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With a cranberry flapjack treat and coffee in hand we set off for Kliptown for the second session of the Early Childhood Development Introductory Workshops. In the air this time was apprehension, would all the inductees return to continue with the workshop? The apprehension was a little prolonged for the 1st session as the ladies arrived a little later than agreed but never the less, all that had attended the 1st week completed the 2nd with one addition. “George” who we had met the previous week, “Bob’s” right hand man came for the 1st session and spoke to the women, lending his support to the project and stayed for some of the workshop. Monja opened by asking if anyone had put into practise, what they had learnt from the 1st session, all said they had in varying ways. “Angela” whose child had digestion/constipation issues the previous week said that she noticed an improvement even from last Saturday. “Oratile” who was brought this time by her mother was finding it easier to digest solid food during the week.

The opening theme in both sessions was experiencing Isolation. In turn two mothers were paired together, facing each other with their babies with one woman separated (back turned) on her own cradling her infant, in Isolation. For a minute at a time the coupled ladies had to make the other and their babies laugh in some laughing themselves, pulling a funny face or telling a story. This was done until all had made each other laugh and also had the experience of having their back turned, Monja then asked how it felt to have someone make you laugh. “fun, it sets you free” “amazing” “exciting” “happy” ...were typical responses. Monja then asked how it felt to be in Isolation. “lonely” “uncomfortable” “sad” “felt excluded, wish I could join in” ...were typical responses. “now you can understand what your babies are going through” explains Monja “they feel what we feel when they are excluded”. She goes on by saying “if your child is left isolated, he/she starts to shut down, they need to be included” “did you also notice when you were laughing at each other, the children were also laughing” Monja now points out “it gives them a sense of connection” All agreed that this something important and they must work on this. “As a group everyone got to experience the power of laughter and what it feels like to have fun with their babies” concluded Monja Monja then asked the 1st group, who’s babies are mostly under 7 months what interaction did the mothers have with their children before they came for the session last week “playing on the floor” “sing to my baby” “throw in the air, from the knee” ...were typical responses. She encouraged them to “always look at your baby when interacting, this helps to form the connection” and “when they are sleeping gently sing and touch them to improve the connection” To demonstrate this one of the mothers sat next to Monja and allowed her to gently touch as squeeze her arm. When asked how did it feel “at peace with myself” was the reply, “because we were forming a connection” emphasizes Monja One of the ladies had written out a song to sing “thula thu...thula mywana thula sana...thula amama uzobuya tkuseni” The babies were laid out on a blanket and the mothers sang whilst looking, touching and squeezing. One of the infants started to roll over and his hand got stuck under his belly, the mother wanted to help to take his arm out. Monja stopped her, “don’t interfere, give the baby a chance to take out his own arm, if the arm stays stuck you can move the pelvis away from the floor a bit and this will give the baby a chance to move his own arm. When Monja did this to Austin he took out his own arm. Monja commented, if we keep interfering the baby will not learn” she goes on to say “don’t get too attached and do everything for them” there is a happy balance “know how and when to interact” This week’s “take away” ·encourage laughter with your child ·do not interfere if they need to learn “The development of the baby is affected by the care and experiences parents provide for the children. Learning takes place through curiosity and exploration, if parents interfere too much, they take away the opportunity for the child to learn” reflected Monja.

The 2nd group’s children are a little older, from 8 to 24 months old so the activities were slightly different. Again, sitting on a blanket, the babies were encouraged to interact and then to establish the connection. Monja used counting on fingers as a good way of giving the baby a sense of his hand, whilst learning at the same time. Some of the children are walking, others are trying to emulate. Again, some of this group’s mums were helping too much by lifting them up into standing. Monja showed them by placing chairs in a line, tapping the chair or placing an object for them to reach the children will then move from seat to seat, simulating walking. After a while the children became agitated, starting to cry. Monja demonstrated by cradling the babies in front of you and gently tapping, squeezing and singing this will calm the baby down. Monja repeated the tapping and squeezing simulation on an adult by having the mother’s pair up, they then practiced on each other. When asked the reaction was very similar to the previous “at peace with myself”. Next was the blanket game. Two mothers hold the blanket at each end, the baby is placed inside and is rolled from side to side, on the floor or in the air. This is a fun game for the babies, generating lots of laughter. As not all the children could fit in all at the same time, the others found cards & CDs to play with and were encouraged to share with each other and play together. Next week Monja asked the mothers to bring raw materials so that they can make some toys.

