With the demanding work schedules of many parents, the need for professionally trained, trustworthy child carers have become even more important. Thanks to funding received from the Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds (HJMNF), Bergzicht Training and Development has been able to do just that – train 11 beneficiaries through its Child Care Programme this year. However, the donation from HJMNF is not only ensuring the supply of professionally trained child carers for the Boland area, but helping unemployed youth acquire skills that are in high demand in the local market.

The graduates were addressed by Mr Chris Nissen, a Western Cape South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) commissioner and a former United Democratic Front activist, who moved between isiXhosa, English and Afrikaans as he congratulated the students on completing the programme.

Touching on the challenges that many of the students faced in their daily lives, Nissen said: “We live in communities where poverty, unemployment, and inequality have a major impact on the lives of individuals living in those communities. We see children as young as nine walking around with guns, being used by drug lords to do their dirty work.”

“We have homes where fathers are absent and the responsibility of childrearing falls on the mother’s shoulders.”

However, said Nissen, it is organisations like Bergzicht Training and Development that through its work with unemployed, unskilled and semi-skilled youth was helping to “bring transformation to our communities”. He encouraged the graduates to take the investment that had been made in their education and to plow it back into the communities where they will eventually work as child carers or teaching assistants.

“Some of you may find yourself in very difficult circumstances. You may find yourself working with parents who are not interested in their child’s education, parents who are unable to pay basic school fees or with learners who are being abused or starving.”

“Be the person who says, I am going to take this child that has been entrusted to me, and I am going to pour my time, talent and skills into this child so that the formative years of their education is so good that one day this child will have the capacity to pursue their dreams no matter what. Pilots, nurses, doctors, entrepreneurs and teachers can pass through your hands. You have the responsibility and the known-how to create a generation of professional people who will transform our society. Despite all the odds, I know you can do it, because Bergzicht Training and Development has given you the foundation to do that. Today you are not  entering a job, you are entering a calling,” said Nissen.

The graduates were also addressed by Bergzicht Training and Development Child Care Programme alumnus, Erna Smith who works as a child carer for the Serdyn family in Unie Park in Stellenbosch. For the last eight years, Erna has raised the Serdyn children – Pierre (7), Petrus (5) and little Rose (3).

One of the students who graduated on the day, Janine Stevense, said that she was “grateful for the support that she received from her teachers, Eleanor and Hillary” as well as everything she had learned during the programme.

“Mostly, I want to thank our parents, who pushed us to get to this point and who helped ensure our success,” she said.

Photo: Thanks to the Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds, 11 beneficiaries were able to complete the Child Care Programme at Bergzicht Training and Development recently and can now take up employment as child carers, nannies, au pairs and teachers’ assistants. In the front from the left are Lesley-Ann Swarts:, Johannie Serdyn, a Ward Councillor from the Stellenbosch Municipality; Yolanda Kiewiets; Nedean De Wet; Jessica May; Busiswa Mandlake; Michell Jones and Norma Steenkamp. At the back from the left are Celene Fernandez, Zena Rhode, Shwanice Smith, Odette George, Lauren Baadjies, Jaydene Stevens and Chris Nissen, a Western Cape South African Human Rights Commission commissioner. If you are looking for a reliable, well-trained child carer, nanny or au pair, you can contact Bergzicht Training and Development at 021 883 3525 or reception@bergzicht.org.za  (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)