Mishka’s story of how playing can change a life

Chappies is an informal settlement in Macassar, just outside Cape Town, and is one of the poorest communities in the Western Cape. Growing up in a neighbourhood ravaged by poverty leaves children vulnerable and susceptible to following a similar path. Young children, like five-year-old Mishka*, are under constant threat of being abused or falling victim to the harshness that surrounds them. 

Mishka’s mum says growing up in this informal settlement is not safe, particularly for young girls. She says it is a daily struggle to put food on the table. On the rare days that she does find employment — cleaning houses — she has no choice but to leave her daughter with her ailing grandfather.  The financial strain makes it difficult for her to provide for Mishka in a way that will see her end the cycle of poverty that has plagued the family for generations.

But there is hope. Three years ago, Cotlands opened up a toy library and early learning playgroup just around the corner from Mishka’s home. 

The early learning playgroup not only offers Mishka a place to play without fear, it also provides her with the tools she needs to excel at school and one day become economically stable enough to break the cycle of poverty.

According to Bianca, her early learning playgroup facilitator, Mishka is a shy but intelligent child. She grasps math concepts quickly and is able to express her creativity through play-dough. Bianca says that of late Mishka has been speaking up and has “come out of her shell”. 

“It is important for children to find their voice and speak up if they see something that is not right or if they feel uncomfortable in a situation. I’m glad that the early learning playgroup has allowed Mishka an opportunity to develop this skill,” says Bianca.

* Name changed

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