New Season Foundation gives disadvantaged children a new lease of life
A RECENT newspaper report headed “Programme encourages kids to become leaders” made for inspirational reading. It tells about New Season Foundation, an NPO based in Retreat.
This organisation has been making a difference in the lives of young people from Retreat and its southern neighbour, Steenberg.
The report tells us about John Alexander, who lives in Retreat and who is chairperson of the New Season Foundation, which has the motto “Transforming minds, elevating lives”.
Alexander, who has always been passionate about children, started by volunteering to teach after-school programmes, specifically life skills at high schools in the area. He eventually made his way to Crestway High School where he taught grades 10 and 11 pupils.
The report points out that working with children presents various challenges. For example, the children come from differing backgrounds and often need more than the life skills Alexander was offering; they needed discipline, love and attention.
Then he met Mary Cupido and her son, Aubrey Cupido. She assisted him with his commendable project. Cupido has experience working with foster children.
As is the case with the majority of NPOs, the New Season Foundation has not received much financial support. Alexander is a single father and Cupido a pensioner. Alexander, Cupido and Aubrey use their own money and small donations for resources such as books and pencils.
Alexander said that they were very grateful for any donations that came their way.
But what is important is that it is not only the material goods the children receive; they receive love and attention and know that there are people who care about them and take care of them.
The point of the programme is that it encourages the children to become the leaders of the future.
Alexander says: “We want to teach them positive things, respect and how to carry themselves, and to instil in them that there is a future”.
The point about there being a future is of utmost importance.
Many people live lives devoid of a future. For them, there is only the daily grind of simply getting through the day. And so, day follows day, with nothing to inspire them.
But thanks to the work done by people such as Alexander and Cupido, youngsters in the Retreat community can develop a vision of a future in which they can thrive and live meaningful lives, and indeed become leaders.
Another inspirational story is that of Crescent Primary School in Heathfield, also near Retreat. The school recently entered the annual SA Literacy Association (Sala) Creative Writing Competition. This was the first time it had entered.
Each year the association invites schools to participate. The competition has three categories – short story, short essay and poetry.
Crescent principal Naseerudin Harneker said the results pupils had achieved reflected the school’s commitment towards excellence in education. He also thanked teaching staff and parents for their hard work and support.
Taskeen Zalgaonkir, Grade 6, came third with 83% for her short story; Faatimah Fisher, Grade 5, came third with 83% for her short essay; and Mogammad Ameen Isaacs, Grade 4, came second with 92% for his poem and third with 73% for his short story.
Harneker said the school promoted reading as it taught children to write well.
I could not agree more with this insight. Reading is the foundation of all learning, whether it is literature, maths or science.
The staff must be commended for the effort they put in over and above their normal workload. So, too, we must commend the parents of these children for their dedication.
There are, of course, other schools, with dedicated staff and parents who achieve commendable results against all odds.
However, this is not easily managed. And one cannot single out every school that manages this.
But let it suffice that there are those schools in our community which, against all the odds, do a wonderful job educating our young children.
In this regard I think of my two young grandchildren, who live in my house with their mother, my daughter. They do not attend a school where high fees must be paid. They attend a school in our community.
There is, of course, a monthly or yearly fee that must be paid. From what I see and hear, they are receiving commendable schooling. They are confident and articulate. Arrogance does not feature.
I am not condemning schools that charge substantial fees for tuition. There are, probably, reasons for doing so, such as facilities and equipment.
What I am saying is that in our communities there are schools where fees are payable – according to what parents and care-givers can afford – and which are doing a marvellous job of educating our young people.
The two children of mine and Adam’s attended schools in the community – although, I now admit, I would have wished them, at the time, to have attended private schools. I have not come to regret Adam’s decision and, ultimately, mine.
I conclude with a poem by NP van Wyk Louw, translated by Adam. It is titled As a Child. As a child you thought Great things will come out of me great things and good things – like a lad, of course, should think
And now the great and the good are both split and instead of just goodness and greatness
there have burst through the tar, from the tar of the street royally red and white mottled mushrooms – what is awesome and what is simple and evil and simple and simple and humble out through the crack that is you The earth is not singular.
VOLUNTEERS: John Alexander and Mary Cupido with the group of children from Retreat.