Starfish Foundation


December News

2013 draws to a close and we reflect on the year that has passed for the Starfish children, Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele.

Myself and my family didn’t travel to South Africa this year as we usually do, and so we missed seeing the children ourselves and meeting with them and their teachers at the Montessori school. My mother has however kept us updated, sending reports and photo’s. It seems to have been a stable year for the children, and a year of progress on some levels and a recognition in other areas that there is still work to be done, mosty regarding language, which of course, isn’t the mother tongue of the three Starfish children.

What also seems to be a recurring theme this year are particular traits of the children. The things we read about them, their personalities, tips and tops, are nothing new – we have received similar feedback from the school(s) in previous years. I hope you enjoy reading their individual updates and perusing excerpts from their school reports which I enclose for your information. The twins turned 10 this year and Sibulele 9.

There are a few photo’s for you to see, but less than when we visit ourselves. The children have recently started their 6 week summer holiday and return to school on 13 January 2014. I have not received their end of year school reports but would like to presume at this stage that the twins will proceed to grade 5 next year and Sibulele to grade 4. I have gathered information out of the three school reports I have received for each child to write the updates here-below.


Zikhona works nicely at school and shows her nurturing nature by helping the younger children. She enjoys working in a Group. She copes well at maths and culture (life sciences? General knowledge?), but language (English) needs constant practice and attention. She works quickly (and untidily). She would benefit from slowing down and concentrating more. She seems to do the work necessary at school and then chooses to spend the remaining time tidying up. She takes pride in keeping things clean. She is a very helpful – and creative young girl. She is happy and content in her environment.


Zandile on the other hand, could benefit by working faster. She concentrates well and can be very neat when she tries. She produces good work, and interacts well with the other children. She is very helpful and is a pleasure to teach. Her reading has greatly improved but she needs constant practice with this, and needs to finish her work daily, otherwise she runs the risk of lagging behind regarding progress in language (English).


Sibu seems to learn well and apply himself. His mood swings can however still create problems for him, both in his social interaction and in learning new work. His school reports say things like, "He can do math problem-solving but can get impatient." Or, regarding language: "He does nice work if patient". His teachers sometimes have a problem introducing new work to him but once he masters it he enjoys it. He, as opposed to the twins, enjoys working on his own. He can concentrate well and is talented at drawing. His social interaction depends on his mood. He has neat handwriting and tries hard. He always finishes his work, and shows pride in it. He has good manners and shows respect for the teachers. (this frustration and almost-fear of the unknown and of change is something we’ve seen in Sibu’s development from a young age; the school does report that there is once again improvement).

Financial update

We ordered new winter uniforms (school tracksuits) for the twins in April, but Sibulele’s was still in acceptable condition. Total price: R 870 = € 87 * (*for convencience sake I use an exchange rate of 1:10 but the Rand is actually weaker to the Euro at the moment, the actual exchange rate being 1:14)

In May the school photographs were taken (the photographer and school always dress the children up in some or other theme it appears). Total R330 = € 33

See photographs

In May the taxi fees to and from school increased from R220 (€ 22) per child per month to R250 *€ 25). I find these costs exorbitant but am not in a position to find something cheaper! It is not everyone who is prepared to collect the children in the township and drive them daily - and reliably! – to and from school. At least this taxi-driver is reliable.

School fees are currently R1200 (€ 120) per month per child. We also pay homework fees of R150 (€ 15) per month per child. At the beginning of a school year Starfish pays for book packs (this year was R600 for all three children) and stationery (R720 total).

Each birthday, 14 June for Sibulele and 19 September for the twins we send muffins or cake with to school to celebrate and Starfish buys the children clothes as a gift.

See the photo’s for pictures of gifts bought for the children.

Last week my mother took Abby and shopped for a summer outfit for the children as Christmas presents from the Foundation.

All in all it seems to have been a good year for the children. The headmistress of the Montessori school has in the past year completed extra qualifications entitling her to teach higher grades according to the Montessori method. However, I intend making enquiries at the Gonubie Primary School which have been mentioned in previous newsletters. I decided not to do that this past year, as I am not sure what the best course of action is for Sibulele. He appears not to react well to change and I don’t want to prematurely and suddenly switch the children to another school again. They are settled in their small school, have built up relationships with their teachers, have made friends and although I know the children will eventually have to leave Montessori I want to try make sure its at the best moment for the children. I intend visiting both Montessori and Gonubie Primary and discussing this with the relevant parties when we visit South Africa in 2014.

As mentioned last year I need to seriously do some fund-raising for Starfish. Numerous attempts are in progress and I am awaiting meetings with both a day-care centre and a high school in the New Year. I hope they lead to something fruitful.

In closing this year, I’d like to affirm the philosophy behind Starfish’s name and agenda by recounting the story which motivate the naming of the Foundation.

"There was a young man walking down a deserted beach just before dawn. In the distance he saw a frail old man. As he approached the old man, he saw him picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the sea. The young man gazed in wonder as the old man again and again threw the small starfish from the sand to the water. He asked, 'Old man, why do you spend so much energy doing what seems to be a waste of time?' The old man explained that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. 'But there must be thousands of beaches and millions of starfish!', exclaimed the young man. 'How can you make any difference?' The old man looked down at the small starfish in his hand and as he threw it to the safety of the sea, he said, 'I made a difference to this one'.

Yet again, and on behalf of Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele: Heartfelt thanks to you for your contribution in whatever form to providing these children – this one family – with a chance, with opportunity to change their destiny. You are making a difference.

Thank you.

Wishing you and your loved ones a fine festive season and a healthy, satisfying, sparkling 2014.

Kind regards,
Lee Sutherland
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December Nieuws

As 2012 comes to an end we’d like to reflect on the second year that all three Starfish children attended Maya’s Montessori School.

Because of you the Foundation is able to support these children and pay for their education. You will find a few pictures in this newsletter, but many more (especially of the children’s schoolwork and reports) have been/will soon be placed on the website. Take a look, its amazing how the children have progressed and its lovely to see their work.

The plan this year was to try get the twins registered at Gonubie Primary School (GPS) from 2013 onwards. This is the big local Primary School which we hoped they could attend from the beginning. Because one of the twins had failed the entrance test we decided to enrol them in other local schools. We wanted to try a second time to get them into the school. An application was submitted to stream into Grade 4 - but we were recently advised that their application had been rejected. Apparently purely because of a space issue. This is what the Montessori school has advised was the reason. It is currently summer holidays in South Africa, but when the new school year begins on 16 January I will contact Gonubie Primary School to hear directly from them what the reasons for rejection were. Fortunately the Montessori school is able to offer the twins Grade 4 in 2013, so we will keep all three children at this school next year and hope that all three of them can stream into GPS in 2014.

Because of personal commitments I was able to visit South Africa (and also Maya’s) twice this past year, once in February and once in August.

