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Interview between Rebekah Funk and Dustin Coraizen

1. Tell me a little about yourself — where did you grow up, what was your childhood and upbringing like, how did you get into teaching, how old are you, etc.?


My name is Dustin Coraizen. I am 27 years old. I was born in the middle of winter, July 25th, 1992 in a rainy Vredenburg, approximately 15 kilometres from Paternoster where we still live. I grew up in Paternoster, a small fisherman’s village I call home, right under the wings of a lot of strong community women aside from the arms of my mother of course, Esmerelda Coraizin, and sister, Aniska Coraizin. It is true what they say about raising a child; “It takes a village to raise a child.”

My childhood was full of adventure and quiet a lot of different challenges. I am the product of a single parent. My mother took on the role both as mother and father. She made sure that despite the fact that we had very little, that we should still make the best out of what we had. And guess what, the little we had, helped us appreciate each other even more.

My mother worked in the local Fish Factory. Her shifts was very odd and it led to me and my sister staying alone during the night while she was working night shift from time to time. We lived with my uncle in his house at that time, also in Paternoster – Kliprug, after we were moved out of Kraaifontein. He was a fisherman at sea and would often work away for months.

I received my determination and positive drive from my mother. She would work so hard, and always made sure that even though we did not had it easy, that she still spoiled us with a small treat or chomp chocolate every now and then. Keep in mind, her little salary at that time to feed a house hold! That made us really appreciative. The relationship of getting a hiding and a hug at the same time is what I remember as if it was yesterday. That was the thing in the community – one child were everybody’s child, until it faded out as time went by!

I would sit and just admire the drive my mother had while she worked a full time job and still made time to take me by her side to help her in the community with community project. She opened my eyes to try and be better, wanting better and striving for better, not just for myself, but for the future of an even greater community.

I attended three different schools during my schooling career. My primary school in Paternoster, St. Augustine’s Primary where I was head boy in grade 7. A primary school in Vredenburg, Eden Primary where I was head boy in grade 8 and my high school, Weston High, where I was on the matric council of leaders in grade 12. My mother attended all the programs I took part in at school as her work allowed her – and she would cheer me on and support me with everything she had.

I knew all along that I wanted to go into teaching because I could not made up my mind on anything other than teaching. For the records, I wanted to become everything in life, still do - and what better way through teaching I believe. I knew that I wanted to teach and steer young minds towards becoming the best they can ever be. Even if it meant to constantly remind them of their excellence and power to grow and change.

Finances was one of the things that stood between me and my studies, still is, but did not hold me back from achieving them. The local fisherman’s in the community came to my rescue when they came together in my first year of undergraduate studies in 2012 to help me with my registration fees at Stellenbosch University. I believed that once I am able to walk into the universities doors, that life would become much easier – and it did, just a little bit! I immediately started searching for job opportunities aside from my studies. I would work on campus until late, attending all my classes, walk to campus residences, some days without having anything to eat or going to bed hungry, but still was able to complete my studies as I promised myself.

I was fortunate enough to get through my undergraduate studies which consisted out of even bigger challenges due to different factors, but receiving my Bachelors in Education Degree Cum Laude was rewarding enough. My Bachelors in Education Honours Degree followed straight after that, while teaching full time at a primary school in Cloetesville, Stellenbosch. I would work during the day, drive to campus to attend classes and do assignments late at night. It was a rough experience but helped me to become the diverse holistic teacher that I am at the moment while still growing and evolving every single day.

2. How did you get involved with the Paternoster Project?


I was still busy with my B.Ed. Honours Degree and full time Teaching when I first heard about the plans and goals of the Paternoster NPC in 2016. The local community were very excited about the project, as well as the learners from the local primary schools, ST Augustin’s Primary. We could not wait for the project to start.

My mother got involved in the project and so did my niece that are currently at the local primary school in Grade 2 (2019). I remember how I would get home from Stellenbosch during school holidays to sit and listen to my niece speaking with full excitement about the project and what they are doing there. She would draw pictures of the teachers (volunteers) and have the news letters available for me to read to her from time to time – sometimes more than three times. I kept up to date with what was roaming in the project through information from my mother and niece.

