Heart for children from poor families

Instead of wallowing in self-pity when he lost his job 11 years ago, Rodney Parsons seized the opportunity to follow his passion of working with children.

ALL WORTH IT: The owner of Carleen’s daycare and pre-school, Rodney Parsons, is living his dream of working with children Picture: NONSINDISO QWABE

Parsons opened Carleen’s daycare centre and pre-school in the heart of Amalinda Forest to cater for the area’s disadvantaged families.

Eleven years ago, when he opened the daycare, it was in a one-room shack which accommodated six children and one staff member. Today, Parsons runs two successful daycare centres for 100 children.

The centres open each day at 6.30am, and provide children with two meals a day as well as enriched teaching needed by the little people.

His new establishment is in the suburb of Amalinda, but he said his heart is in Amalinda Forest, where it all began.

The daycare in Amalinda Forest caters for 45 children from informal settlements in the area. Parsons said the area was characterised by unemployment and poverty, which compelled him to keep his doors open.

“I know the people here, and they know me too. Most of the parents here depend on grant money to get by. When the kids see me, they call me ‘Aunty Carleen’. They give me so much joy.”

Parsons, 54, runs the daycare centre with his wife, Carleen. He said they both had wished to become foundation phase teachers, but finances were never enough for them to go back to study. “From a young age I’ve been drawn to children. There is something special about them. I am now an educator not by qualification but by passion. I love my job.”

Parsons knows the living conditions of each of his young pupils. He said he lived for making a difference, by investing in the country’s leaders of tomorrow.

He said most of the children relied on the food they received at the centre to survive. This, he said, motivated him to continue doing more for them. He said he moved into a shack in Amalinda Forest for four years because he wanted to “experience the life lived by people emagalini [in the shacks].” He said this made him empathetic towards those less fortunate. He would like to grow his centre and transform it into a better environment. He also intends to start a soup kitchen for needy schools around Amalinda.

Parsons said a life-threatening illness landed him in ICU four years ago, but an inner nudge told him he still had more work to do for children. He would love to run a school for children with physical disabilities.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges in the work we do, but I am invested in it. Seeing those faces every day makes it all worth it. This is my life.” — nonsindisoq@dispatch.co.za

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