Life can be bleak for the residents of the Kensington refugee camp in Cape Town, South Africa.
Many of the camp’s almost 800 residents fled from famine and violence in countries including the DR Congo, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. On arriving in South Africa, many were met by xenophobia and often violence.
Around 160 of the camp inhabitants are children under the age of 10. This is where ORT SA CAPE has stepped in to make a difference.
The organization last month distributed packs of LEGO Six Bricks – sets of colorful LEGO building blocks which encourage learning through play – to the refugee children. In total, since May, ORT SA CAPE has handed out a remarkable 10,000 such sets to underprivileged kids in the region.
Bev Da Costa, ORT SA CAPE co-CEO, said: “The global pandemic emphasized the importance of the role that parents and caregivers play in the education of the children in their care. Many families from disadvantaged communities do not have the means or access to adequate resources to educate and stimulate young children.
“Thanks to resources sponsored by the LEGO Foundation, the ORT team has been able to distribute LEGO Six Bricks during school closures and beyond.”
The LEGO resources include bricks in six bright colors and help children practice memory, movement, creativity, problem solving, collaboration and other skills. The packs come with an activity booklet advising parents how to use them at home and encourage them to see the value of purposeful play in early education.
The Kensington refugee camp currently consists of one large tent and the community’s support system does not extend to the necessary medical, educational and social needs.
Karen Kaimowitz, ORT SA CAPE co-CEO, added: “Unfortunately, the living conditions at the camp are extremely challenging and the resources available to the children are very limited. They were overjoyed with the LEGO Six Bricks which provide them with entertainment and learning at the same time.”
Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “The dedication of our ORT colleagues in the Western Cape of South Africa is indicative of the spirit of our organization worldwide – doing the right thing to help the wider community, whether Jewish or not, and to ensure that no child is left behind.
“However challenging the circumstances, we work to promote a spirit of tikkun olam – healing the world – and in doing so give young people the skills and opportunities they need to lead fulfilling lives and have a positive impact on the world around them.
“The smiles on the faces of the children in the Kensington camp when they received their LEGO packs is testament to the success of our efforts.”