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Remembering the origins of the Good Work Foundation

Remembering the origins of the Good Work Foundation
Kates LI 10 Mar 3
Kates LI 10 Mar 7

I was in Philippolis last week to visit Good Work Foundation's Digital Learning Campus in the Free State. Here, in the dusty streets of this small town on the edge of the Karoo, is where the GWF story all began. In 2005, before we even founded the Good Work Foundation, myself, Boyd Varty, volunteers from Future Nature (a volunteer programme I was running at the time), the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, Rev. Carin van Schalkwyk, local sheep farmer Lulani Vermeulen and the community of Bergmanshoogte on the outskirts of the little town, came together to build a preschool, to offer learning opportunities where none yet existed.

We made our own bricks, used windows and door frames kindly donated by local farmers and found scrap zinc for the roof. We built two classrooms and a kitchen over the December holidays. I carried water and cement in my red Chico golf from my house in Justisie Street to the site a few kilometres away. We worked in the hot sun all day, helped by about 20 teenagers from all over South Africa under the auspices of Future Nature, and put the Chico’s headlights onto the building so we could carry on after dark.

The first class of Wielie Walie Creché opened in January 2006, taught by Teacher Sienna, who had been teaching her class of about 30 three-, four- and five-year olds in an abandoned hall.

The excitement of the first day, with all the children and parents arriving at the newly built school is a memory I will never forget.

Kates LI 10 Mar 2
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Kates LI 10 Mar

Fast forward to 2024, and GWF now runs a digital campus next door to the preschool we first built (which is now registered with and managed by the state), that runs our two core programmes for Open Learning for primary school learners and the Bridging Year Academy (BYA) for school leavers. Those little faces that shone with excitement in 2006 are now young adults, some of whom have graduated through the BYA and continue to create bright futures for themselves. Some even bring their own children to the preschool.

It is wonderful to reflect that our early partnership created something special for what is now hundreds of young people in total, and will continue to do so, hopefully forever. Back then, without knowing it, we were living the values of the future Good Work Foundation: respect, nurturing, learning, creativity and innovation, and fun! And all these years later, we are still creating opportunities where there aren’t many or any, for thousands of children and young adults every year in Philippolis in the Free State, but also through our digital learning campuses established in the communities of Hazyview (2012), Justicia (2016), Huntington (2017), Lilydale (2018) and Dumphries (2019) in rural Mpumalanga.

Kates LI 10 Mar 8
Kates LI 10 Mar 9
Kates LI 10 Mar 10

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