What struck me the most was how much the children have grown physically. Starfish has been supporting the children since the end of 2006 and because the years seem to pass by so quickly its easy to forget that the children are also 6 years older. The twins are now 9 years and 3 months and Sibulele is 8 years and 6 months.

I enclose some pics here from the year that the Foundation was founded and the twins were 3 and Sibu 2 years old so you can see what I’m talking about.

See photo’s.

Below is an individual update on the progress and development of each child as well as the school photograph taken in May 2012.

Zikhona: Grade 3

From the end-of-the-year school report:
‘Zikhona needs to focus more on her work in order to finish her tasks. She is easily distracted. Her strong point is her nurturing nature. She looks after all the younger children and always helps wherever she can. Zikhona can read very well, but tends to lose concentration easily. Instead of sounding new words out she guesses, thereby losing the flow of the story. She loves school and has an excellent sense of humour. Zikhona will be doing grade 4 next year, but repeating some Grade 3 work.’

Looking at her scores for different areas of mathematics on her school report, she seems to do well in the basic aspects (counting, bonds, tables) but has not yet grasped the newly introduced aspects like problem-solving, patterns, measurement. She needs lots of practice.

I noticed when visiting the school twice this past year, that Zikhona is indeed very friendly, she always runs up to me for a hug. She always offers to help whenever the teacher asks for volunteers. She is however, rather clumsy, and is not very neat, more chaotic and easily distracted. As can be seen by the fact that she will be repeating some Grade 3 work, she’s starting to lag behind. The Foundation pays for homework tuition so I will query whether they can specifically practice the areas she is weak in during the next school year.

Zandile: Grade 3

If I compare the school report from the first term and the mid-year report, Zandile has shown great improvement in all areas, and it is clear she tries her best.

From the end of the year school report:
‘Zandile works hard and does lovely work. I am proud of the work she has produced this year. Zandile continues to work well and on her own to complete all her work. She concentrates well and learns new concepts easily. She is quiet and hard working and a pleasure to have in the class.’

Zandile is a confident reader who uses good vocal expression and is working hard on the use of punctuation. She enjoys reading but must take care to read what is there and not make her own story. It is a pleasure to have her for reading. Long may your love of books last, Zandile. Zandile will do Grade 4 next year!

When I visited the school I thought she would be too shy to come up to me, but she seems more free than she was as a toddler and younger girl. She did come talk to me, not running like Zikhona, but in her own time. She speaks quietly, is very polite and friendly.

Reading what I have written above for both girls, its almost a confirmation of their personalities since babyhood. Zikhona was always the ‘leading’ one of the twins, extrovert and friendly. Zandile was always the quiet, shy one, who withdraws unless she feels safe and at home. It is still that way. Funny how these characteristics are also reflected in their school work. Zikhona is practical and a carer, whilst Zandile is the more reserved, academic child. It would not surprise me if, at some stage, Zikhona will have to repeat a whole year, and that Zandile will then be a grade higher than her at school.

Both girls had a good attendance record this year, with Zikhona only being sick and absent from school 1 day, and Zandile 2 days.

Sibulele: Grade 2

There has been a definite improvement in the areas which a year ago needed working on. Last year his handwriting and reading where improving, this year they are excellent. A quote from his report at the end of 2011, so you can see the improvement:
‘Sibulele is a very bright young boy who has shown pleasing work this term; however he is also a very strong-willed and stubborn boy and can be difficult to reason with as he often argues back with the teachers and can scream for hours if he doesn’t get his way. He needs to work on this next year.’

Sibulele is still a reserved young boy who seems to battle every now and then with social skills. He loves school though, is apparently very hard-working, taking pride in his work. He still draws very well. (his love of drawing, as you may recall, has been there since he first started school). His scores on his school report were very good to excellent for almost everything.

From the end of this year’s school report:
Sibulele works very well and delivers good work. His work is neat and he is proud of it. His listening skills have improved. We still have to work at the tantrums, although this has also improved. It is a pleasure teaching him. He has settled a great deal this year, producing excellent work!! He learns new concepts quickly and has learnt a lot of social skills! Sibulele will do Grade 3 next year!

Sibulele seems to be settling more and more and his social skills appear to be improving, although slowly. In the back of my mind I do worry about how he will adapt when/if he is finally accepted at GPS. The school is much bigger, the classes are bigger and there will not be the personal attention and care possible that there is now. But we need to get the children into GPS to afford the best chance of them streaming into the Gonubie High School when they are older.

Sibulele was absent from school due to sickness 3 days this past year. Considering the health issues he has dealt with the past few years, this is definitely an improvement! At the beginning of the school year his teacher reported that he was tired every morning. She felt that it was not right for a 6 year old to be so tired. When asked Sibulele said he has rice for breakfast (This is not uncommon in poverty-stricken areas, and lets not forget the squalor the children live in. Below is a picture I took of their ‘house’ 6 years ago. Who knows what it looks like now!). When we visited the school in February this year we discussed this and the influence a diet can have on performance. We arranged with the class teacher that Starfish will pay for oats for each of the three children and that they will be given a few days’ supply to take home and eat that for breakfast. We agreed that rice is not a suitable breakfast for growing children who need to study. I also noticed that Sibulele’s teeth looked in bad condition. I can imagine that something as simple as brushing your teeth every day when you have no running water in your home is a challenge, but I stressed to Abby (thE childrens’ mother/grandmother) the importance of them brushing properly. Starfish bought toothbrushes and toothpaste and gave it to Abby with the request to ensure that this happens.

As far as finances go for 2013 the school fees have been raised to € 120 per child per month. This is a total of € 1.080,00 per term for all three children!

This excludes:

- school uniforms (different winter and summer uniform) (I guess around € 200 per child per year),
- sport fees (€ 45 per term for all three children),
- stationery fees (€ 24 per year per child),
- books (€ 20 per year per child),
- homework supervision (€ 135 per term for all three children),
- taxi fees (€ 60 per month),
- toiletries for school (each term each child has to bring 2 items)

Besides school costs, as mentioned, we provide the oats for breakfast and the Foundation also buys the children’s cake or muffins which they take to school when its their birthdays, and we buy the children clothes as a birthday and also Christmas present. During our visit in February, we also bought each child a notebook, colouring crayons, stationery for home, so that they could practice drawing and writing and colouring in at home. We also bought the story book ‘Snow White’ for them (I think it’s the only book they own) and we bought them a wall clock so that they can practice telling the time at home.

(See photo’s of presents)

Whenever I see the children at school or photo’s of the clothes Starfish buys for them its easy for me to forget the atrocious conditions the children still live in. Its hard to imagine that people who live in a city in 2012 can have no electricity, toilet, running water, and no privacy (the whole family lives in one room). But they can. It is thanks to you that these innocent children are being given a chance. Thank you for investing in their future. I will have to make an attempt to raise funds in 2013 since the funds are running low in the Starfish account. Due to circumstances I was not able to achieve this in 2012. But I do want to thank each and every one of you for your contribution, in whichever form, from sending presents with me whenever I visit South Africa, paying for and maintaining the website, translating the newsletter into Dutch, and each and every donation, incidental or regular, large or small. It all helps.