In 2018 I met with the amazing Jaco van der Westhuizen and Andre Kleynhans, for who I have a lot of respect, and Christian Neuber, where I spoke about my goals and plans in lending a hand in the strive for a better Paternoster for all, especially to bring the outside world to Paternoster.

I was asked by Christian Neuber to complete an assignment - which led me in meeting up with Maike, such a vibrant and positive individual. Meeting Maike linked me to the Volunteers and the project directly.

3. Tell me about your role with the Project and what you do on a regular basis?


My role in the project is still very flexible due to the fact that I am running between Stellenbosch and Paternoster.

I assist with overall drafts with regards to SWOT analysis of Paternoster in understanding the odds and setting strategies to overcome it.

I also mentor the groups of volunteers on the academic side of the South African Curriculum in understanding how to make the learner the centre for planning about the environment, of the environment, for the environment.

I am a at this stage still a full time teacher in Stellenbosch at a primary school in an area known as Cloetesville, previously mentioned. This community is parallel to Paternoster, but in a sense, worse of in almost all aspects if I think about it. I believe that leaders should go into exile to learn as much as they can other othering, before heading back to bring systematic change in their communities.

I am also still a postgraduate student at Stellenbosch University where I have completed my Bachelors of Honours (B.Ed. Hons) in education, and currently doing my Masters in Education (M.Ed.).

Between Stellenbosch and Paternoster, I try to keep active and make sure that I see any block in front of me as a building block to better myself for the change Paternoster and South Africa needs.

4. Describe some of the main challenges facing the kids, the German + South African volunteers, the Project, and the community as a whole.


Challenges that the children face;

The children of Paternoster are faced with a lot of challenges that influence and shift their views and perspectives from their own personal success.

This leaves a gap in their growth and isolate their own believes from what they are able to achieve, aside from what they are used to in Paternoster that are partially beneficial.

The environment that are created for our children are really fading with negativity and children are often left on their own to make decisions for themselves due to absent parent and positive direct influences.

The protectors and so-called leaders that need to walk the road for them, are in most cases not involve in their lives or often linked with more than one house holds or extended sibling.

Children have a lack of healthy role models, in and outside Paternoster, and get supported by their parents and peers even if they are doing wrong.

The process of correcting their wrong doings often gets set right through the necessary processes as needed to understand the outcomes and to have full compassion to ensure better actions next time.

The pattern of being devoted to the completion of tasks given are also either done with a bad attitude, not to the best of their ability or not at all. The structure of teaching and learning are in most cases absent or dominated by lack of working together.

Challenges that the German + SA volunteers face;

The learners comes out of different households that has their own challenges and structures as they are used to, good or not so good.

It can be challenging to accommodate every individual diverse child’s needs under the same holistic umbrella of instruction, therefore alternative measurements and differentiation is needed.

It is important to know how to filter and group children to get to what they feel comfortable doing, therefore to ensure that wrong doings are set right in a process as should.

We need to work with what we have, as children can be known as intellectual intelligent beings - that’s why we need to pave those networks to make sure that children think in a creative way that inspire and ensure ongoing evaluation of good deeds, which is not always the case.

The ability to listen and act on instructions may differ, that’s why a pause in the process to reflect on actions need to take place at all times, with the certain goal in mind.

Challenges that the project face;

The challenges that the project faces are extremely huge.

We have children that does not always do things according to rules because it often gets exercised. The project needs to set realistic goals, which is the case, to ensure that children in the program do right and learn from their wrong doings. They need to learn to discover and reflect.

The project should therefore also focus on children-centred activities that are linked to different values and virtues that need to be met in due time. Children act on energy handed their way.

Children has a lot of energy that should be used to the benefit of themselves and their direct surroundings, in and around their house - and at school. Relationships should be made to network their house with the program. That is why context related activities are of utmost important.

Challenges that the community face;

Self-respect plays a big role in challenges faced by the community in a whole. The community tend to struggle with the process of supporting one’s success and genuinely being happy if someone succeed in whatever they took on to achieve.

With this clouded mind sets comes unemployment that leads to break-ins, alcohol- and drug abuse in some cases, and obviously, teenage pregnancies because of the fact that positive reinforcement never takes places as should.

Learner drop-outs are also a big thing that becomes more frequently exercised by primary- and high school learners, or even ongoing absenteeism from school on a daily basis. I remember how my mother would take learners to school if she notice a primary school learner is often absent from school for no reason.

