The auditorium of the Peninsula Beverages Company in Parow Industria was abuzz on Friday July 1, filled to the brim with curious, excited children from Mitchell’s Plain on an excursion with the Weltevreden Recreation Centre in Rocklands.
The visit to what many of the children know as “the Coke factory”, is just one of the many programmes the centre, a refuge and sanctuary for many school-age youth, has to offer.
Many of the children who frequent the centre have attended aftercare services and recreational activities at the centre from Grade R all the way to matric.
Veronica Hendricks has been the co-ordinator of the centre for the past 18 years and several of the pupils said she is like a second mother to them. She ensures the children are kept busy with homework, constant excursions, and gymnastic exercises – just to name a few.
“There is a need in our communities for extracurricular offerings that the children otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” she said.
Ms Hendricks has been an active pillar of community service for years, first as a Rocklands Scouts group scouter before becoming co-ordinator at Weltevreden.
She said drugs and crime are prevalent in the neighbourhood. “The centre helps keep the children safe and active.”
Matric pupil Nizaam Benting has been attending the recreational centre holiday programmes for eight years now, since Grade 4.
“Aunty Veronica is like a mom to me. I help her out when I can. I’ve learned how to make new friends and how to be obedient. Most importantly, I’m a servant of the community.”
In addition to providing help with homework as well as a safe space, the children are also afforded special opportunities, such as the trip to the beverages company. “They’re exposed to various opportunities,” said Ms Hendricks.
Zoë Peterson, a Grade 8 pupil, has been with the centre for five years. “We have camp every year and a holiday programme every term. I can’t wait to come here every day. I first came when I was in Grade 3 and now I’m a play leader and role model for the younger children. I never thought I would come so far,” she said.
Managing children of all ages playing together sounds hectic, but Ms Hendricks takes it all in her stride. “If you love the job, you won’t say it’s difficult,” she said, looking around at the children with pride. It is a privilege to have the Grade Rs because they can join gymnastics earlier, receive help with homework, and practise their reading. Meanwhile, the older children learn responsibility and co-operation managing the younger children,” she said.
Ryan Williams thoroughly enjoys helping out with the smaller children. The Grade 9 pupil said: “The centre is a place where you learn respect and discipline. Ms Hendricks is the first person I run to when I’m in need. My favourite part of being here is playing football because it teaches leadership skills and co-operation.”
The centre represents a colossal part of the Rocklands youth community and Ms Hendricks has a vision for her pupils that extends beyond matric. “I want to give these children an advantage. My goal is that the underprivileged take a better place in society.”
Holiday programmes at the Weltevreden Recreational Centre will continue for the next week and a half until the new school term starts on Monday July 18 and the centre then reverts back to aftercare.
* Sterling Conyers is an American student, completing a two-month internship with Cape Community Newspapers, which pub- lishes the Plainsman.