After completing the Edu Care Programme at Bergzicht Training and Development and countless job applications submitted to day and aftercare centres around the Western Cape, Danine van Rooi (29), took her own initiative and opened Little Miracles Day and Aftercare at her house in Rietpoel Street in Wesbank, Delft. The facility now caters to a growing need within her community for reliable and effective early childhood development facilities.

On the day we visit Danine’s home-based day and aftercare centre, the children are busy practising their fine motor skills as they engage in a creative activity that involves the stringing together of beads, the cutting of paper and the pasting of various other materials  to create an art product. In a community plagued by violence, where parents are forced to work long hours to forge a living for their families, where good childcare facilities are not always guaranteed and where young children are often left in the care of slightly older siblings, grandparents, extended family members and neighbours, Danine uses the knowledge she obtained at Bergzicht Training and Development to give the children in her care a good educational start.

“Wesbank is a really chaotic place at times, so I am happy that I can help keep some of the children off the street,” says Danine as she shows the kids how to apply some glue to the torn paper they are pasting on their art work.

Danine grew up on a farm near Vlottenburg and completed matric in 2005. She had hoped to study social work or teaching, but due to poor matric results and financial constraints, she was unable to do so. After matric she was unemployed for a while before accepting a position as a cashier at Pick n Pay. However, the working hours were demanding and she was expected to work most weekends. Eventually she quit that job and and after being unemployed for three years, she moved to Wesbank where she got married. Unable to afford a house, Danine and her husband temporarily moved in with her parents.

“One day my mother, who works in Stellenbosch, suggested I go to Bergzicht Training and Development as it would still allow me to work with children. Many of my cousins had also studied there,” says Danine.

In 2009, Danine and her husband applied for a RDP house and finally received one six years later.

Shortly after, she enrolled at Bergzicht Training and Development and completed the Life Skills course and the iPOWER (Self-Empowering) Foundation Programme (previously Home Management). In 2016, she also completed the Edu Care Programme.

“I handed in my CV at many places, but no one phoned back. Then one day, while sitting at home again with nothing to do, I asked myself: why not start your own business. Many of our community members knew that I had completed the Edu Care Programme and they were looking for a responsible person to look after their children,” explains Danine.

A people’s person whose home had always been open to the neighbourhood children, Danine decided that it was a worth a try. When the school term started in January 2017, she opened her own crèche.

“I started out with seven children and now there are 16 children and I am in the process of registering the crèche,” she adds.

The registration process is a long and intensive one with a range of visits conducted by social workers to evaluate Danine’s day and aftercare facility and the educational offering.

Since opening the facility, Danine has converted parts of her home into a learning space for the 16 children in her care. Learning materials that she created during her studies at Bergzicht Training and Development can be seen on the wall in a room which was once her lounge, but now is a fully-fledged classroom.

“We are now working on expanding the premises by creating a play area in front and behind our house,” she explains.

In order to fund these additional plans, Danine uses the beading and jewellery making skills she also obtained at Bergzicht Training and Development to make and sell jewellery in her free time to supplement her income. During the day, she uses this same skill to teach the children beadwork, which improves their fine motor skills too. To further cut costs, but still enhance the children’s learning experience, she ropes in their help to make play dough according to a recipe she was taught at Bergzicht Training and Development and uses this dough in educational play.

“Starting this crèche has changed my life in a major way. In the evenings, when my husband gets home from work, I spend hours talking to him about what I did with the children during the day. It has also brought us closer as a family as we now sit down in the evening to plan what we want to do with the crèche, the house and other things in future.”

“I have also grown a lot. While I have always been friendly, I used to be very shy, but now I am lot more outspoken and I am learning new things every day. This experience has made me excited about my future again.”

In a country like South Africa with a high unemployment rate – something Danine has experienced herself – she is positive that it is possible to find one’s own inner strength to turn your life around in small ways.

“There is always hope. There is no such thing as not being able to do something for yourself and you would never know what you can do if you are not willing to take the first step. I would never have thought that I would be able to work with children had I not gone to Bergzicht Training and Development and started reaching out to others. By speaking to other people, I learned about opportunities I would never have known about before and the best part is that these opportunities are often free.

“You don’t necessarily have to start by opening a crèche, however, you can combine the skills you learn at Bergzicht Training and Development with the entrepreneur skills they teach you and find a way to earn an income when you are struggling to find a job. I also regularly refer those persons I see loitering in the community to Bergzicht Training and Development, because I know, even if I could do it all over again, I would choose Bergzicht Training and Development every time.”

Photo: Danine van Rooi teaches the children in her care the days of the week during a fun, singing session at her Little Miracles Day and Aftercare in Wesbank, Delft.