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International conference in Paternoster looks to the future

By Joan Kruger. Published in Westlander October 2019.

The Paternoster Project NPC, a “visionary project”, bringing a “message of hope” to the children of Paternoster, recently held its third annual conference, to great acclaim from local and international delegates.

One of the pioneering plans discussed at the conference was a children’s village to be developed in consultation with the Paternoster community. This extension of the current children's house will in time welcome 180 children to its educational and recreational facilities.

The group of local and international delegates to the Third Paternoster Project Conference pictured with the “orange jackets”, the volunteers working in Paternoster.

The conference, held from 23 to 25 October at Paternoster, was attended by 70 delegates from South Africa, Germany and Namibia. In-depth papers were delivered and spirited discussions took place around the Paternoster Project NPC's vision of equipping the youth of Paternoster for the future and maintaining the local heritage.

In a welcoming address read at the opening of the conference, the Minister of Science, Research and Arts of Baden-Württemberg, Theresia Bauer, said the project was a “shining example” and serves as a “model for future cooperation”.

The objectives of the conference, held in the spirit of learning from one another, were to evaluate the achievements of the volunteer project after three years. Delegates also mapped out an action plan for year four.

“The local participation in the project has grown tremendously and this was reflected by the conference,” said Maike Reinhardt, manager of the Volunteer Project. She pointed out that there is high interest from Namibia and from the Swellendam community for a similar project. “We want to transfer our learnings and experience to other regions where the children need additional support. With this in mind we will start pilot projects in Namibia and Swellendam next year.”

The conference was attended by community leaders, parents, representatives from the Department of Education, Boland Rugby and the Saldanha Bay municipality, academics from Stellenbosch University and from various universities in the Federal Estate Baden-Württemberg, Germany, as well as by the current team of eight volunteers. In his keynote speech dr. Jerome Joorst, from the Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University, looked at how partnerships between various stakeholders can address educational challenges in multi-diverse contexts. “The conference was characterised by a lot of goodwill and robust discussion,” he said afterwards.

In his closing remarks, Prof Arnold van Zyl, president of the Dual Estate University, Baden Württemberg, said the network of people doing similar things enriched the conference through their experience. Best practice cases were discussed by, among others, the Mbkweny Youth Centre, Paarl. This led Christian Neuber, who established the foundation Kinder Fördern – Zukunft Stiften, to say: “The conference expressed how people share a common goal and passion in what is being done in Paternoster and other regions.”

Christian Neuber, founder of the Foundation Kinder Fördern – Zukunft Stiften, welcomes delegates to the conference.

Conference papers addressed topics such as child health, sport development and community involvement, and innovative school concepts. Workshops focused on various aspects of the afternoon programme of the Paternoster Project NPC. Regarding the life-skills aspect of the programme, Joan Kruger, manager of the Story Hook initiative, said: “I am particularly heartened by the strong focus on reading as a way of stimulating children's minds, developing language skills and expanding knowledge.”

In line with maintaining the local heritage, the organisers invited a Vredenburg riel dance group to perform at the opening of the conference. Delegates were delighted by the skills of the youngsters and the volunteers plan to include teaching children the riel dance as part of the programme.

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