Parent involvement due to either work obligations or pure laziness - as parents do not always take ownership of their children and does not always admit their absence. Regardless if there is ways of ensuring the success of each and every child. The types of role models that are visible in the community are also minimal.

Children will look for ways to “belong” and if their view is the mirror of negative examples - that will eventually become their norm.

5. Someone mentioned they saw kids drawing gang symbols on artwork at the children’s home — are gangs a big problem in Paternoster? How is the Project working to create an alternative to crime (or alcoholism and drugs) in children and teenagers?


Gangs, as in the sense of gangsterism in a whole, is not the actual problem in Paternoster. The problem is a divided community due to parents that do not want to admit that their children needs direction when they are doing wrong. In Paternoster we experience unemployed young people that sleeps through the day and moves through the night – as they are doing drugs and often steels from others.

In relation to gangsterism experienced in different parts of the west coast, and in the media or even in Stellenbosch and Cape Town, what we have in Paternoster are not the case – even though it is still a huge concern and really bad to see these unemployed young people moving around. Many children has become targets for alcoholism and drug use because of this norm and the fact that it is easy accessible.

The community are mainly confronted by unemployed young people, high school drop-outs, parent-supported-individuals, whose parents cover up anything their children do, and that pave the way for little children to follow in as no interventions are in place to help those who needs it most. It becomes the norm!

I would say that parents, those who are covering the wrong doings of their children, are in fact the cause for so-called gangsters (young individuals that are lost from their path of success) “ongoing” usage of drugs and misuse of alcohol because no help gets steered their way.

The project provides a safe home for most little children / teens by creating a gateway from the norm they are facing on a daily bases. It helps to create hope in a sense of rediscovery and redefining their art of what they are actual fully capable of achieving if they stay focussed and are hardworking.

The project also keep the children active so that they can keep busy while managing their time to their advantage - and keeping them from the streets or from wondering around in the streets becoming a target to bad habits.

6. When I was at the crèche, they mentioned they often struggle to get parents to events, or to be involved with their children’s educations. What would it take to get more buy-in from parents in the community? Why do you think there’s apathy or resistance currently?


The absence of most parents in the daily activities and whereabouts of their children is one of the most frequent results of apathy or resistance. This results in parents that are not actively involved in these children’s education, but also linked to different ongoing factors.

One of these factors is the lack of structured households where children enters their houses anytime during the night and sleep until whatever times during the day. This leads to the absence of rules and responsibilities, both as parents and child.

It is important that parents become more aware of the benefits of fully supporting their children’s education. In this way to better their lives and the lives of their children’s in the long run. Science proves that any child learns as much as they can between birth and age 4. This leaves us with the question; Is parents doing enough to mould and steer the mind set of their children in Paternoster, and other parts of South Africa, to therefore develop multiple intelligences from a small age already?

Poverty creeps in when parents aren’t actively involved in the growth of their children - and that is when the burden of their children’s growth are left on the doorsteps of their parents when they grow up - which is not normal and needs to be evaluated.

On the other hand, parents do try their best in some odd instances, but the livelihood of these parents and children can trigger absence thereof due to work responsibilities in and out of hospitality season in Paternoster. Even though there is no reason for parents to not attend meetings regarding their children’s education.

There is ways of staying in contact with teachers and being actively involved in the education of their children, but parents need to discuss strategies of importance and get group mentors to guide them on scheduling around the phases of growth of their child, and their views of the education of their children – aside from the fact that most parents send their children to school as a safe kept haven of teachers just looking after their children while they are at work.

7. What do you hope to achieve through your involvement with the Project?


It is important that, through the program, we will be able to set structures for growth and make the parents and children aware of collaborative teaching and learning. Our parents and learners need a mind shift from what is important for the facilitation and nurturing processes of “small minds” towards much bigger developmental benefits.

We need to set parallels to engage parents with each other in creating a platform to begin with discussions on bettering the pathway forward for their children. They should be able to openly identify short comings that needs to be addressed and providing guidance and help to other parents on ensuring the success of each and every child in Paternoster, and in the local school.

How great would it be if we can together help steer the success of each and every child, and when they dwell, to get them back on the path to where they are destined to be in life, successful!

