Since its launch in February, the Observatory Neighbourhood Afterschool (ONA) Project has continued to grow from strength to strength! The collaboration between Elemental Kids, the Methodist Church and Theatre Arts Admin Collective (TAAC) has deepened. The Methodist Church has played an important role in providing an institutional home, is now tackling our application to the Department of Social Welfare and Development to become registered as a partial care facility and leveraging funds to support the programme expansion. TAAC contributes to the programme development by actively looking for new opportunities for collaborative partnerships and assisting with venue management needs. Elemental Kids handles the management of day to day operations, liaising with facilitators, participants and community members.
Almost 30 children are involved in some way with the activities being offered each week. There is a core of 20 children participating 80% of the time. The weekly programme now consists of 3 different activities:
Visual Arts on Wednesday with Gary Frier, Nadia Woodward and Janet Ranson (Sponsored by Elemental Kids & Janet Ranson)
Performing Arts on Thursday with Sharnelle Cader and Rowhan Roman (Sponsored by the YMCA Cape Town)
Lego-robotics on a Friday at the Science Centre (Sponsored by ORT SA Cape)
I can see that as ONA becomes more established and people in the area learn about it, there is a growing interest by others to become involved. Contrary to popular narratives about the state of the world, I have found that people have a lot to offer and are generous. People want to get involved and make a difference. They are not always sure how they can express this impulse. By creating a space for them to share what they have to offer (like ONA) a conduit for their generosity is created and facilitates the flow! Just this week, we were approached by students from Greatmore Studios and UCT that are interested in exploring the possibility of running special programmes with the children involved. I dont think it will be long before we have a 5 day programme which offers diverse activities to different age groups.
On this note, I want to mention another reason this project is close to my heart. On one hand, it is about establishing a safe, fun and creative space for children to discover, experience and learn. The children participating in the weekly activities enjoy being with each other. They benefit from the experience, learn and develop. The same goes for the adults that are involved as facilitators or volunteers. On the other hand, the fact that this initiative is situated within and focused on a specific neighbourhood (Observatory) is significant too. ONA is building community by connecting those that are involved, establishing a network of relationships and providing opportunities for interaction. The group of adults and children involved in the initiative are getting know each other better. This leads to an increased sense of connectedness, relatedness and belonging. Since many of us live in the area, we now recognise and greet each other on the streets, we get involved in shared activities and support mutual interests, we assist when needs arise and are increasingly invested in each other’s well being. This is what I believe place-making is about: engaged community life. I cant wait to see what emerges over time as this initiative grows and the impact this has on our experience of place in the long run 🙂