#TopCause: Cotlands

One of our first Top Causes of 2019 is Cotlands from Johannesburg. We’re recognising them not only for the dedication that they put into their profile on forgood, but for the work that they do in the communities they are present in. We interviewed them to learn a little more about who they are to share with, and inspire you.

Who are you and what do you do?

Early childhood lays the foundation on which all future development builds, which makes it a particularly important and sensitive period of development in the lifespan of a human being. Worldwide, it is recognised as a critical period during which children need to be protected and adequately nurtured. Young children’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills are essential for further development and must be adequately developed. Children’s innate potential will flourish, provided that they are well nourished, have a stable, caring and responsive adult to bond with, are protected from disease, violence and stress and have access to early learning opportunities.

The potential of millions of young children is lost due to our inability to provide families access to quality play-based early childhood education programmes. Cotlands exists to close the access gap by offering innovative programmes that promote play-based learning. Through direct service delivery as well as in partnership with other organisations, these include:

  • Toy libraries and playgroups to reach marginalised children
  • Nutritional, health and psychosocial support for children attending Cotlands early learning playgroups
  • PLAY – Powerful Learning Around You, a free online course teaching play-based learning fundamentals to ECD practitioners and Grade R-3 educators
  • Building capacity in NPOs and ECD centres to implement Cotlands play-based early learning programmes

Why did you get started?

Cotlands was born in 1936 when Matron Dorothy Reece, a nurse from the United States, doing missionary work in South Africa, found an abandoned baby on her doorstep. Over the years the organisation underwent many changes, but always retained serving young children as its primary goal. From historical roots as a baby sanctuary, Cotlands initiated it’s community-based programmes in 1999, primarily focusing on HIV and nutrition, and later adding psychosocial and educational support to the programmes. Today, Cotlands offers early learning play-based opportunities to thousands of children in six of South Africa’s provinces.

What is a story that keeps you going?

A new opportunity to reach remote villages Cotlands has spread its reach to 350 children living in remote rural villages in Mkhondo, Mpumalanga. The villages are surrounded by farms and forestry, and Cotlands has been included in an innovative pilot project to provide these children with much-needed services. The initiative is spearheaded by Mondi and its strategic partners are Cotlands, TTN and the departments of health and social services. Our partners run a mobile health clinic, while our role is to set up play- based learning sessions at each stop that the clinic makes.

We’ve equipped a trailer with educational toys and games and hitched it behind the mobile clinic. As the clinic does its rounds, so too does our toy librarian, setting up learning sessions for children younger than five. Thanks to our partners and donors for giving us the opportunity to join this exciting project. Together, we’re transforming early learning in isolated areas.

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