Children and youth in South Africa and beyond are pivotal to sustainable futures for everyone. Since our inception we have worked in communities on an array of projects to improve literacy, numeracy, cognitive -and social wellness development skills with children, parents, and their extended families. Many children and youth on our projects, continuing their studies beyond secondary school, have thrived. Today they constitute professionals contributing to society and self-sufficiency. We have collaborated with schools, regional, provincial, and national education departments to share our experiences and exchange knowledge.
Over the years Dreamcatcher NPC has also worked in partnership on several projects co-funded by the Utopia Foundation with positive outcomes which have received global recognition. April 2022 heralded in another exciting initiative. Sharing Utopia Foundation’s passion to improve literacy and cognitive development, Dreamcatcher was appointed to administer and manage the distribution of books in South Africa through the STEPi – (Squaring The Education Pyramid Institute) programme. STEPi publishes children’s books written in English that encourage empathy, self-awareness, and inclusivity, focusing on the emotional development of children. There are now over a dozen story and activity books developed under the programme addressing English, mathematics, geography, and emotional wellness.
In line with our appointment to distribute books, we contacted and engaged with over 100 schools and other organisations to understand their interests and story/reading book needs. Based on this research we developed a bespoke book distribution system embracing route optimisation in line with our sustainability and climate action ethos. Collaborating with the schools, we targeted grades 1-6, and as a team we strived to ensure that every child is equipped with the books and resources needed. Our team comprising of Elmordine (Community Engagement Coordinator), Ineke (who oversaw project logistics and our accomplished driver), and Anthea (Project Manager), who joined in on some road trips, joyfully hit the road to distribute books across multiple communities between April 2022 to June 2023. This included meeting with head teachers and teaching staff to explain the project and talk through the books, assessing which books were best suited for the grade levels and curriculum milestones, conducting in-class readings and interactive sessions, and assessing impact. In addition, we managed book distribution up to December 2023 which included fulfilling book requests via courier to other parts of South Africa, collating book inventories, ensuring the safe storage of the books, offering, and providing follow up support. We were joined by the STEPi project Communication -and Development staff member, Adele on a book distribution road trip in August 2022, with STEPi book author Paul joining us to visit schools in December 2022.
Collaborating with the founder of STEPi, the Dreamcatcher crafting team, who reuse waste and resources as part of Dreamcatchers’ ‘Made in Melkhoutfontein’ sustainability project, were commissioned to make teaching aids and resources to support the programme. This included hand-made dolls of characters depicted in the books ‘Pantone’ and ‘Sharon’s Song’ and re-usable shopping bags for the books samples and promotional purposes.
Excitingly in March 2023 we were blessed to host the amazing American musician Dennis Warner, his talented band of Dan and Pat, and their wonderful support crew of Tammy and Pam. The band uses music & art to promote positive behaviour in schools addressing diversity, bullying prevention and character education. This is encapsulated in the up-tempo and fun song ‘Beads on One String’ and the accompanying book. They were touring South Africa and gave performances as volunteers as part of the STEPi project. Dreamcatcher facilitated all travel arrangements in South Africa, from arrival on 1st March 2023 and coordinated community performances during the bands’ stay in the Greater Western Cape region from 5th to 17th March 2023.
The band recently released the beautiful music video (see below) ‘Beads On One String Around the World’, which includes footage of their tours in South Africa, Cambodia, Canada, Netherlands, India, and USA. If you watch carefully, you’ll see snippets of the Dreamcatcher family. You can read more about Dennis’s experiences in his blog which features lots of lovely pictures from the trip.
The map below shows the communities where Dreamcatcher distributed books in the Western Cape – the ‘yellow pins’ denote communities where we visited and distributed books in person, and ‘red pins’ where books were dispatched to other STEPi coordinators for distribution at events. In addition, we worked in other provinces directly engaging and distributing books in Eastern Cape (Joubertina, Jeffreys Bay, Gqeberha, East London) and Gauteng (Olievenhoutbosch and Centurion) – and further facilitated the delivery of books to Gqeberha, East London, Johannesburg, and Mount Frere to coordinators of STEPi events.
Through our engagement at multiple schools, we found teachers committed to their profession. Hamstrung by challenges of large classes, the impact of Covid Pandemic and the social -and health impacts of recurring poverty in the communities, we encountered teacher enthusiasm, passion, and intent to use the books to best advantage. This has been contagious.
Through the project Dreamcatcher has developed lasting connections with a wide range of schools and other institutions. As part of our wider integrated programme we are now collaborating with many of these to address the socio-economic and environmental challenges faced by a significant number of children as shared by the teachers and observed by us.
Despite these challenges we left each school or institution with happy, smiling and singing children (and teachers) – where our team could not contain themselves from joining in 😊. You can explore some of our memorable experiences in the gallery below.
Our tenure managing the project was completed on December 31st 2023. For more information or book enquiries please get in contact with STEPi directly on: email@example.com