Little Angels is a community center for children and youth in the township of Hangberg in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s a registered not-for-profit: NPC 2015/373309/08.
The center was set up by Liezl Mathews in 2011, originally as a crèche as she saw a great need to keep children off the streets, away from drugs and troubled family relations. The crèche was meant as an option for families who could not pay the higher fees for a regular crèche.
The crèche soon started accepting children from clients of CARES, a substance misuse rehabilitation day center – they started sending the children of their clients to Little Angels, so that the clients could attend workshops and meetings at CARES.
Today Little Angels looks after approximately 60 children in the crèche at any one time, with many more lining up, wanting to enroll, but due to lack of facilities and an inability to pay staff proper salaries, numbers have had to be capped. The numbers also fluctuate as family situations change. In addition to this Little Angles supports 30 youth leaders, whom in turn help look after 30 after school kids; helping them with homework, playing with them and doing small workshops.
Apart from providing the children at the crèche with breakfast and lunch, as well as giving the after school and youth snacks when funds allow, there is also a Feedings Scheme for 90 children and youth taking place at Little Angels, as well as support groups for HIV and aids. The Feeding Scheme was set up in 2006 by Liezl and her sister, Jessica Tillings, who cooks all the food for both the Feeding Scheme and for Little Angels.
In addition to providing support and education for the children and youth, Little Angels often acts as a go-between agent for Child Welfare, Social Development and the Police, monitoring the children on their request. Little Angels also reports any abuse, or suspected abuse, to the aforementioned organizations. In some instances Little Angels also ensures doctor’s orders are kept; such as if a parent has a severe form of TB and is not allowed to be near their children.
All children and youth are taught about abuse, both sexual and physical, and are encouraged to tell the teachers if anything happens at home. Many cases have been brought to Child Welfare, Social Development and the police thanks to this.
Little Angles is the only organization in Hangberg where parents who cannot pay full fees for their children to attend a crèche, after school, or youth program can send their children. Whilst there are other free activities happening in Hangberg for children, there is no other educare center which offers a donation based program. Little Angels accepts children from the nearby Imizamu Yethu as well; working across borders. This is important due to mistrust between various groups in society.
Once graduating from the crèche children normally attend the local Sentinel Primary School and later Sentinel High School. As there are up to 50 children in one class educational needs are often not met and it’s important that children receive additional education from other sources. Especially as bullying, gang formation and the use of drugs are all too common occurrences at Sentinel.
Little Angels doesn’t currently have any permanent structures, but there are three shacks that act as classrooms, an office and storage room. There are also two containers; one with a kitchen and one with toilets. Electricity is currently waiting to be installed.
Little Angels is a charitable organization, surviving thanks to donations. Parents are encouraged to pay R100 per child per month, but not everyone can afford it. It’s a center for underprivileged kids, so parents who have a good income are not the ones we cater to. The staff at Little Angels receive a dinner from the Feeding Scheme on days when it operates. They also get a small stipend, just recently raised from R500 to R1750 per month. They all still live in poverty, some of them in shacks.
The vision for Little Angels is to build a community center to host the crèche and youth programs, a building that works as a safety house for children and youth and one big community hall for workshops, plays, events and sports. The outside area will be converted into a playground and sustainable garden, supplying fresh vegetables. The first step will be to put up a few classrooms this year. Recently Urban-Think Tank, an award winning architectural group, that has worked all over the world to create sustainable architectural solutions for low-income areas have stepped in; volunteering to be the conceptual architects for Little Angels. Amongst other prizes the group won the Venice Biennale in 2012.
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