On behalf of Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele, we thank you. You are making a difference to their lives every day!

We wish you and your families and loved ones a Happy New Year, filled with health, peace and precious moments spent with loved ones.

Kind regards,
Lee Sutherland
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December Nieuws

As 2011 draws to a close we look back on a peaceful, yet successful year for the Starfish Foundation and the three children it supports.

We would like to thank you, our regular donors, for your continued generosity in 2011. We would also like to thank the ‘Foundation Friends of Larouche’ for once again donating substantially towards the education of Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele.

It seems that there is not that much ‘exciting’ to report this year, yet in a way that testifies to a relatively peaceful and stable year for the three young children whose education is our primary goal.

The most notable change that occurred this year was that, as mentioned in the newsletter 2010, the twins changed schools from Gonubie Christian School (GCS) where they attended school in 2010 to Maya’s Montessori where Sibulele is a student. All three children are finally together in one school.

When we visited Maya’s Montessori School at the beginning of May during our trip to South Africa we had an appointment with the headmistress of Maya’s. She reports that when the twins began at Maya’s there was a visible period of adjustment for Sibulele. He was cheeky and was punished by being sent out of class on-and-off for about two days. After that he seemed to settle. The girls adjusted well to the change of school.

Herewith an individual update on each child, with a photo of each child, taken in March 2011, at school:

Sibulele - Grade 1

In the course of this year it is reported that Sibu has become more independent and less clingy towards his teacher. His aggressive outbursts seem to be a thing of the past (we hope so). Overall he has adjusted very well at Maya’s. From his 3rd term school report: ‘Sibulele’s spoken language is improving. He is a very quiet boy and often needs prompting to talk. He speaks in group discussions when asked. His handwriting and reading are improving nicely. His concept of numbers and counting (Mathematics) and time are all pleasing and he seems to be coping well. He still enjoys drawing. Social and emotional development: Sibulele has his friends at school, but prefers to be alone on the playground or near the teachers. He is a very strong-willed and stubborn little boy. His is hard-working and shows pleasing work. We encourage him to interact more with the other children both in class and on the playground. Keep up the hard work Sibulele; you are working like a star.’
Sibulele turned 7 on the 14th June and as is customary Starfish provided a treat for his class (cupcakes) and a present for him (clothes).

Zandile – Grade 2

Zandile (the introvert, shy girl) does well academically and is a very tidy little girl. The fact that she does well academically is notable, considering SHE was the one who DID NOT pass the School-readiness test in 2009. I assume her shy nature affects her performance under stress.

Herewith an excerpt out of her 3rd term school report, ‘She enjoys reading very much and reads with lovely expression. She does well at spelling and mathematics. She is happy at school and always very helpful. She is kind and considerate of other’s feelings. Zandile is working hard and is progressing steadily. Well done, Zandile!’

Zikhona - Grade 2

From her 3rd term report: ‘Zikhona’s handwriting is improving but is sometimes still very untidy. She enjoys reading and her prepared reading is improving. However she battles in her spelling and phonics tests. These areas need attention. Mathematics, measurement and concept of time is average. Zikhona is so happy at school. She enjoys taking part in group activities and playing with her friends. She is always chatty and so eager to help and please. She is improving slowly but she really needs to work hard next term as she is falling behind. Come on, Zikhona, we know you can do it ...’

The girls turned 8 on 19th September and they also received a present from Starfish and a treat was sent with them to school. Starfish bought them clothes as usual as a birthday present. The children went to visit my mother on the 8th birthday of the twins. See the lovely photo taken of them with their new clothes on!

(photo of children on 19 sept)

When we met with her in May, the children’s teacher expressed concern that the childrens’ homework is sometimes not done and that she suspects the mother is not doing homework with the children. I informed the teacher that I’m certain that the mother is NOT doing homework with the children as she barely speaks a word of English herself. Although the children are now making progress in the sense that they’ve settled into a school where the primary language differs from their home language, the head of the school has advised me we are going to have to do something about homework tuition and affording the children an opportunity to practise their English outside of school hours if we want them to be able to keep up. And their homework is going to have to be done. We are liaising with the head of school for extra homework supervision from the beginning of 2012. The costs of this (to be done after school hours on the premises before the childrens’ taxi collects them) is going to be around € 30 (R300) per month per child. Apparently Zikhona needs extra tuition the most, Sibulele seems to be coping and Zandile is doing well. We will consider what we are going to do after receiving their end of year school reports and discussing the matter further with their teachers. I would prefer to offer this tuition to all three of the children, even though Zandile seems to be coping, considering they are not consistently doing their homework and don’t practise English at home.

This year all three of the children attended sport lessons on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. These lessons are on the school grounds from 13:30 to 15:00 and the children are introduced to many different sports (e.g. hockey, netball, football, cricket, baseball) to give them an opportunity to explore what they enjoy and what they are good at. This orientation will make them better able to choose an appropriate sport once they move on to Primary school. (In South Africa, contrary to in the Netherlands, different sports are offered at the Primary School itself after hours. So children don’t have to belong to different clubs). The sports lessons cost € 5 (R50) per child per month and are paid by Starfish.

Besides providing new uniforms for the twins this year (Maya’s has a different school uniform to GCS – in South Africa each school has its own uniform) we also bought all three children school tracksuits. The uniforms and tracksuits can be seen in the photo’s taken of the children at school during our visit in May.

(Place photo’s of school)

A school day for the children begins at 07:45 and ends at 12.30. At about 12.00 they are read a story and have lunch. Then they are free to play until 13.00. The children stay on the school premises until 16.00-16.30 when they are collected by their taxi driver. We arranged a few years ago that they be able to stay at the school as late as possible because the school (with other children at aftercare) is a far better environment than the poverty-stricken streets of the township where they live. And since they live in a shack with no heating or lighting and their mother only returns home at about 17.30, we will continue to keep them ‘in town’ for as long as possible each day. On you can read (in English) about the Montessori method and the structure of the day at Maya’s specifically. Schools closed on 9 December for the summer holidays.

Herewith some photo’s of the school taken from the outside, and some of a group of children doing their homework outside (Sibulele on the right. Zandile is also leaning into the group, back centre.)


Once schools reopen on 11 January 2012, the Starfish children will be attending Maya’s once again. I have not heard otherwise but that the schoolfees will remain € 100 (R1.000) per child per month. This amount excludes uniforms, outings and excursions, stationery, sports and any extra events the school organises. For those of you with children it may be clear that educating a child in South Africa costs a lot more than it does in the Netherlands. Yet I am convinced that the opportunities afforded these children by Starfish is making a radical impact on their young lives, and I hope we can continue to provide these opportunities for many more years to come. As they get older it will be up to them what they do with these opportunities.

