One of the projects we work closely with is Fikelela Children’s Home in Khayelitsha. Fikelela is a registered place of safety that cares for young children that have been abandoned, orphaned, neglected or abused. The wonderful team at Fikelela is committed to reunifying children with their families or placing the children into good foster homes, which are carefully screened and monitored by their social workers.
Our volunteers assist qualified teachers with structured lessons twice a week. The children come from backgrounds where education has not been a priority, so these lessons are designed to help the children improve their maths and English fluency, improve their fine motor and gross motor skills, build confidence, and improve self-esteem.
Our volunteers also assist the care workers with the children when they get home from school, help the staff to serve food, fold laundry, prepare the babies and older children for bath time and get them ready for bed with a relaxing activity or story. Throughout their stay, volunteers are encouraged to interact with the children in a beneficial way, which promotes learning through play.
In July, we welcomed another wonderful volunteer to Cape Town. Andrea joined us from Venezuela to spend eight weeks volunteering at Fikelela, and she has been a huge asset during her stay. With her birthday approaching in September, her family had been asking Andrea what she would like as a gift. Instead of presents, Andrea asked for donations for the children, and with that, her parents offered to cover the costs of an outing for them!
The decision about where to take them was an easy one. Last year Heather organised for the Two Oceans Aquarium to visit Fikelela with their mobile aquarium, Oceans in Motion. Thabo entertained the children and introduced them to sea anemones, starfish and sea urchins, which of course they loved! We have also covered a variety of marine life in their lessons, so a visit to the real aquarium was on top of our list!
The whole day was simple to organise, with Two Oceans Aquarium, the Santa Ana Spur in the V&A Waterfront, and our transport provider all being a pleasure to communicate with.
On Sunday 16 August, we collected 15 of the five- to eight-year-olds from Fikelela, along with Nomawethu, one of the home’s experienced care workers. The children were so excited and they sang many of their favourite songs as we made our way to Cape Town in Majestic Liners’ very clean 22-seater bus. Along the way we stopped at Ashanti Lodge in Gardens to pick up Andrea, and another of our volunteers called Kathy from the USA. Having five pairs of eyes to look after all the children turned out to be a perfect ratio!
The visit to the Aquarium was wonderful, and it would be fair to say that the children loved every minute! From the novelty of washing their hands with liquid soap and using the air-dryer in the toilets, to seeing huge ragged-tooth sharks swimming by, this was a day they’ll never forget.
Amongst the many highlights, the children enjoyed seeing all the colourful fish, moray eels, seahorses, rays, sharks, crabs, jellyfish, anemones, the kelp forest, the touch pool and of course, the predator exhibit.
During our tour we were very lucky to arrive at the African penguin enclosure just before feeding time. The penguins were gathering expectantly, and the children were completely captivated! They loved seeing how the penguins ate the sardines, and how some of them would dive into the water to catch their food.
Nearly two hours of fun later, it was time to leave the aquarium for a stroll through the waterfront, and lunch at the Santa Ana Spur where the children were able to choose their food from a menu… a very rare treat indeed!
The trip back to Fikelela was a much quieter one, with a bus full of very happy, very tired children. In the days since, the children have been talking excitedly about their favourite moments, all the marine life they saw, and treating us to their impersonations of waddling penguins. During this afternoons lesson at Fikelela we have a movie slideshow to share with them, featuring images from this most memorable day.
None of this would have been possible without Andrea and her parents, and I think seeing the impact this had on the children was an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved. A special thanks must also go to Basil from Majestic Liners for getting us to and from the Aquarium safely, to the staff at Santa Ana Spur for the face-painting and free ice cream, and of course to everyone at the Two Oceans Aquarium for creating an incredible day out for these very special children. Last but not least, a big thank you to Andrea, Kathy and Nomawethu for helping us to look after all the children. There is no doubt that we were all just as tired at the end of this day!
See photos of our Fikelela Aquarium outing on Facebook