Pinocchio Crèche is a project branch of the Domestic Workers’ Association Educational Trust – a non-profit organisation – founded by Mrs Maggie Oewies Shongwe, run by Helen Shongwe-Phillips, and a team of committed qualified educare practitioners and carers. Having worked as a domestic worker and childminder herself, from the age of nine, Maggie Shongwe is acutely aware of the inequalities in formal labour market protection and disparities commonly experienced by men and women of colour who worked as housekeepers, cooks, caregivers, caretakers and gardeners.

Resolute campaigning by Maggie Shongwe achieved the desired result of recognition for low-income earners as mainstream human resources. However, the arrival of politically affiliated labour organisations in the early 1980s introduced a political influence on labour matters, a mix that conflicted with Maggie’s aspirations. She then redirected her focus toward the labourers’ childcare needs – resulting in Pinocchio Crèche, founded in 1984.

All our educare teachers are qualified early childhood development practitioners, and all staff are trained in first aid and fire emergency. Screened volunteers and students support our team as well.

Milestone Achievements

Domestic Workers’ Association in South Africa (1974)

In 1974 the Domestic Workers’ Association in South Africa was founded by Maggie Shongwe. It was a labour organisation fighting for the rights of low-income labourers of colour, including domestic workers, casual labourers and gardeners. Once politically affiliated labour unions were launched, she redirected her focus to alternative needs of the members. In 2001 the organisation was re-launched as the Domestic Workers’ Association Educational Trust.

Multi-racial Multi-cultural model C Schools in South Africa (1991)

After three years of campaigning, Maggie Shongwe was instrumental in convincing the Department of Education to open Model C schools to all races in 1991. This historical event was covered in international and local media. And her daughter, Helen was one of the first non-white pupils to attend Ellerton Primary School, a Model C school in Sea Point.

The DWA Educational Trust in 2010

Pinocchio Crèche launched an International Service Learning program with Howard University School of Social Work in Washington DC. This program has grown over the years, seeing additional organisations coming on board to share the South African approach to societal needs ranging from drug rehabilitation, mental health, abuse, correctional services and community upliftment to early childhood development. The program has proven to be invaluable.

About Pinocchio Crèche

Maggie Shongwe has always been steadfast in her conviction that labour and politics should never mix, because – in her opinion – objectivity and accountability are often lost in the process. Therefore, in 1984, with the support of her late husband, Lewis Shongwe, she redirected her focus to launching Pinocchio Crèche, a project branch of the Domestic Workers’ Association, after surveying the member’s other needs.

“When Pinocchio Crèche first opened its doors in 1984, we anticipated only seven children would start enrolment, but we were met by 27 eager little faces at the gate that morning!” gushes Maggie Shongwe.

The then Social Welfare laws limited to seven the number of children that could be accommodated in an unregistered facility. So, Maggie registered Pinocchio Crèche with the Department of Child Welfare to permit a bigger quota of children at this local day-care facility.

Pinocchio Crèche, which was built from humble beginnings, is today an inspiring community-based facility providing child care for toddlers and pre-school children between the ages of 2yrs to 6yrs.

The crèche, situated in the Atlantic Seaboard, provides a safe place of care and learning for the children of working parents. In 1998, after thirteen years, the Pinocchio Crèche premises were moved from Fritzonnenberg Road in Green Point, Cape Town to 50 Main Road, Green Point to its current location on main road Green Point. This was done to accommodate the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Maggie’s daughter, Helen, an active member of staff at Pinocchio Crèche, was also one of the first children enrolled at the crèche. It’s essentially where she grew up.

Helen’s accolades

  • the Lion Derek Livesey Memorial Award, for her community work at the age of 14
  • Nominated for the 2007 Reebok Human Rights Award by the University Of Toronto Faculty Of Law
  • three provincial awards by the Department of Social Development
  • three Certificates of Appreciation from the Western Cape Department of Social Development – in recognition of her invaluable contribution to the Atlantic Seaboard/Cape Town Early Childhood Development Principals Forum, assuming the roles of Chairperson and Secretary
  • an award in participation with the ECD Program Development Registration Workshops

“I grew up within this nurturing environment that greatly contributed to the fundamental growth of each child at the crèche; and today I admire the efforts of those parents who prioritise the welfare of their children, despite financial limitations,” says Helen.

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