I have a few ideas regarding a couple of extra fundraising activities during 2012 to try and boost the funds in Starfish’s bank account, and will keep you informed should anything be definitely planned.

Without your dedication to the Foundation, I am certain that Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele would not be where they are today ... on a par with other children from much more privileged backgrounds. They speak English with a lovely accent, love school and seem to settle more and more into their place there. It does my heart good to see these children having this opportunity, and it is thanks to every one of you. On behalf of the three children, thank you so much.

Wishing you and your families a Joyful Festive Season and a Healthy and peaceful 2012.

Kind regards,
Lee Sutherland
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December Nieuws

2010 is almost over and this has been an exciting year for the children of Stichting Starfish, Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele.

At the end of January Starfish received news that she had received a donation from 'Foundation Friends of Larouche'. Jan Crins, a resident of a nearby town called Beesel, passed away in February 2009. Before he died, he set up the Foundation and came to an agreement with friends of his that they sell his house and wind up his Estate. He instructed his friends that over a five year period they were to select charities which met specific criteria he listed (e.g. no large overhead costs, no large staff with big salaries) and they were to make donations to these various projects. In this way he could contribute in a meaningful way to various worthy causes. Starfish was selected with two other charities as recipients of a donation in the first year after Jan's death. See Starfish would like to thank the Friends of Larouche for selecting the Foundation. We are indeed a small charity in need of any financial aid we can get, in order to provide a good education for the three children Z, Z and S, who live in the slums of South Africa.

We would also like to thank our faithful donors, whose donations together, have achieved the splendid results the Foundation has booked so far.

Zikhona & Zandile

The twins, as reported in the newsletter of December 2009, have attended Gonubie Christian School (GCS) since the beginning of this year. In order to help them lay a good foundation for their education (in respect of language) the Foundation has hired the services of a Masters Student of Linguistics to assist them with their homework and language enrichment. The home language of these children is the tribal language, Xhosa, whilst at school lessons are given in English. At the end of 2009 when the children were assessed (and rejected) in their school-readiness test, it was Zandile who had failed. Because they were twins the Gonubie Primary School advised not to separate them. Since being accepted at GCS and receiving homework tuition, it has become clear that Zandile's was a case of performance anxiety. Once settled at GCS it seemed that she excelled more than her sister, Zikhona, in the lessons. So the school advised and implemented extra homework tuition 2 days a week for Zandile, and 5 days a week for Zikhona. This seems to have been an excellent step to have taken, as the girls are progressing nicely. On her first semester school report (end March 2010) it was noted that Zandile had made satisfactory progress, but that she still found it difficult to distinguish the difference between 'a' and 'e' sound in words. On Zikhona's report it was noted that she was beginning to recognise words more easily and that her ability to hear differences in words had improved.

When we visited South Africa in May this year we made an appointment with the twin's teacher (who happens to be the head of the school), and also got to see them at work in their classroom. See the photo's taken of the twins. They look very smart in their school uniforms. They ran up to me and gave me a hug and a big smile. And spoke to me in English. They told me they had to go to Afrikaans lesson, and I asked them if they could speak Afrikaans. 'Goeie môre, mevrouw', they said to me! (Goede morgen) Their teacher said they seemed to be settling in well. Notable things she mentioned were that both girls could memorize and recite poems well, and that they seemed to do well with counting.

In February of this year Zikhona was hit in the face by a swing. She was rushed to the doctor as her left eye was completely swollen shut and bleeding. She thankfully didn't sustain any permanent damage, other than quite large scars on her left cheekbone, and under her nose on the right side. Hopefully these scars will fade with time. If you look closely at her photo, the scars are visible. Starfish covered her medical bills for this accident. Zikhona is still the extroverted, outgoing little girl she has been since we first met her, and Zandile is still the quiet, shy one. They are both very polite, and speak English much better than when I last spoke to them. We are encouraged by their progress and are proud of both of them for their efforts this past year.


Sibulele has made the most dramatic improvement this year! He has attended Maya's Montessori since the beginning of the year. He has also undergone a Psychological assessment and 10 sessions of therapy. When we visited him and the head of his school in May, it was reported to us that he seems to have stabilised emotionally and his social interaction has improved, such that his teacher is now able to focus on his intellectual stimulation and motivation. Montessori applies an individual approach to each pupil and they focus on the specific needs of each child, respecting that child's needs. We found Sibulele in his classroom, singing songs. When that lesson ended, it was lunch break. Sibulele's teacher brought him over so that he could show us his drawings. Apparently he loves drawing and is good at it. We are so impressed with the way Sibulele has developed and settled this year that we have decided to let him attend Maya's Montessori for Grade 1 in 2011. His mid-year Report (June 2010) reports that 'his number formation is developing well, but he needs to practise with addition. He has progressed well in the language sector' (when we spoke with him, he was very shy, but speaks with a perfect accent). His report further mentions that 'he is very creative and draws well. He is a very different child to the little boy who arrived on the first day of school. He follows instructions better and is eager to please his teachers. Socially, he still battles to interact with other children and he can be restless at story-time in class, but he has improved a great deal. The school is very proud of his progress!' What a lovely report!

When I last spoke to the head of the school she told me about a school trip to the zoo Sibulele went on. Apparently he cried beforehand and said he didn't want to go because he was scared of the lions. When his teacher spoke with him, she deduced that he was afraid of the sudden change in his daily routine, more than anything else. He has a very close bond with his teacher, and when she said he could travel to the zoo in her car, he was fine and had no more emotional outbursts. This incident reflects his difficulty to accept new situations. Last month we received Sibulele's Psychological report, wherein this deduction of his teacher is confirmed. Sibulele was sent for assessment and therapy because, as reported by his previous school in 2009, he would cry excessively for no apparent reason. He failed to co-operate at school and was aggressive towards other children. His former school regarded him as an unhappy child.

The report of the psychologist found Sibulele's intellectual functioning to fall within the normal range. His personal social flexibility was however below average. This indicates that he may experience difficulty with ability to join in, accept new situations, be independent and his social development is below average. Sibulele might have been experiencing problems adjusting, which made him have difficulties accepting the new environment i.e. the school with people who speak a language foreign to him. Therefore communication became a challenge and a difficulty for him in interacting with people at school. This situation was the main reason to withdraw and be aggressive when other children approach him. This report was compiled during the course of this year. Sibulele has steadily shown improvement as the year has progressed.

One week after we returned from our holiday in South Africa in May, Sibulele fell off a slide at school and broke his arm. He had it in plaster for 6 weeks. We heard from the school that, although he had a lot of pain, he was a very brave boy. Fortunately, his arm has healed well.

The twins turned 7 on 19 September and Starfish bought them clothes and a cake (to take to school). Sibulele turned 6 on 14 June and the Foundation bought him the same.

