I am the owner of a unique centre for children with special educational needs. We are currently small, with two groups: Our Little Miracles are children with mild to severe impairments. Aged between 3 and 8 years of age, most are in diapers, cannot talk (yet!) and struggles with walking and eating – yet they have very big personalities!
Our Big Dreamers are those learners with disorders that impairs them functioning in mainstream schools, or for that matter, even in other ‘special needs schools’. Disorders range from ADHD and Autism Spectrum, to very, very rare disorders. We tutor these learners, who follow a home-school curriculum, called Impak, in their studies. The curriculum is in line with CAPS, thus enabling them to finish Matric and move on to higher education. We also assist in developing motor skills, language and social skills. Most importantly, we assist them in developing confidence, a healthy self-image, critical thinking skills and a belief that they have a place in this world.
Most of these learners have been to 1 or more other schools/centres before, so by the time they get to us, the parents are disheartened and the learners highly anxious. We offer a safe place for them to develop and thrive.
A month ago, our landlord gave us 6 week notice… We had an understanding that we could lease the premises for 10 years, but now he needs our current premises for his family.
After much tears & panicking, we started looking for a new premises. The only thing we can afford with our current learner count is a 3-bedroom house, thus as we grow, we will have to move again. Owning property, thus, will make a world of difference, as the important thing to consider here, is that our learners do not adopt to change easily - in fact, it can set them back a few months, so we decided to fast-forward our dream for 2017… to now! We need a permanent premises for a creative learning centre now! If not, our learners will have nowhere to go after the June holidays.
The need is immense! Government schools for special needs learners are full, with waiting lists of up to 7 years! Private schools are most often too expensive. As some impairments/disorders stem from genetic causes, parents often have more than one child who needs special care – you can imagine the cost of placing two or more siblings with special needs in a private school?
Where we are now
Our classrooms have a relaxed and informal atmosphere. For example, the foundation and intermediate phase classroom has a swing in, for improving balance and core strength, blowing of steam and simply having fun. We also have a reading tent on the balcony, where learners can have some quiet time when they feel overwhelmed, and a sensory pond. Everything in our classrooms is there for assisting in development.
Our classes are multi-levelled, as we find that the little ones look up to the older ones and are motivated by them, and the older ones learn skills in leadership & caring by guiding the little ones.
Some learners are even covering subjects on different grade-levels, according to their abilities in different fields.
Please see our website for more in this regard: http://www.handsofhopecentre.co.za/
You can also view our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/handsofhopecentre/videos/
Our success rate in guiding our learners has been phenomenal and blessed thus far. I can give many examples of success stories. One little boy bridged a two year speech delay gap within 6 months!
We have Occupational & Speech Therapists who are able to treat our learners at the centre & we also work close with their various other therapists & specialists.
Our centre’s motto is “Every child can learn” and we follow Ignacio Estrada’s believe that “If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
Too often we hear of adults being in therapy, years after completing school, because they didn’t fit into ‘the system’ & thus ended up feeling that they are not worthy or able. One of our previous tutors and partner on our journey, recall being told that she’s lazy and stupid and will never amount to anything – she just published a wonderful children’s book on diversity! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYUUwNYB3FI
For the past few months we’ve been working on re-branding our centre, from a centre for ‘special education & therapy’, to a ‘creative learning centre’. Our plan was to open the new centre in 2017, where we could accommodate, not only children with ‘special needs’, as understood that they are impaired in some physical/psychological/intellectual way, but all children who “think outside the box” – those ones who do not learn through ‘desk work’, but through videos, play, art, movement & discussion… A centre where the child’s belief that he/she is worthyand able, is at the centre of learning!
We found a premise not far from our current one, but better. We want to stress that we do not want to be seen as another elite school, serving only the privileged. We want to serve all children who doesn’t ‘fit in’, whether it be because of their abilities, their way of thinking or learning, their/their parents’ sexual orientation, religious affiliation, race, social status or their eccentricities.
The premises we have found is perfect. We can accommodate 50 – 60 children!! What a difference it would make to so many families! It is in the Parow-area, making the location perfect to serve families in the upper market areas of Welgemoed and surrounds, as well as those from Elsies River, Parow Valley, Goodwood and Bellville.
There is space for learners to plant a veggie garden, have some chickens to take care of, for therapy rooms, a play room for gross motor skills development and huge classrooms to move around in.
We need caring hearts
We need ZAR 2 500 000 (USD 161 000) to purchase and fix up the building!
We can run the day-to-day business from our school fees. We already have the learning materials & equipment we need. We built our own desks thus far, from pellets, and will do the same again. There is a lot of work to do, but we are hard workers and are willing to clean up & fix most things ourselves.
With Mandela Day coming up in South Africa, the timing is perfect! Once we’ve acquired the premises, we’ll need paint, a front fence, some security gates, someone to fix the leaky shower floor on the top level and builders to build in a sturdy staircase.
Our new website will have a feature where good Samaritans can sponsor school fees, for those who really are in dire need of placement for their children, but cannot afford it. In return we will name their companies on our website.
Think how special this would be! One cannot describe the absolute JOY of seeing a 7 year old boy eat food for the first time, through his mouth, instead of through a tube into his tummy, of seeing the expression on an autistic child’s face, the first time she allows a friend to put his arm around her when posing for a photograph, of a young boy with Apraxia, jumping and shouting out “I can!” when he’s completed a full sentence, of seeing a full bush of eye lashes where, before, a child has plucked it all out, out of pure anxiety… and most of all, the blessed feeling of experiencing a child with learning and social impairments, blossoming into a happy, confident person.
The need is great and the resources scares, but hearts are willing.
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not!" -Dr. Suess