The program should become a form of rediscovery and awareness of greater things to come for our children. One of my main goal, of many goals I actually have, is to make sure that children gets recognition where needed and guidance if recognition is not earned.

We should change the perspectives of quantity to quality, the view of less is more is important, as well as developing self-worth throughout the program so that children can think before they act, rethink and create their positions anywhere in the world of work, outside and inside Paternoster.

The project should help to bring differences forward that needs restructures and to ensure an environment where children can puzzle their thought in endless possibilities. Our children are worth so much more than what they think there are worth due to the lack of self-worth.

All they need is someone to keep the map open for them, someone to believe in them and to tell them when they are doing wrong, but also to provide them with alternative ways of overcoming obstacles that might fuel bad habits and wrongful actions. This is measurable!

All children consist out of all the possible multiple Intelligences. It just need to be awaken for them to realise it, and focus more on it. Children wants to feel worth and success, we should show them success by supporting them on all necessary levels with the help of the program, and ultimately with the help of the parents and community.

8. Describe the impact you’ve seen on the children and community since it began in 2016 (and give specific examples).


The positive impact that the Paternoster Project had and still have on the children, parents and the community was instantly visible since the start.

Children were able to look forward to something productive after school, the Paternoster Project. Not only for a meal and a safe space, but also for the process of getting stimulated in discovering new things and being part of a worthy cause other than just wondering on their own while their parents are either at work or not home.

The children are able to get to know a whole new cultural outlook on different levels, from interacting with the German volunteers to visiting the light house in a group – something so precious on the doorstep of our heritage.

They can also enjoy educational activities, both at the children’s house – Hoopsig, as well as in the community, not to forget the beach. They learn how to embrace every corner of Paternoster and still learn from it by getting more aware of their surroundings and instilling pride over the community.

I remember fondly how confident Afrikaans home language children speak to the volunteers in English which is their additional language at school, and even their replies in German / Dutch – they try really hard and are interested in learning a new language.

Through the project they get to find their purpose amongst other people that believes in them and that try to help them with their internal cognitive growth. The children are also more project driven in a sense that they know what they are going to do at the programs presented by the volunteers and assisting members from the community.

9. How do you measure “success” with this type of work?


Success is a flexible, yet complex, term that are used to measure achievement in most cases.

The meaning actually, for me, depends on the lens that you look through in understanding the measurement of the ongoing process. The meaning of success is different to all individuals, different things, depending on what their set goals are and in what they want to achieve or in what time frame.

Within regards to the project, success can be measured as an ongoing process of rediscovery and awareness of how much an individual, in this case, children are cognitively growing.

The project, for now, can measure success through growth – and it has growth tremendously.

Even so that it has the volunteers house and the children house – Hoopsig as a sign of the dedication that the project has towards ensuring children growing up to be successful.

Every sign of engagement is a success. The fact that children are interested in where the volunteers come from and their language is a success. The energetic smiles and hugs of children is a success. The constant attendance of children after school in the program is a success. The recognition and involvement of parents are a success, as well as grand-parents. The partnership and mutual goal driven individuals are a success. The fact that stakeholders believe in a better future for all our learners are a success.

These are small ways of measuring success for now, as the ultimate goal was to keep children busy with educational activities, and ultimately from the streets of Paternoster to do productive beneficial learning.

10. Is there anything you wish the community or government should know about the work you do?


I believe that energy and determination are at some extend fuelled by recognition in the form of awareness. This steer participation and ongoing involvement in a project.

Our community and government needs to know that if an individual is aware of the endless possibilities that awaits them, especially our children of Paternoster –, how great would that part of South Africa become. And through awareness, how great would the rest of parts of South Africa become just by spreading light where children are stuck in what they believe is darkness.

We are adults for a reason, and our actions are the lenses children looks through to follow eventually.

We need to bring awareness on all possible mediums for children to become more aware of their ultimate worth and in changing their mind sets to the many possibilities that awaits them. They need to dream big, but we need to dream with them to overcome boundaries and overpower the small voices in their heads that keeps on telling them that they are the “norm” or not destined for greatness.

I am a passionate facilitator of teaching and learning, both in my career, my postgraduate studies, and my role in the program and for the people of Paternoster. I am unapologetic an agent of change! The same boy who once played in the same streets and walked the same pathways that the children are finding themselves in today.

