Friday, June 12, 2020

Help Us Heal



Help Us Heal by reading & sharing our story

After 20 years of growing a business, our hearts ache as Catrobatkidz bleeds, every day we feel more and more ripped… when will it end? We have been ignored, forgotten and discarded... our industry thrown by the wayside, our lives and incomes stolen from us.... like our existance does not matter, but....

We have to forgive and move forward, but to move forward we need to accept, share and heal. As we each get the courage to share our story, and find the words to try and express ourselves, so too shall this blog grow…

We are all real people and here are our unfolding stories....

Dianne Smith - Catrobatkidz Durban South & Highway Franchisee

I can only hope you are all well.

Okay, so, how has COVID-19 affected me? Well...

  • I love my job, I am my job...
  • I love to listen to the kiddies stories, it's always my favourite time of my day, chatting with the kiddies.
  • I love teaching these innocent souls, their lives have only begun...
  • Being told we can't work has broken me... physically and mentally.
  • I miss seeing the smiles on the kids faces.
  • I miss the big hugs we get.
  • I love my job, I am my job... working with children is a passion, it's not a job.
  • In 24 hours it was all taken away from me... who am I now?
How do I "work from home", how do I "use virtual technology"...?
I battle to explain exactly how I feel, but, right now, all I can shout out is... "I want to go back to work!"

I know when we do go back it's going to be really hard with all the changes, but I'm ready. I hope that's okay, I'm not sure what else to say to you... never will I allow, or do anything that will risk the health of any child... think that of me, and you do not know me, think that of me, and you know not my heart! Thank you.

Sally Delve - Catrobatkidz West Coast Franchisee

If someone had told me in January that our lives would be turned upside down by the end of March I would not have believed them. At first we were told 21 days and our lives could go back to semi normal, I was prepared for that; things could be caught up and we could move on as per normal.

3 months later and things are still not back to normal! Our constants are no longer constant, the things we took for granted, taken away. Our world really was turned upside down.

But as the saying goes when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
A few things I’ve learned is..

be prepared for anything...

always always save money for a rainy day..
and never take anything or anyone for granted.

Hamilton Salane - Catrobatkidz Jhb City & Kasi Franchisee

Covid 19 has not been easy at all and does not get any easier as the days go by. The ECD sector has been totally ignored which has lead to income losses and job losses for practioners and developmental loss for our children.

For me, being a practioner, who plays a huge part in the development of children, and who does my work with passion, I have felt like my life has been put on a total stop; nothing has been the same since the 18th of March 2020

I miss putting a smile on a child's face, I miss telling a child what a super star they are and I miss being the best Catrobat Coach / "Super Hero" in the world. What we do is our life, our hearts are fully committed to making sure the best outcomes are achieved. I miss my life, we miss our Catrobat lives!

The schools, the parents and mostly the kids love us because they feel the love from Catrobatkidz. I am hopeful... I look forward to meeting everyone again.


Ursula Smit - Catrobatkidz Rustenburg Franchisee

For many people, including myself, initially Covid-19 wasn't that serious...it started far away. As the first case landed on our shores we figured this too shall pass.

But then as we went into lockdown, that's when I realized the situation was much more serious than I had thought. I watched as the opinions about the disease expressed by those around me shifted in just a few weeks. Covid-19 went from some disease overseas to a realistic pandemic close to home.

Staying at home sounded like fun... until it wasnt anymore!

The fear of the virus, day to day interruption, total loss of income... this is my new reality, and I suddenly had to deal with it. I'm a mother of a young toddler, we were just about to buy our first home, we were looking forward to such a bright future!

What I miss most about my pre-pandemic life is my normal day to day routine, like getting out each day, driving from school to school to do my classes, having freedom. I took that for granted.

I hope when life returns to "normal" I never take it for granted again.