Summer has just begun in South Africa, and the children have almost finished their last semester of school for the year. Sibulele will stay at Maya's next year. After much consideration we have decided to move the twins to Maya's as of 2011. This primarily because it will apparently be easier for them to stream through to Gonubie Primary School (GPS) from Maya's than from GCS. It has been our aim all along to get all three children registered at GPS. Another advantage is that all three children will then be attending one school.

As you can see, this year has been one of much progress and learning for all three children, and we are sure that you are as proud of them as we are. Of course, their progress, is mostly due to their own efforts. However, thanks to you, they are being given the opportunity to lay a solid foundation for their future lives. Without you, they could not have achieved what they have so far.

Thanking your sincerely for your support this past year,

Lee Sutherland
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March News

Since the new schoolyear began in South Africa, on 12 January 2009, the three children sponsored by Starfish, Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele have been attending a new kindergarten: Busy Bodies, located in the nearby town of Gonubie. From this kindergarten, where English is the language medium, they will be able to stream into a reputable primary school. They would not have been suitably prepared had they remained at the kindergarten in the township, Simunye.

Since Abby, their mother (and grandmother of Sibulele), doesn’t have transport Starfish has drawn up a contract with, and hired a taxi driver, Lwazi for a fixed fee of R150 (about 15 euro’s*) per month. He collects the children at home in the township to drive them the few kilometres to the kindergarten by 07.30 and then takes them home at the end of each day at 17.30. Lwazi has so far proved to be a very reliable and polite man.

The kindergarten provides a warm meal at lunchtime and an afternoon snack. As mentioned the children attend from 07.30 to 17.30 five days a week. The total cost for all three needs to be paid per month and is an amount of R2 600,00 (about 260 euro’s*). This is almost double Abby’s monthly salary!!

My mother buys a week’s supply of cereal for the children’s breakfast, which is served daily at 08.15. This she delivers weekly to the school. She also buys fruit juice, fruit and bread to make sandwiches. Since it is enough work for Abby to get the children ready in time for the taxi in the mornings, my mother prepares their sandwiches and mixes fruit juice daily for the three little ones and drops it off in the mornings (with a piece of fruit per child per day) at the kindergarten. The kindergarten is conveniently situated across the road from my mother’s place of work. Starfish, of course, pays for the necessary groceries required for breakfast and the sandwiches etc. for the morning snack.

Provided the twins’ English is good enough, and they pass the test required in order to stream into a government approved (Model C) school, they will be able to attend in 2010, and Sibulele in 2011. On 16 February my mother attended the Parent’s Teacher’s Association meeting at Busy Bodies together with Abby (since she is not fluent in English and my mother is fluent in Abby’s language, Xhosa, and could interpret for her). The twins’ teacher had initially thought that the twins’ English would not be good enough to pass the entrance exam for Primary School, but it turns out that their main problem is that they have difficulty in doing a maze, and connecting up things that belong together. However, children learn quickly, especially if exposed to the right stimulation so we will have to see how they progress this coming year. Sibulele, being younger, has the benefit of being able to spend an extra year at Busy Bodies, thus has more time to be adequately prepared for Primary School.

After less than a month at their new kindergarten we received exciting news about Sibulele. Apparently he is quite a talented little sportsman, and he is taking part in Sport Star Kidz, which is a Sports Academy delivered by qualified professional coaches.

The most important thing at this early stage is that the children are very happy at the kindergarten and have settled in very well. They smile and laugh and play and greet. Even Sibulele, who was always very shy, is coming out of his shell. Sometimes they go home with a gold star stuck to their foreheads, then Abby knows they’ve done something well. The teachers and nannies are all very involved, and the children are sent home everyday with a newsbook (in which any notable information from the day is communicated). Abby is overcome with gratitude. She told my mother that while she is working she thinks about what Starfish is doing for her family and is so thankful.

Herewith some photo’s of the children at Busy Bodies, and some photo’s of the kindergarten itself, so you can see where they spend their days. All the clothes the children are wearing in the photo’s were bought for them as Christmas presents by Stichting Starfish.

We’d like to thank everyone who supports these children financially. Especially since this year Abby would never be able to afford paying for the three to attend Busy Bodies or a kindergarten of the same calibre. Thanks to you, Starfish can make a marked difference from now on in the lives of these three children who come from a disadvantaged background and offer them the same opportunities we all enjoy.

(I have calculated the exchange rate South African Rand : Euro at a rate of 10:1 – at the moment the rate is around 13:1, but has been fluctuating lately.)

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December Nieuws

Another year has flown by ... Starfish Foundation has now been in existence and supporting the three children: Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele for three years.

It has been three exciting years, least of all for us setting up the Foundation and organising the registration and logistics of getting the three children into certain schools, but especially for the children themselves (and for their mother, Abby).


In 2007 they started at Simunye, a day care centre in the township where they live, and had to adjust to a daily routine and punctuality. This is of course a given for those of us who live in suburbia and have the good fortune of being born into a family which can support us and provide adequately for us. The children born in slums are not always that fortunate. Many of them are left to their own devices whilst their parents go off trying to find any work they can. So for the Starfish kids (and their mother) little things like being at school on time, going to the toilet (at home in their shacks they don't have toilets) washing their hands etc. were all new and scary things to learn. See photo update for some photo's from that first year at Simunye Day Care Centre.


At the end of 2007, the head of Simunye advised us to let the children stay for another year. Zikhona seemed ready to attend 'Busy Bodies', (the Day Care Centre, out of the township, where we had hoped to send the children in preparation for Primary School) but Zandile and Sibulele would profit from yet another year in their own surroundings and with predominantly their own language, before transferring to an English speaking environment. They both needed more self-confidence. So the decision was made to leave the children in Simunye for the year 2008.

In March 2008 Starfish was chosen by two schools in Swalmen as their Fund-raising project of the year. I gave two presentations at the schools and the local children exerted a huge effort and raised the amazing amount of € 5.276,86 for the Starfish Foundation. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone and the efforts the children put in.

Some photo's of the fund-raising activities of 2008 have been added to the photo update.


In January 2009 all three children transferred to Busy Bodies Pre-Primary School. Yet another huge adjustment for them. Having seldom been out of the township they live in, they now began attending school with children of all races, and almost all the other children come from families with far better economic backgrounds. Added to this, all the lessons at Busy Bodies are given in English, which is of course, the official language at the better schools, but still a huge adjustment for Z, Z and S. Their English at this point was rudimentary. This seemed to be the biggest obstacle at the beginning of the year. The head of Busy Bodies advised that we wait a few months and see how things go. Our hope was that the twins would be ready to stream into the Gonubie Primary School at the end of 2009, thus ensuring them a good education. Sibulele is only eligible to go to Primary School in 2011.

Busy Bodies costs around € 260 per month for the three children. This includes a warm meal at lunchtime and a snack in the afternoon. The school opens at 07.30am and closes at 17.30pm.

Starfish also organised a taxi-driver to collect the children in the slums every morning and bring them home in the afternoon when they left Busy Bodies. This transport arrangement has seemed to work well the whole year. The cost has been € 15 per month.

