Dear Friends of Golden Sunbeams
Exactly three years ago – on October 11th, 2018 – we sent you the very first newsletter of our association, which had been recently established. As you know, we already had a long tradition in the work we do, as Bernd Holtkamp started his first kindergarten “Helderberg Golden Sunbeam” in the township of Macassar over 20 years ago. Today, in the 31st newsletter from Golden Sunbeams e.V., we would like to look back on what has changed in the three years since our establishment.
With many small and large construction projects, we were able to support our kindergartens in their areas until the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
We did this through creating vegetable gardens, in expanding classrooms, sanitary facilities and by building entire kitchens, as well as designing child-friendly playgrounds and outdoor facilities, by undertaking repairs of all kinds and addressing many other structural issues. But you already know all this, as we have reported these projects in our monthly newsletters.
Our work has changed since spring 2020: Even if the number of people infected with Covid-19 in South Africa was still very low, all schools and kindergartens were closed as a precaution on March 18, 2020. Only 9 days later, on March 27, 2020, the “lockdown” followed: For most South Africans this meant having to stay at home. This measure was intended to prevent Covid-19 from spreading too quickly.
The curfew in South Africa was strict: all outdoor activities were prohibited. All schools and kindergartens were closed. This made it impossible for us to do our “normal” work in kindergartens. At times we were no longer able to be on site to find out about the situation and needs of the childrens and teachers.
After the first strict lockdown, schools and kindergartens were able to re-open but the families were no longer able to pay school fees due to being unemployed. The existence of our kindergartens was at stake and everything that had previously been built with our help threatened to collapse. At the same time, hunger was growing in the townships. The aid promised by the state did not reach the needy people at all or only after a very long delay.
With the supply of sanitisers, soaps and masks, our kindergarten leaders were able to meet the strict hygiene requirements of the government and thereby reopen their kindergartens. With school fee donations, we have enabled many children to attend kindergarten again and thus helped almost all of our kindergartens to break the downward spiral. In addition, the soup kitchens and the harvests from our vegetable gardens help to satisfy hunger.
During this crisis, the relationship of trust between our kindergarten teachers and ourselves has fundamentally changed again. Even before Covid-19, they were always very grateful for the diverse support that our association provides and that enables them to run their kindergartens in a planned and targeted manner. They treated the financial and material support modestly and respectfully. They never asked us for additional support.
The period of the pandemic has demonstrated to our principals that they can rely on us even in the greatest need and that we are on their side, beside them. They have opened up more and more, they speak to us today about many of their worries and problems. The pandemic has created an even tighter bond between us – and that’s good.
Due to the pandemic, we have shifted our focus from building and expanding kindergartens to providing food and ensuring basic needs for a year and a half. We had to respond very quickly and flexibly to short-term needs in order to be able to secure the kindergartens sustainably and in the long term.
Thanks to you and our sponsors, we were able to safely guide the kindergartens supported by Golden Sunbeams e.V. through this crisis. All kindergartens have managed to survive due to the measures introduced, no kindergarten has had to be closed so far. And we are all very, very grateful for that!
Since the beginning of October 2021, we have reached “Level 1” of the 5-stage risk-adjusted strategy in South Africa. That almost means normality again.
In the hopes that things will continue to improve to us and for you in Europe and that the next lockdown can be avoided, we bid you goodbye for today and say “until the 32nd newsletter.”
Greetings from Cape Town in the spring,
Britta & Bernd