This week’s “take away” ·with a partner play the blanket game, they also will build a connection ·set up chairs to encourage walking “It was really wonderful to see how the mother are participating and coming up with their own ideas and possibilities to engage with their babies. The mothers commented that they enjoy coming to the sessions, which is lovely to hear” Today’s exchange word was “unjani” are you feeling. At the end both groups asked Monja how many children she had? “none” she replied “that may be part of why I am here”, she continues “you never know I may adopt one day” Both groups were amazed “but you are so good with children” was a typical reply. To conclude the Lord’s Prayer was said by both groups.

With coffee in hand, we set off on the 45-minute drive to start the First of 4 Introduction workshops for HBF Early Childhood Stimulation pilot project. As this has been some time in planning there was certainly anticipation and excitement in the air, perhaps tinged with a little nervousness.

In total 11 women and babies were inducted, split into two 1 ½ hour sessions. The theme in both was for the women to realize more about the project and for Monja to understand and discuss their needs, whether it is their current circumstances or the babies. Monja explained during the pandemic the sense of isolation has become a major problem for adults and children, something that we all can now relate too, not a nice position to be in. She pointed out that their babies are going through the same if they are not being stimulated and that a connection is needed. She explained by using a simple technique of “tapping, squeezing and singing” brings a connection to a child that is essential to their early development. It was emphasized that this was a pilot program but the ultimate aim is to “train you to be Day Care workers” by “using education to empower” HBF’s philosophy of exchange was then explained, in return Monja would like to learn words/phrases in their language, today she learnt “wamkelekile” & “niyamkelekile”...welcome The women were then asked to introduce themselves and asked to relate something about themselves or the children... “Angela” is just 16 years old and her daughter has digestion problems...something Monja helped to elevate later with a demonstration. “Oratile” was brought by her Grandmother as her mother is in Matric and studying away from home, she struggles to eat solid food...when Monja touched her belly she could just feel a solid mass in her stomach. “Rebecca” has a real connection with her baby “I can’t spend more than an hour away from her” but needs to find work to survive. Baby “Farid” was brought by his Grandmother. She rescued him from her sister as he was being abused/neglected by both of his parents, drug related. “Clinton” is hyperactive and his mother is also away as she is studying for her Matric. “Thapelo” who is 11 months eats well and lives with her Mum and Dad. “Portia” is a single mother and has concerns as she needs to work, the Father of her baby does not support them and is not involved in the baby’s life. In both sessions Monja took individual women and the babies to a mat and with the help of a doll showed them various touch techniques to help them form a better connection with the baby, perhaps even improving an ailment. Singing and movement whilst doing so are also an important part of the connection, especially if they are crying. Both groups sang a different song in a different way but had a common theme of looking at the baby at the same time. Monja then invited all of the children together on the mat so they could connect. By then all of the women were in awe of how different the children were, connecting with each other. Monja stressed to everyone that the movement and singing should become part of everyday life and they will see a continuous improvement. To bring the sessions to a close, both groups prayed. “It was beautiful to see how the group was united after the work we did today” Monja reflected “the theme of connection was carried through to a prayer in the end” Walking back to the car we quickly popped into meet “Bob”, who’s space we ended up using for the induction. “Bob” is a prominent member of the community and has children and their education very close to his heart. He was impressed that the project has now started, albeit as an introduction and is willing to spread the word as it may have transpired that only one section of the Kliptown community may be aware of its existence. “Bob” then introduced us to “George” his right- hand man. “George” wanted to learn more and also suggested various ways of being able to take the project to the next level.

In Celebration of Human Rights Day in South Africa, HBF is spreading awareness on the importance of the crucial role that Early Childhood education plays for the future of all children starting at the age of 0.

The South African Broadcasting Association (SABC) visited and filmed part 3 of 4 Introductory Workshops where HBF's main objective is to run a pilot project in Kliptown, Soweto to train unemployed woman in the community to become caregivers and therefore creating employment and to educate parents about the importance of stimulation and interaction for the development of their child.

Early Childhood Stimulation /Mothers being taught how to interact with their babies in Kliptown, Soweto was broadcasted on National News in South Africa in celebration of Human Rights Day.

This explorative and experiential learning is inspired by Postural Integration (an approach that works with body, emotions and thought), Emmi Pikler approach (Pikler believed that parents and caregivers need to take the time to make nappy changing, feeding, bathing and dressing, an unhurried and pleasant quality time – with the baby being an active partner) The Feldenkrais Method and Chava Shelhav Child'space method.