Apart from these costs, Starfish has also bought a 10kg pack of rice/flour every month for the family, to help them financially. At birthdays Starfish buys the children presents, usually clothes which are needed, and sends a cake to the school. At Christmas the children are given presents, once again usually clothes. Added to the photo update are some photo's of clothes bought by Starfish in May 2009.

Other incidental costs involve transport for school trips and also fees to the doctor.

I saw the children at Busy Bodies in May during our visit to South Africa, where I dropped off their sandwiches and snacks every day. (This is something my mother has done the whole year). I took photo's of them, and watched them in their play and class environment and they seemed happy enough. See the photo's I took in May.

2009 has, however, been a difficult year for the children. Sibulele turned 5 this year, and the twins 6. In respect of their health, they have been sick on and off, the girls mostly with flu and diarrhoea, which on the one hand is normal for young children, and on the other hand normal for children living in such unsanitary conditions. Sibulele has had many problems over and above the flu and diarrhoea. He had a period of having unsightly sores (ecthyma) on his head, a very bad bout of worms and his teacher thinks he is emotionally unadjusted. The school reports that he cries and screams a lot and for long and very loudly. Apparently the people living next to the school have even complained. The school has asked that Sibulele not return next year.

Starfish arranged for Sibulele to undergo a psychological assessment to try ascertain what the validity and extent of his problems are. Sibu's test was conducted at a hospital on 17 November by a clinical psychologist and she doesn't seem to think there's a psychological problem. She has filed a report asking an educational psychologist to intervene with the school saying that their not allowing him to return is unconstitutional since there is nothing psychologically wrong with him. Starfish Foundation is looking into trying to get him registered at a Montessori pre-primary school where he will have an opportunity to stream into Gonubie Primary school . The other alternative is to send him back to a pre-primary school in the township. We are currently trying to avoid this as we feel that the education offered there is sub-standard and will minimise his chances of streaming into a school with a good education.

The twins’ teacher had initially thought that their English would not be good enough to pass the entrance exam for Primary School. Later this year she reported that their main problem is that they have difficulty in doing a maze, and connecting up things that belong together. Other reports during the year on the children were that Zandile is quiet and a pleasure to teach, and Zikhona is very active and outgoing, but can sometimes lack concentration. In October the twins underwent the School-readiness-test at Gonubie Primary School and it seems that Zikhona qualifies, but that Zandile does not. Therefore both girls were declined.

My mother then approached the Gonubie Christian School which follows an American style of educating which is adapted to the pace of the learner. Apparently they came to the same conclusion as Gonubie Primary School. The contact person at this school advised my mother that it is best not to separate the twins and that they may be better off receiving an education in their mother tongue, Xhosa. The only Xhosa-speaking school in the area is in the township, and that is not where we wanted to send the children to school.

On 20 November I phoned the teacher at Gonubie Christian School who did the assessment on the girls, to discuss any possibility with her of still having the girls accepted at this school. The method of teaching at the pace of the student appeals to me, and I thought the girls might benefit the most here.

Adele Pfiffner advised that she had considered contacting my mother to let her know that she would be prepared to give the twins a chance. Much to our satisfaction she has agreed to accept Zikhona and Zandile next year, but if it turns out that they are not adapting or learning sufficiently she will let us know, and they will have to transfer to the Xhosa speaking school in the township. Her concerns are that in order for Xhosa-speaking children to adapt and make progress in an English-speaking school, there needs to be support from the home of the children. Most importantly, the children need to speak English at home and they need to do their homework every day. Abby’s English is not good at all, and having no education herself, how can one stress the importance of doing homework everyday? She is possibly also intellectually uncapable of helping the children. We are currently looking into finding someone who will do the twins homework with them and speak English to them after school for an hour or two – albeit at a cost. We want to give them the best possible Chance of remaining at the Primary school.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continuing financial support of these children. In spite of situations sometimes being difficult, we still feel it is of utmost importance that we keep trying to give them the best education we can, and of course, which they are capable of. The mother of the twins and grandmother (and guardian) of Sibulele would also like to convey her sincere thanks to you. She is continually giving messages of gratitude to my mother for all the help Starfish is giving her family, and I pass that gratitude on to you.

Thanks to you, Starfish is making a difference in the lives of these three children who come from a disadvantaged background and because of you, we are able to offer them the same opportunities we all enjoy.

We wish you and yours a merry and happy season and wish you health and prosperity in 2010.

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March News

Foundation Starfish is thrilled to announce that both the Primary School St. Lambertus and the Primary School De Mortel in Swalmen have chosen Starfish as their project for fundraising in 2008. We are extremely grateful to be selected. The organisers are at present busy planning the activities and special fundraising events.

Sint Lambertus: This is to be held at the school on 19 March 2008 from 6.30 to 8.00pm and will involve two separate fundraising 'projects'. Parents of the children who attend the school (all between the ages of 4 and 12 years old) will be preparing snacks which will be sold on the said evening. Secondly, the children will be attempting to break certain records of specific activities still to be selected by them. Before 19th March the scholars will be attempting to obtain sponsors for their selected record-breaking attempts.

De Mortel: The organisors have chosen to hold an Easter market as their fundraising activity. The proceeds of the market will be donated to Foundation Starfish. The market will be held at The Mortel on Thursday 20 March 2008 from 15.00 onwards.

I will be presenting 'Starfish' at the two schools in two separate presentations on Friday 7 March, so that the children will understand what their efforts are all about. If you are in the area on either 19th or 20th March, come along and join us and support the children, both at the schools and indirectly Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele.

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March Fundraiser St. Lambertus and de Mortel primary schools

Apologies to all for the delay in posting an update on the fundraising events at the two Primary Schools in our town, Swalmen, in March 2008. I was heavily pregnant at the time of the respective events and our baby girl was born a month prematurely in May. The first three months thereafter were spent getting to know each other, and dealing with a little one who suffered from stomach cramps. Suffice to say things are fantastic now, and she is the joy of mine and my husband, Frank’s lives. Now that we have a bit of routine established, it is time to update you on the amazing fundraising efforts of the children of the Sint Lambertus Primary school and the 'De Mortel' Primary School.

On 7 March 2008 I presented Foundation Starfish at both schools by means of a Powerpoint presentation, telling the story of how Starfish began, what the goal of Starfish is, and introducing Zandile, Zikhona and Sibulele. The children listened attentively, were sad to see the poverty Z, Z and S live in, and asked pertinent and observant questions. I was very impressed by their ability, small and young as they are, to feel sympathy for others. These presentations were organised so that the children of both schools could realise what and who they were raising money for. Although I was initially nervous to give the presentations, in retrospect, the children made it easy, being so interested and involved in the presentation. Also, knowing what one is doing it all for, helps alleviate any self-awareness, and overcome any nerves.