Melody Clark-Pitt - Catrobatkidz Cape Metro


2020 was supposed to be my year of 20plenty. Plenty business, plenty travel and plenty family. I was riding the high of a fanstastic 2019 year, I had increased business by 32% from the previous year. I was aiming to do the same for 2020. Our travel plans for 2020 made our family look like seasonal jet setters. My brother and his fiance were coming from Austria to Cape Town to get married, my mom was going to Europe for a month to see my brother and his new wife, attend concerts around Europe and enjoy some road tripping and visiting friends. My daughter was going to Scotland in June/July for a month and I was going to Madeira with a friend who had purchased property there. As for plenty family – my big brother and his fiancé were returning to Cape Town from Austria to get married on 27 March 2020 and we were finally going to meet her family. Everyone had their wedding outfits ready, my daughter would be a beautiful fairy flower girl, I had my dress and heels (yes it’s true!!) ready. My brother had booked out the entire wedding venue for the weekend for the overseas guests, family and friends as they we getting married a few hours out of Cape Town. The excitement was huge, we had countdown timers, facetime calls – we were anticipating the wedding of the year!!

And then there was talk about Covid-19 at the beginning of March. It didn’t really strike a chord yet as it seemed too far away to fathom. The rumblings got loader and all of a sudden our President was announcing to the country that schools would shut down as of 18 March. Still – I never comprehended the full extent of the lockdown. I thought this was just a preventative measure for 3 weeks.

My brother and his fiancé arrived early on Saturday 21 March and went straight up to their wedding venue for the day and night. Their Austrian family and guests would arrive on Wednesday 24th March. Sunday afternoon we went to my mom for lunch and to chat excitedly about the wedding. The moment I walked into the house – I could see my mom, my brother and his fiance had been crying. I thought it was because we hadn’t seen each other in 18 months. But I could feel the devastation in the air. My brother managed to tell me there would be no wedding. I couldn’t understand. Why not? Surely someone who had been planning their wedding, travelled to the country to get married, bringing overseas guests over – why not? The utter devastation just unravelled from there. I naively thought that even though they could not get married, that they would then at least stay in the country with us for a little while. When I kissed my brother and fiancé goodbye on Sunday evening – I didn’t know that that would be the last time I saw them or my mom because Tuesday at 5am they flew back to Austria, and Level 5 lockdown was announced on the 23rd to be implemented from the 26th.

The panic that hit – even though the government told us to not panic – was not conceivable by any amounts of imagination. We all flocked to the shops only to find out that everyone else had the same ideas. The freezers were empty by the time I got to them – not one pack of frozen veg, meat, milk, bread could be found on the shelves. It then dawned on me that I would be sitting at home without anything to do for 3 weeks and for someone who is ADHD we cannot/do not/will not sit still for longer than 2 minutes. I needed something to keep me busy. I decided I would catch up on all the interior painting that needed done and also I had way too many pallets in my yard for that, "one day when I have time", project. So off to Makro I went to buy paint, powertools and odds and ends…… I have never seen anything like it in all my life – queues snaking and snaking around into the parking lot, into the parking bays, cars parked outside of the parking lot. Clearly everyone had the same idea as me. I thought I would wait for an hour max. When I got to an hour in the queue I still hadn’t moved very far, but I couldn’t walk away now – I had the time so I stuck it out. 2 hours 45 minutes later I was finally inside. It only took me 20 minutes to get everything I needed. Home I went – I was now prepared for this lockdown.

Or so I thought….. We were then told that once Level 5 lockdown started – no child was to be moved between parents….. This was a huge problem for me and for all divorced parents who have 50/50 custody of their children. How on earth was this going to work. A child cannot be away from either parent for 3 long weeks. It was not fair on the parent who didn’t have their child, not fair on the child especially when she has not had more than 4 days apart from either parent. It was stressful, tough decisions needed to be made, we had to come up with a plan that was best for our daughter.

