In 2005 four headteachers and one health visitor attended a conference in Capetown, South Africa. The title of the conference was "UBUNTU", this means that you can only really be a true person by working together with others. The visit was to be a life changing experience.
Whilst in the conference one of the headteachers tried to get the name of a school locally to deliver some gifts from a school in Knowsley, Merseyside, simply pencils, skipping ropes and friendship bracelets.
One of the girls serving on a jewellery stall tried three telephone numbers and when it seemed that everyone was too busy to even receive gifts she remembered the name of Gertude Sgwentu who at the time was working against all odds to run a creche in the Mandela Township.This is a huge township in Houte Bay, Capetown that Nelson Mandela himself had given his name to. Gertrude came immediately to meet Elaine Maloney a headteacher from England and the journey together began.
Gertrude took Elaine to see the tiny creche in the township and the thirty children, all HIV/AIDS victims were crammed into a tiny shed like structure with no running water, no cooking facilities and certainly no where for the children to play. The children slept on the earth floor and one of the children had had her toes eaten by rats.
The friendship was formed and since 2005 Elaine has been to the township many times. The help that she has received from the schools in Knowsley and the people of Merseyside has been quite simply unique. Knowsley and the people of Merseyside are supposed to be living in a "deprived area" of the UK, they are the most generous and kind hearted people that any one could wish to meet. Through fundraising and sponsorship the children of the original Nolothandu creche have been moved to two beautiful new classrooms, 'The Angel Room' and 'The Starfish Room'.
The headteachers at the conference met Desmond Tutu..his final words at the conference gave the project it's name. He told the story of the starfish, the old African gentleman was walking along the shores of Africa painstakingly throwing back into the sea the hundreds of starfish that were washed up onto the shore. A young African boy saw what the old man was doing and mocked him telling him that he was wasting his time because there were hundreds of them and that it was too big a job. The old man took a step back from his work and replied, "But it matters very much to the one that you throw back in".
The name "The Starfish Project" stayed with the project until it came time to register as a fully fledged charity, the name had been taken and so Gertude came up with the final name "The Angel Starfish Project".
Although Gertrude Sgwentu and her family are no longer connected to the Angel Starfish Project the crèche has gone from strength to strength. It has now become a fully fledged educare centre employing a teacher and two support staff.
The Angel Starfish Educare Centre is now under the guidance of a local management committee comprising of staff, parents, members of the local community and Elaine Maloney representing the Angel Starfish Charity.
The educare centre is now operating from a purpose built building within the local community centre complex. It is now registered with the Education Department and Social Services and caters for over 80 children.