On Wednesday 19 March at 6.30pm I arrived at Sint Lambertus to watch the attempts of the children to break records in certain selected activities. Each of the groups 1 to 8 had selected an activity which the whole group performed for ONE MINUTE ONLY. The children had raised sponsorship before the event. A stage had been set up, behind which the photo presentation of Foundation Starfish played continuously. Each time a group commenced their activity, a huge digital clock counted down the seconds on a screen for all to see. The group 1 scholars activity was 'Jumping'. These four year olds looked so cute – all of them up on the stage, and jumping up and down for a whole minute long! Other activities performed by other groups included:
- Skipping for a minute long, and counting how many times one jumped over the rope
- Seeing how many times one could throw a ball in a bucket or basket a metre away
- Collecting as many ONE euro coins from the audience as one could in one minute
- Seeing how many bubbles one could blow (with bubble gum) in one minute
- Keeping balloons in the air for one minute
- Seeing how many times one could bounce a basketball in one minute

The huge hall where the activities was held was packed full of parents, grandparents and other family and friends of the children. On the opposite side of the hall to the podium, were tables set up to sell the snacks and drinks prepared (also) with a view to raising money for the Foundation. I experienced the evening as a fun-filled, exciting one, and was pleased to see all the children having fun. It felt that the few hours passed all too quickly, and before we knew it, the event was over. Now it was a matter of waiting a few weeks for the sponsorships to be collected before we heard how much the evening had raised!

The next day, Thursday 20 March I managed to arrive at 'De Mortel' just before 4pm. The fundraising activities had begun at 3pm with the children running a certain course near the school-to raise previously collected sponsorship. When I arrived they had just begun the Easter Market. All income from the various activities and stands was to be donated to Starfish. There were activities such as face-painting, playing TV games, getting your nails painted, breakdancing, painting, dancing, games; there were things for sale like: jewelry, toys, tea,coffee, waffles, fruit, snacks - and there was even a raffle for the donated, earlier made paintings. It was fun drifting from classroom to classroom watching the children enjoying themselves – as only children can, and knowing that we are all in it together to make money for three other little children – so that they too can have fun and a decent chance in life. Before I knew it the afternoon was over. Again, the waiting begins now to see how much the day’s actities and everybody’s efforts had raised.

Friday, 18th April I was invited to the Sint Lambertus Primary School to receive the monies raised from the Fundraising activities. The entire school was present when I received the cheque: a whopping 3.707,02 Euro’s!! I was speechless, and so excited, having never dreamed that such an amount would be raised. Almost a week later, on Thursday 24th April I attended a similar ceremonial handing over of the amounts raised at 'The Mortel'. There representatives from each of the groups 1 to 8 handed me an envelope, with an amount of money on a certificate inside. This littlest of schools in Swalmen had raised the huge amount of 1.569.84 euro’s! Again, totally unexpected. Together, thus, the children of two schools in Swalmen managed to raised the grand total of 5.276,86 euro’s. That is a lot of money, and in South Africa, that money can go a long way to bettering the lives of Zandile, Zikhona and Sibulele. For the time being, we will leave the money in the Foundation’s account and ensure we have enough to pay for at least two to three year’s education for the three children, and should we have a large enough excess, we will consider purchasing a (small) brick ‘house’ in the township – so that the children no longer have to sleep in a hovel of cast-off wood and plastic. We will update you...for now, have a look at the photo’s taken of the two fundraising events and the ceremonial handing over of the 'cheques'.

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17-01 First day at Simunye Daycare Centre

Bijna vier maanden na de oprichting van Stichting Starfish, brak de dag aan dat Zikhona, Zandile en Sibulele voor het eerst naar school gingen. De stichting had de kinderen schooltassen en lunch-trommels gekocht als kerstcadeau. Met deze tassen, die bijna net zo groot als de kinderen zelf zijn, begonnen ze met veel enthousiasme aan hun eerste schooldag!

Almost four months after Foundation Starfish was born, dawned the day that Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele attended school for the first time. The Foundation had bought them school bags and lunch boxes as Christmas gifts. Armed with these bags, which are almost as big as the children themselves, they set off in excitement for their first day of school!

It has now been almost three weeks since the school term started and today, 4 February, I have made telephonic contact with the head of their Day Care Centre, Pat Gunn, to see how the little ones are settling in. Pat has informed me that the school attempts to instil a sense of routine in the children's lives, by incorporating structure and discipline into their daily lives at Simunye. A typical day involves singing (in both English and Xhosa, the children's first language), story-telling, painting, creative, educational games and taking a nap. Most of the children do not have this discipline of having a nap, which is so important, built into their lives, and in the beginning its a challenge to get them down for their daily sleep. She reports that this has now, after three weeks, succeeded. Fridays the children get to play with play-dough, and the school covers various themes with the children. So far this year they have been learning social skills such as not to bite, kick and hurt others but to respect them.

Pat reports that the twins have settle well into the school routine and seem sociable with the other children. They especially love 'free play', when they are permitted to choose their own activities, and seem to prefer playing outside in the sandpit. Sibulele seems, at this early stage, to be struggling with settling in. He has some problems, e.g. potty training, and is not as yet very social with the other children, though he is not afraid of the teachers or the other children. Pat says it may be that he is very shy, or overwhelmed and needs more time to adjust. Zandile has in the past week also had problems with diarrhoea, though Pat says that it seems to go around the township from time to time. Abegail, the twins mom, has said that the children love school, and especially their 'fruit days'. Each child at Simunye takes two pieces of fruit to school each week, to ensure they get their vitamins!

After school, the three children are collected by Abegail's neighbour. I will be having contact with Pat on a regular basis, and will update you when there is news from her. For now, we are all very excited to hear how the children progress.... Take a look at the pictures of the children with their new school bags!

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08-08 My visit at Simunye Daycare Centre

I recently made a two week visit to South Africa and on Wednesday 8 August 2007. I had an appointment to visit Simunye Day Care Centre to see how the three children supported by Starfish Foundation were doing. The woman who set up the Centre and is there every day, Pat Gunn, met us on arrival. I had purposefully not announced our upcoming visit to Abby, the mother of Zikhona and Zandile and grandmother and guardian of Sibulele, as I wanted to see the children as they are everyday, not dressed up for the camera.

I had last seen the children in March 2006 when we took photo’s of them for the first time – and which pictures were used in initially setting up the website, so I was inquisitive as to how they had grown and developed, in this first year that the Starfish Foundation had been financing their education.

We arrived at the school, and were let in through the front gate, which is always locked, whilst the children – around 60 of them – were playing outside the back of the school. Pat showed us around the school, comprised of an office, a small kitchen, toilets, and two ‘classrooms’ – one smaller one for the youngest children – 3 to 4 years old, and one much larger one for the older children – 4 to 5 years old. The larger classroom is also big enough for all the children, and lunch is served here and all combined activities indoors take place here as well.

