A new city-wide initiative to protect and develop the potential of all 75 000 babies who will be born in Cape Town next year and each following year will be launched on Tuesday 3 December 2013. The aim of Cape Town EMBRACE is to connect each child in the city who might otherwise be excluded, to a network of support that links their parents to another caring adult.
Without such support, it is likely that half of the City’s birth cohort in 2014 will fail to reach their full potential. Based on current statistics, ten thousand will become stunted, fewer than half will participate in early learning programmes, and half will not complete Grade 12. This represents significant wasted potential, both for the individuals and the City as a whole. “Every Cape Town child is born with great potential into a city filled with possibility,” says Director of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Rev. Mpho Tutu. “Yet we fail to fully realise their promise, despite the fact that we have the people and the money to do so”.
Cape Town EMBRACE draws on the findings of numerous international studies that show that some children are able to do well, despite their poverty. Three critical factors that make children more resilient in the face of poverty are caring parents, another significant mentor in their lives and modest connections to opportunity at critical points in their lives. The American psychologist Ann Masten calls this the ‘ordinary magic’ that can change society.
Cape Town EMBRACE aims to galvanise the City of Cape Town in support of its children through faith- and community-based organisations and through interested and caring individuals. Each ‘connector’ will be linked to the parent or caregiver of a child whose potential might otherwise not be realised – providing companionship and support through pregnancy, enabling infants to be exposed to books and toys soon after birth, and identifying other opportunities to stimulate the child’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.
The initiative has the support of prominent religious leaders such as Rev. Mpho Tutu, Imam Rashied Omar and the Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town, Stephen Brislin, as well as social service organisations such as Rotary International, AfrikaTikkun and Philani Health & Nutrition Centres.
“Many churches, mosques and synagogues – and many other people – are already providing support to children at risk” says Project Leader Margie-Worthington-Smith, “but this is an opportunity to amplify our efforts in a city-wide initiative that reaches out even further than we are able to do in isolation. Cape Town Embrace seeks to confront the stark divides of our society, not paper over them. But it recognises that overcoming inequality requires both equitable service provision and new connections between a people divided by their past”.
The Chairperson of the City’s Religious Leaders’ Forum, Imam Rashied Omar, has called on all Capetonians to support the initiative. “The essence of humanity is realizing who you are through other people”, he says. “We call it Ubuntu – let’s embrace the power of the collective to nurture our children’s humanity”. –
The initiative will be spearheaded by a small dedicated team comprised of Margie Worthington-Smith, Gabeba Gaidien and Andile Nofemela, working together with a network of organisations across the city. The DG Murray Trust provides core funding for Cape Town EMBRACE.