Zandile describes herself as a dreamer. On her bedside table sits a journal and when she wakes up in the middle of the night with a new idea, she writes it down before going back to sleep. Many of these dreams include her as a storyteller in some form, working with children or empowering the people around her. One dream of hers in particular is to open her own creche. Zandile recognises the power of stories and the lessons that we can learn from them – no matter how old we are. She also sees the impact that the lessons from book-sharing and wordless picture books can have on her community.
Working towards sustainable communities
“My community is wounded. It is a broken community”, says Zandile when describing Kayamandi – a township that sits at the top of a hill overlooking some of the most expensive properties in South Africa. Zandile continues that there are “positive things here too” and organisations are supporting people in the community to become self-sustainable. “One life at a time” is Zandile’s approach when it comes to giving back to her community. She believes that small things can make a big difference.
Zandile works for Legacy Community Development where she teaches embroidery skills. She has witnessed how learning a skill can make someone feel empowered. “I tell them, we don’t have to depend on abusive men like we have done before. We can do something for ourselves.” Some of the women in her classes have gone on to start their own businesses; growing and selling spinach or doing crochet are two examples of this.
One of the women in Zandile’s classes knew about her dream of opening a creche one day. She told Zandile about the book-sharing training at Love to Give. Among other things, Love to Give runs a programme called Sustainable Livelihoods, which aims to move families towards income security through training, support and micro-enterprise development. Mikhulu’s book-sharing programme is part of the training programme.
Zandile has completed the book-sharing training and has taken the lessons that she has learnt into her community.
As a young child, before going to bed Zandile’s grandmother would tell her stories – she still remembers them. Her own children have grown up listening to them and now her granddaughter too. “I tell her stories before she goes to bed. When she wakes up, she asks me to tell her stories again. I am that Gogo.”
For Zandile, these stories are filled with important life lessons – lessons of integrity and respect. She says that wordless picture books hold important lessons between their pages too. She uses these books to share lessons with children in her community. “Now, when the children are playing in the street, I call them into my house for book-sharing.” Zandile describes her home as always being full of children.
Her favourite book from Mikhulu Trust is Little Helpers. She has used this book to encourage children in her area to be more helpful around their own homes. “We must try to help our parents around the house” she would say, and use the wordless picture book to have conversations on why this is important. “I know that they helped their parents during the holidays. The stories are not just fun, they are educational too!”
Making small changes
Through the book-sharing training, Zandile explains that she learnt some important lessons too. “Nokubonga [the book-sharing facilitator at Love to Give] taught me something that I was not aware of – when a child makes a mistake don’t say ‘no’ or ‘you are stupid’.” Zandile and the other participants were taught to be encouraging instead and to help build the confidence of children in their care. Following this training session, things changed in her home. “We are now very supportive of her [granddaughter] and always use positive words. It has boosted her confidence so much and she got a great final report for Grade 1!”
Zandile has heard the negative words and comments being used outside of her home too. “We say negative things to people, unaware how it is affecting them. We can have a better community if we can start here. The books aren’t just for kids, there are good lessons! It does not depend on churches and governments to change the world. We can start small right here!”
Zandile believes that making small changes can bring great benefit to Kayamandi. She sees many people in her community already doing “small things” to help, and that book-sharing could add to bringing positive change, “one life at a time.”