Pat led us through the back out into the garden where the children were at play. The garden is neat and situated in the middle is a large jungle-gym and sandpit and slide for the children. However, once the children saw us, many came running up asking for a photo to be taken of them. Pat showed us the vegetable garden in which they grow many of their own vegetables to be used for meals at the school. The vegetable garden is separated from the play area by a tall fence, with barbed wire along the entire top. It must be remembered that the school is situated in the township, which is not the safest place, but seeing what we did there, it certainly seems a haven for the children who are accepted at the school.

Pat explained that they have about 4 children in attendance who have AIDS, one young boy (whose photo I have placed on this site) who she says will not live to see Christmas this year. This knowledge, and being confronted with the little 4-year old boy, is a tragic testament to how real and desperate the problems in Mzamomhle township are. Pat regularly attends courses in how to handle children who are HIV positive or otherwise sick, and thus has gained the requisite knowledge of how to deal with the specific problems of her little students. There are also a few children at the school who have Tuberculosis, and Pat administers their medication regularly. There are also two children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, these have the typically large eyes and small underdeveloped bodies of children born with this syndrome, caused by their mother’s alcoholism during pregnancy. These sick and damaged children are accepted by Pat and by all the other children as being all one and the same: human. They are not shunned and handled differently, and I was overwhelmed by the unfairness of what life deals out to some.

After watching the older children playing we visited the class for the younger children, where we finally got to observe Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele (who they call Sibu). Zikhona is just as spontaneous and extravert as I remembered her last year, and Zandile is still extremely shy. I think that, being twins, she and Zikhona obviously have a very close bond, and Zikhona knows exactly what Zandile means, feels or wants to say, so she answers for her every opportunity she gets, thus allowing Zandile to keep quiet and not have to answer for herself. If she is alone, Pat says, she is still shy but is well able to answer for herself. Looking at the drawings of the two girls, my impression was that Zandile is neater than her more gregarious sister. Sibulele had just turned 3 in June, so began at the school at a slightly younger age than the children normally do. He was then just 2 and a half. He has grown since I last saw him, and has a little personality of his own. I think he was overwhelmed by our presence, so he was mostly quiet, but the teachers testify to him being very close to the twins and that he is quite the little man. The girls look up to him a lot, even though he is younger than them. This gender typing of the male being dominant is very much a part of their culture. Pat told us that Sibulele still has problems with continence. He is better than when we first started at school, but even though they have regular toilet breaks, if he has to wait a while, or if he is excited, he still wets his pants. It must be remembered, that unlike children from an average suburb, most of these children have never seen a toilet before they start school there. In the township they do their business in the bushes. There are no sanitary facilities as we know them in their shacks. Pat also tells that Sibu is very interested in ‘men’s things’: e.g. whenever there is a handiman around doing some work on the school, e.g. and electrician of carpenter, Sibulele will come in from playing outside and stand fascinated watching the men work.

Pat called the three ‘Starfish children’ aside and we gave them gifts from the Foundation: a little doll for each of the girls, and a set of cars for Sibu. These were not expensive gifts by any means, but the reaction of the children was so rewarding. They were taken with their toys, the girls hugging their dolls and Sibulele picking up car after car to admire! The children sang us a song about the ‘Days of the Week’ , firstly in their own language, Xhosa, and then in English. I have placed a very short video on the site so you can see and hear them moving and singing. I think its very clear who Zandile and Zikhona are just by watching them during this short clip.

Pat says that when the children begin at the school one of the first things they all need to learn is how to use a toilet. She has built a regular ‘toilet routine’ into each day. Children are also taught the basics of hygiene like washing their hands after using the bathroom and before they eat. These children do not have running water in their own homes, so these things we take for granted are novel for them.
The daily routine at school is something like this:
07.45am Arrive. Free play in/outside, blocks, bicycles
08.30am Tidy up and toilet routine
09.00am Breakfast
09.20am Morning Register (she calls out the names of all children and they have to answer that they are present). Singing – the days of the week – Counting
10.20am Toilet routine
10.30am Free play outside: Water, sand, jungle-gym
11.00am Snack time
11.15am Toilet routine
11.20am Creative play, e.g. painting, cutting out, drawing
12.30pm Lunch
12.50pm Toilet routine
13.00pm Nap
14.00pm Wake up – Toilet – pack away matresses
14.15pm Juice and snack time
14.50pm Tidy class – put shoes on
15.00pm Home time
15.30pm Staff prepare for next day. Volunteers clean up

The children are given a warm meal every lunch time. Supermarkets often donate fruit and vegetable that are overdate to the Day Care Centre. If this food can be used it is cooked with the meals for the children. What is left over is donated to the Soup Kitchen (next door to the school) where soup is given out to street children and homeless in the township.

I asked Pat to give an update regarding Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele. She said she feels that Zikhona may be ready to be moved to ‘Busy Bodies’, the Nursery school where we were planning to move all three children to in 2008, but that Zandile and Sibulele would definitely benefit more by spending another year in their ‘own environment’ before being moved to a school in the ‘normal’ suburbs and where all classes would be given in English. They need to gain more confidence in themselves, and thereafter would be in a better position to move to another environment. On the grounds of this, and after discussing this with Colleen Robus of ‘Busy Bodies’, where the children were already registered for 2008, we have decided to keep all three of them at ‘Simunye’ for one more year. ‘Busy Bodies’ have agreed to postpone their registration for 2009.

As lunch was being served, our visit to Simunye, came to an end. The matresses had been put out, in preparation for the nap which the children were due to have from 1-2pm.

As we left the school, the children waved and greeted us, and it was with mixed feelings that we left. I was very impressed with what Pat Gunn was achieving at her school, and very impressed with what all the children, including Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele were learning there, but at the same time, as we exited the gate, we saw dozens of children playing on and roaming the streets of the township. I felt overwhelmed by the fact that there were SO many who, because Simunye only has a permit for 55 children, were left to themselves, and that life would be so much more difficult and hopeless for them. They cannot all be helped. Then again, that is what Starfish Foundation is trying to do: to make a difference in the life of ONE family to give them an opportunity to get out of the cycle of such horrors as are dealt with and accepted as ‘normal’ in the squalor of township life.

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20-12 My visit to South Africa

In December I visited South Africa once again, and of course, wanted to see how the Zikhona, Zandile and Sibulele were doing. School was closed for the summer holidays, but I was lucky enough to be able to see the children before they went off to visit relatives elsewhere in the country for Christmas.

We invited the children to my mother’s house for a picnic and to open their Christmas presents from Foundation Starfish. We had bought new summer outfits for the children, since Abby cannot always afford to buy new clothes. Sibulele received a toy truck, and the girls received an educational toy designed to teach them to identify different animals.

I was very surprised to see how much the children had grown since my last visit in August 2007. Have a look at the photo’s and enjoy! The clothes and shoes the children were wearing on this day had previously also been bought by Starfish. On behalf of the children and Abby we’d like to thank everyone who has supported Starfish in 2007. We hope that we, together with you, can offer ongoing support in 2008.

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