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Good afternoon everyone!

Today IS A VERY special day! As the LesediWP_20180413_058 Board of Directors, Lesedi Management and Lesedi Staff, we are officially celebrating our 25th Birthday as an organisation! And I would like to welcome you all to this celebratory lunch. A very special word of welcome must go to 2 very special guests: Mrs Alice Phirime who was Lesedi’s first staff member and trainer in 1993, and Mr George Mokgothu who is the CEO of Interstate Bus Lines and also served on the Lesedi Board of Directors for many years. Thank you so much to you both for being with us today!!! I remember so clearly handing the keys of our first Golf to Alice on 01 April 1993!! Now Alice is the Director of her own ECD Resource and Training Organisation!! And IBL continues to play a pivotal role in enabling us to reach many children who would otherwise not be reached – thank you! April seems to be a real birthday month and we have 4 staff members celebrating their birthdays : Esther today, Maria on 16 April, Winnie on 22 April and Ntate Sebolai on 25 April!! Happy Birthday to you all! We must also remember Betty who is not with us today, Betty added a new member to our Lesedi family this week when her new little one was born on Monday!

I would like to ask you all to please enjoy the occasion today, and above all, enjoy being together!

When I reflect back on the last 25 years, it is so difficult to believe that from very small beginnings, Lesedi has developed into the organisation that it is today, with such a significant outreach to communities and above all, to young children. We are reaching just over 10 000 young children each year through the various programmes in our Integrated ECD Care Package! And this is in no small way because of the commitment, dedication and loyalty of the Lesedi Board and all Lesedi Staff!   It is because of you all that we are where we are today – thank you!   You have all played your part in building the organisation and its programmes – and today is dedicated to you!

The journey we have travelled over the past 25 years as an organisation has been an amazing one – at times it has been a bumpy road, we have climbed many mountains and also gone through many valleys – but always we have come out on top!! And this is because we have never lost sight of our core purpose and our reason for being – to make a difference where it matters most ….to young children! We have kept our eyes firmly focussed on our Vision – that “all young children should have access to a gentle, just and stimulating childhood!” This has been our vision from the very beginning in 1993, and it is still our vision! Over the past 25 years, our programmes have always reflected this vision and our commitment to making the world a better place for our youngest citizens! Deep concern for the well-being of young children has dictated the direction which the organisation’s programmes have taken over the years, and this concern is at the core of every step which Lesedi takes. And in the words of our beloved Tata Madiba: “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of our children”.

The past 25 years have seen many changes in the ECD sector and we are still experiencing many changes! Change can be painful,   but Lesedi staff have always embraced change positively and with great commitment – a commitment that has been driven by the need to make a difference at all levels, by the need to provide the best possible training, education and support services in order to increase access to quality early learning opportunities for young children, and above all, the need to ensure that the best interests of young children are put first, and that children remain at the top of every agenda!

In celebrating the achievements of the past 25 years, we also need to acknowledge and thank the many friends who have supported us and walked the road with us. We need to sincerely thank our funders both past and present, for without their generosity and continued belief in what we are doing, we would not be reaching and making a difference to so many young children and their families. Over the years we have greatly valued our relationship with our Free State Gov. Departments and especially the Dept. of Social Development. We always enjoy working and networking with our colleagues in the ECD field, and especially our colleagues in the Free State.   It is always such a privilege to share ideas and to learn from one another, knowing that we are united in our concern for the well-being of young children. And most importantly, I would also like to acknowledge and sincerely thank our practitioners who work every day of their lives in the front-line with young children in their community ECD Centres often under extremely difficult circumstances. And finally I would like to thank our communities for inspiring us and giving us hope, as they provide for their young children, sometimes against overwhelming odds.

Please remember:   The future of our country lies in very small hands,

and their future lies in our hands!

We all need to make a difference where it matters most………..

…………..to young children!

Thank you and enjoy this very special day!!!

Christine Waldie

13 April 2018

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