Pac Design constructed the outdoor play area.
“They have been very generous. This is fantastic. Sport can play a crucial role in children’s upbringing.
“The astroturf section is large enough for ball games to be played, creating the opportunity for mini-sport,” he said.
The excited Blooming Stars principal, Philiswa Gedesi, joked saying the couple had brought Constantia to Mfuleni.
“Our children will have the same chance as the Constantia children. They (the Corbetts) have helped us with a lot of things. They also help pre-schools with practicals and workshops. We are truly grateful to Starting Chance,” she said.
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the Starting Chance cause can visit www.startingchance.org.za or call Ali Corbett on 0824911171.