Philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” In the case of the Thusong Day Care Centre which has just officially taken occupation of a new centre, that single step was taken more than a decade ago when former teacher Maria Mopeli had a vision to provide for the vulnerable children of Vredefort. With the completion of these new facilities, Ms Mopeli’s vision is finally being realised, and the people of Mokwallo Township have a brand new, high-quality facility where their children will receive excellent care and education.
The Thusong Day Care Centre’s new buildings were constructed with assistance from Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA). Managing Director Velaphi Ratshefola took a personal interest in the project, initiating a ‘Donate a Brick’ project to help with construction costs, and starting the CCBSA MD’s Annual Golf Tournament as a fundraiser.
“Just under a year ago, we turned the first sod at what is today the new Centre. Construction has progressed rapidly, and I’m thrilled to see the new buildings delivered and ready for occupation by the children and their caregivers,” says Ratshefola.
Mokwallo Township is located on the outskirts of the Free State town of Vredefort. With low incomes and grinding poverty, residents find it difficult or impossible to fund afterschool care and the support necessary for the effective education of their children. Ms Mopeli first opened Thusong to provide a place where children could get assistance with homework, Since then, her modest enterprise has grown, and now180 children between the ages of six and 19 participate in extramural activities including singing and indigenous games.
From a tin shack in a dusty field as it was in 2005, the new Thusong Day Care Centre today is of solid brick and tile construction, comprised of three buildings and adjoining sports facilities.
Catering for orphaned and vulnerable children, the Centre is run by seven women who help prepare daily meals, give classes in hygiene and assist children with their schoolwork.
Ratshefola is pleased that the official opening of the Centre takes place during the National Child Protection Week, which is observed from the 28 May – 4 June. “We’re committed to the protection of children’s rights as they are the future leaders for our country,” he stated. “The theme for this year is ‘Let Us All Protect Children Moving South Africa Forward’, and that resonates with what the Centre does—giving hope and guidance towards a better life for the children of Mokwallo Township.”
Through initiatives like ‘Donate a Brick’, the Annual Charity Golf Day and donations from external stakeholders, and suppliers and employees of CCBSA more than R2-million was raised for the new centre.
Reflecting its belief that financial contributions are just one part of creating effective change, CCBSA recently held two Corporate Social Responsibility days to complete the project. Employees from Vaal Maluti and Goldfields Districts came together to apply finishing touches, including a lick of paint and kitting out of activity areas for soccer and netball.
“This is a facility which impacts so many people’s lives. It was founded on the principles of love and care for one’s fellows and I am very proud to open the buildings today,” says Ratshefola. “Of course, none of this would be possible without the enthusiastic support and generous contributions of our employees, our partners and our suppliers; a very big thanks to all of them. This journey wouldn’t be possible either without the vision of Maria Mopeli. It is through the actions of people like her that we can change things for the better in South Africa.”