Karen Kievit is a very special friend to the Nqileni community, particularly its children. She spent 9 months as a BI volunteer in 2009/2010, bringing her expertise in Early Childhood Development as well as many other skills to the establishment of the Jujurha Education Centre. Much to our delight, she decided to spend her summer vacation here, travelling all the way from her home in Washington State, USA. During her visit she has not only reinvigorated our ECD programme but she brought a BRIGHT IDEA which addresses the low level of visual perception identified by our Grade R assessments last year. The reasons for this probably include the lack of visual stimulation experienced by children from birth – their homes are generally dark huts without pictures, books or brightly coloured furnishings and they spend many hours tied on to their mothers’ backs.

Karen’s solution was to design and make padded baby mats using a variety of high contrast fabrics to which toys and scraps of wool have been sewn. An old manual Singer sewing machine worked wonderfully! The babies are placed face down on these mats and then on their backs – in both positions their eyes are stimulated either by the patterns or the toys or both.

At a special workshop, Karen explained the need for visual stimulation to 9 excited and interested young mothers who were then asked to complete a mat with some of the trimmings before placing their babies on to it. 


The babies’ immediate responses encouraged the mothers to follow Karen’s instructions to use the mats every day for their very specific purpose and to pass them on to other babies once their own reached the crawling stage. We love it when a plan comes together!

Thanks, Karen!