The beginning of lockdown was nice, it was relaxing, there wasn’t too much routine to the day. We painted, broke up pallets, we painted rocks, played ball games and my daughter loved not having to go to school….. or so she thought……. A child can only paint so much, break so many pallets up, play with all their toys, exhaust all your art supplies and then start asking if we can go hiking and go to the beach. You see I have a very active daughter who loves the beach and the mountain as much as I do. Every 2nd weekend is broken up into: The coolest/coldest day (either Saturday or Sunday) is dedicated to a different hike within CT and our 4 dogs go with and the warmer of the 2 days is spent at the beach with friends followed by a braai. This was our routine we have had for the last year or 2.

One week into lockdown and my child is climbing the walls…. We can’t play hockey or soccer in our cul de sac which we do every day in the week. Our backyard is tiny and the dogs steal the ball all the time… If we lock the dogs away they go insane and bark and jump up against glass windows and doors. It was difficult explaining to a very active, very frustrated 8 year old that in 2 more weeks time, we will be able to go hiking and down to the beach and play outside. The frustration turned into anger, the requests to see friends and once again go out got more frequent and the retaliation against these rules got worse. Door slamming, shouting and screaming and a lot of crying. We tried whatsapp calls, facetime calls and like my daughter said and I share the exact same sentiments – it’s not the same – I want to see my friends, feel that they really are there. Anxiety levels from both of us were terrible. I felt that I had failed as a mom not being able to provide her with the things she needed most – friends, family, mountain and sea.

I was prepared to not have a birthday bash this year – I had mentally prepared for that. But on my birthday 9th April Mr Rhamaposa gave me the worst birthday present ever – a further 2 weeks of lockdown. In the initial speech schools were tentatively supposed to go back early May, we were supposed to have a revised school term. I still was not worried about my business, but I was starting my miss my little kiddies and their happy faces. We were kept hanging each and every day waiting for the Minister of Education to let us know when our children would be able to go back to school and I could go back to teaching. Every day that passed without any word, I felt a pit of dread build up inside of me. Eventually the worry and dread got the better of me and I rushed myself off to the doctor as I was very very sick. We were not allowed to have 2 people in a car, so I drove myself a short way to the doctors. I wasn’t allowed in at the waiting rooms – at the entrance to the medicentre 5 nurses were there – I had to fill out forms – get a sticker and then go and wait in my car until I was called. I was poked, prodded, asked numerous questions and then had to go have bloods taken and a urine test done. I then waited in a cordoned off wing on a hospital bed until my results came back. I was put on antibiotics and told to go home and rest for a week.

During this time my daughter’s school started sending home daily homework – now instead of being a Catrobatkidz teacher – I had to transition over to a Homeschool teacher. It started off well and fine and progressively got worse and worse. My child didn’t like me telling her how to do things and what to do. She didn’t like my hints and tips on how to do her maths homework to make things easier for her. Everyday was now filled with dread and anxiety again, this time not about when we could go out, but over homework. I came to the realisation very quickly – being a homeschool teacher is not for me (but I have to do it), but more so I developed a huge appreciation and admiration for school teachers who have 30 or more learners in a class and have to motivate them, work with them and discipline them. School teachers jobs make my job look like a walk in the park.

Meanwhile whilst battling with my child over maths, English, afrikaans, art and life skills – I slowly started seeing my business fade away. Day after day, the cancellations came in. Parents were being retrenched and some parents were taking 30% pay cuts. All of a sudden my finances had to be looked at and adjusted very quickly. Long standing policies and investments were put on hold. Life insurance had to be cancelled. I had to apply for payment holidays on my insurance for my car, my bond, my ADT. I was feeling bleak, I hadn’t felt this empty since my dad passed away 4 ½ years ago.

As the end of May neared we were told Level 5 would move to Level 4 and some areas would be relaxed. Still we were given empty promises about when school ‘might’ open again. With all this uncertainty for parents the fallout of students was even bigger this time around. Many parents now feeling the economic crises – have taken their children out of school, therefore no more Catrobatkidz for them. It was then announced that when Primary schools go back – they would have to leave the school premises straight after school meaning no afternoon classes. Again another huge chunk out of my business gone.

