Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) has been involved with Forest Town School for Children with Special Needs since 2007. Initially they refurbished four dismal playgrounds. In 2006, the school established the Work Experience Training Centre due to the almost 100 percent rate of unemployment of youth categorised as having a combination of disabilities, which includes lower cognitive function, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, epilepsy and other complications.
The first phase commenced in 2006 for 16 to 18 year old youth, despite the few resources available at the school. PPC saw the potential of this programme and became interested in setting up commercial bakery training. They funded the installation of a fully-fledged bakery in 2009. Known as the Rise Bakery, students made great progress, which led us to commence with the second phase of training.
The Work Experience Programme devised and set-up the first post-school learnership programme for school leavers between 19 and 25 years of age, who have received adapted education since they were admitted to the school, many as young as the age of three years old. This is the only centre of its kind in a non-governmental organisation in South Africa. The success of the bakery training (accredited by LIS Hospitality College) has been phenomenal, with the range of products being extended and marketed to the general public, and products sold to staff of the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens. Post-school students become supervisors and are involved with training the new intake of 16 year old learners.
Towards the end of last year, PPC donated a unique server, called Breadbin, which provides all of the materials needed for education, therapy and training at the touch of the screen, as well as learner projects and other resources. One of the post-school learnership students is currently receiving training to operate this system for the school and the WEP programme.
This year, PPC provided the funding to extend training to confectionary. Six individual workstations have been built and will be fully operational by May this year. In addition to funding the workstations, PPC also provided funding to extend the IT Technology Training Centre workshop. The old workshop could only accommodate four students at a time. The beautiful new workshop is large enough to accommodate all of the students, their equipment and the computers that they are in the process of upgrading and re-selling in order to provide income for their training materials.
Other training includes beauty therapy (hairdressing, massage, mani/pedicures, etc.), hospitality (students run a Coffee Shop open to the public) and barista training. All of this training is also accredited.
At this stage, no subsidy has yet been approved by government (we are in the process of negotiating) for the post-school learnership programme. We are in need of donor funding for equipment, materials, stipends for daily living expenses for 10 students between 19 and 25 years of age, and the salary for a facilitator for IT Technology Training and an Educator for the first phase of training.
The Work Experience Programme has been Greater Capital Approved
The public is welcome to make use of all of the facilities and to have refreshments in the Tsogo Coffee and Craft shop.
Contact Marion Leatherbarrow on 011 791 2721 or 082 973 3711 should you wish to visit this unique programme, and to meet the real heroes of this story, the students themselves.
Contact me should you be able to make a donation or corporate social investment (CSI) grants. CSI programmes benefit from Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Certification, Section 18a Tax Exemption. There are two linked NGOs, either of which can be selected; Forest Town School for Children with Special Needs, and Work Experience Programme WEP@WORK Post School Learnership Training.
Urgent Needs: Funding for WEP for equipment, materials and general expenses, building maintenance, salaries (educators, therapists, medical staff, bus driver, classroom assistants, WEP educator and facilitator), general educator and learner needs, medical and therapy requirements, principal's school spending fund. The annual government subsidy only covers about 20 percent of the total annual budget.