I believe in dual partnership by bringing awareness of the great that is in every child, no matter what the lenses are that they are viewed at by others.

Children are born intelligent. As adults, we just need to continuously guide them, support them and motivate them to be the best they can be. To be better tomorrow, than they were today, and even better than yesterday. Children needs to know that they are powerful, and they are capable – but only if they believe that they can do anything and everything – and if they don’t, they should just ask; How? Help?

In my short career this far, I have faced the numerous problems our country are struggling with – learners that are not appreciated and aware of the greatness that they behold. I try each and every day to first be the change I want to see in front of me, because positivity is contagious, and then to live and inspire the changes others need in their lives.

This is what the community and the government needs to know about my involvement in the Paternoster Project. We will change all Paternoster children for the better, even if it takes us one child at a time. We have to start somewhere and need to remember that what we plant, will GROW! If we plant nothing, anything will grow. If we know what we plant, the process will amaze us in the end, which will be the beginning of something new again.

11. What keeps you going when/if you feel discouraged about progress? …And what gives you the most hope?


What keeps me going is the fact that I have come too far to give up on anything in life. I am not chosen for what I do, I was born to make the changes I experience every day in becoming a teacher for all that cross my path.

It is normal to feel discouraged at times, and children should know it, but giving up is never an option for me.

I have a mother and sister who gave their lives for the success I am thriving in today, and it is my duty to give to others, what they have given to me – opportunities.

I constantly think about the sacrifices my mother took to make sure that my sister and I get what she never had. We did not had everything in life, but what we had was enough for all of us – it was each other.

It is amazing what positive parenting can do to the outlook of a child and his or her determination to succeed in life. Children are the output of the input of adults around them – they need to learn from someone or somewhere!

There is a lot of things that I find hope in, but for now it will have to be growth and differences. It is just so amazing how different we all are with one goal in sight - to ensure that Paternoster wakes up in the glory they have on their doorsteps.

12. Why do you think others (travellers, people from other parts of South Africa) should visit and get involved? What are your biggest needs when it comes to resources and/or skills?


People from different parts of the world should visit us to bring their world to Paternoster. Our children are eager to engage and to amaze themselves. They should help us in inspire our amazing children in what is out there so that their dreams can be bigger than themselves.

Children often think of Paternoster as the “I made it in life” part of growing up because they await the opportunities, not knowing that they need to go and find it, to live it! We need to make them more aware and help them with the tools and instruments to find their ultimate success.

We need examples of what is out there and constant involvement. What better way for outsiders to come into our space and to interact with our children in the program. To help believe, with us, and eventually our community in creating and discovering our little Einsteins of tomorrow.

Time is a constant need that we need to manage wise, but better structures in partnership with other levelled critical thinkers in key.

Engagement with the world outside Paternoster would be something great. Platforms to debate and to join networks regarding the visions of a better Paternoster and better practices are vital.

We are leaders before the children to pave the world for them and to leave them a world full of bits and pieces of everything that is different. That is why we are known as “adults”, the more logical thinkers I believe!

13. What should people know before they visit?


They should know that Paternoster is a “unique haven” on its own, where challenges are faced on a daily bases and guidance are needed.

People should be easy adaptable to change and be positive thinkers. They should come with innovative mind sets in contributing to the growth and success of our children, even if it is just through a conversation or playing and laughing with our children – they love attention as children do.

They should also be open to structured chaos, because teaching and learning takes places within different learning frames for different learning outcomes with different orientated children from different backgrounds and believe systems.

It is also important to come with no preconceived ideas of the environment because one of the main goals is to contextualize and orientate the children in learning about their environment, of their environment, for their environment to reap success ultimately.

This will ensure a better environment for all in and around Paternoster.

14. Is there anything I’ve not asked you that you’d like to add?

The project does not only focus on the children of Paternoster, but also on the parents, the grand-parents and the legal guardians of our children.

If we need to steer the children in the best possible direction, we surely need to include all possible stakeholders in the direct growth of each and every individual child.

It is humbling to hear how positive most parent and extended members are about the project. It is therefore enlighten to know that they see the difference the project makes in the community of Paternoster. They constantly embrace the volunteer groups in the streets and in the community, which is a bonus to the project.


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