It almost feels like a snowball effect against you. It started with the little fights with my daughter about not being able to go out into the streets, beach or mountain, no friends, the fights about schoolwork, getting sick, losing Catrobatkidz children, uncertainty about when schools go back, not seeing my family, being bound to a small house, only being able to exercise between 6 and 9 am, but it is freezing cold outside at those times, so very little exercise. Losing more children, worrying about your finances and slowly but surely seeing the business that has taken me 9 years to build, my baby, my passion, my love….. slowly start fading away.

Being in touch with many of the principals of my schools proved to be a very sad outlook for the remaining 2020 year. Some schools had had to retrench staff, some schools were struggling to pay the rent on their schools, most parents were not in the financial position to be paying school fees. One of my schools won’t be going back in 2020. Two of my schools are considering closing down if the economic downturn continues like this. The final blow for me was finally sitting down and working out the numbers on my database and realising that I will seeing very few of my little one’s again this year. I am going to miss my Primary school learners the most – my Grade R’s, 1’s and 2’s. These children amazed me every week – they came to class so highly motivated to learn, wanting to show me how amazing they were at what they do and going home after every single lesson and practicing what we had learnt in class only to come back the next week to blow me away with the progress they had made in one short week. I will miss my really really young one’s that treat me as if I’m a celebrity everytime I step into their school grounds. Teacher "Meddy" is yelled and then my knees get mobbed by all these gorgeous little ones (even the one’s I don’t teach).

I miss the parent interactions, I miss discussing with the teachers at the schools – what I had taught that week, who needed a little bit more work, hints and tips to do with the classes to get them all involved and better at certain skills.

Two weeks ago – I was dealt the most difficult news I’ve had to process in a long time. A very close friend of mine who is 41 years old, with a 5 year old and 3 year old – had a stroke and was hospitalized. My immediate response was to climb into the car and go and be with her family. But I am too petrified to drive further than the shops that are 800m up the road. Her family is not allowed to visit her in hospital. My heart is breaking for this little family who is not able to see their mom and also for my friend not to have her little one’s next to her, keeping her warm and just giving her comfort. I miss everything and everyone and it feels like I have a huge gaping hole in my heart.

I last saw my mom on 23rd March. I last saw the sea on 23 March. I was on the mountains on 22 March. I miss my friends tremendously – zoom calls with 9 ladies who haven’t seen each other in months is not fun especially when everyone is trying to get a word in.

I have come to realise that children eat A LOT!!! I mean 5 – 6 times a day. It seems that 2 adults and a child living in a house (not going to work and not going to school) seems to generate 2 loads of washing a day. The dishwasher has never worked so fast and furiously in all it’s life.

In every negative situation – there always has to be a positive that comes out of it. My positives that I draw out of this is:
  • I spend a lot more one on one time with my daughter. I am not dividing my time between admin, cooking, homework and trying to give her time and attention. We have long and meaningful discussions about life and the future.
  • I have realised we live extremely busy lives – filling up every weekend with activities and seeing people. I have learnt to be at peace with myself and just enjoy being at home.
  • I have realised the importance of who you choose to spend your time with. Life is short, don’t spend time on people who emotionally drain you. Rather have 3 really really good friends than 30 who offer you no value at all and just cause you more anxiety.
  • Take time to appreciate your partner. For them to have stuck around us takes lots of patience! Appreciate them. I started a gratitude journal halfway through lockdown as I was having a very difficult time appreciating my partner. When I looked back 10 days later to see how much is done/said – you see your partner in a whole new light of appreciation.
  • Life is short – think about what you think about, think about what you say and how you say it. Be completely conscious of what you do and how you do it and if you don’t like it – change it
We will never ever be the same again after this pandemic, but we can come out of this better, nicer, happier people.

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