Neuroscientists suggest that human development starts early, and that the first three years are particularly significant with regards to brain development.
The foundations of success (whether academic or social) are created through the experiences accumulated in children’s earliest years. At the Fund’s Piketberg farm, the new education centre, crèche and aftercare facility has finally been opened, following 18 months of building work, improvements and administrative challenges. This facility allows parents the opportunity to leave their children in the capable hands of the crèche supervisors, secure in the knowledge that they will be well cared for. Of equal value, when the school-going children finish their day at the nearby school, they are collected by the farm minibus and spend the rest of the day in aftercare, where they are safe, supervised, stimulated and assisted with their homework.
The previous facility lacked capacity, resulting in the exclusion of several children from the services provided, which was problematic not only for the affected children but also for their parents, who were sometimes prevented from being able to work. Annerene du Toit, the aftercare supervisor, is one of the dynamic women living on the farm who is responsible for the running of the crèche, and she has been instrumental in the move to the bigger and better facility.
A beautiful and spacious heritage building on Voorstevlei farm has been renovated to a high standard and provides space for nearly twice as many children as the previous facility. A large outside area has been securely fenced, and roll-on lawn has been installed where the children can play under the huge old oak tree which shades the property. A combination of funding by the Futuregrowth Agri-Fund 1 and the Fund Advisor, UFF, has resulted in the crèche being well equipped with furniture, equipment and, of course, toys and books.
A recent innovation by the Fund’s ESG team is the provision of toothbrushes and toothpaste: the children are supervised each morning and afternoon as they enthusiastically brush their teeth for exactly two minutes (monitored with due solemnity by an egg timer).
The older children are provided with a well-equipped ‘office room’, stocked with stationery and computers. This enables them to do their homework and projects under Annerene’s supervision, and the room is also available for adult farm workers to use the facilities after hours. The parents of the crèche and after-care children have donated their time and labour over weekends to assist with landscaping and renovations, and the outcome is a testament to what can be achieved when land owners, operators and workers come together.