Meet Jessica-Marie Perez..

“I joined Ikamva Labantu in March of 2018 as an assistant in the baby class and am now a teacher of the 4 months to 1-year-old class. I am a privileged individual and believe that I should use my privilege for good to assist people wherever possible.”

Jess was first exposed to the importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD) when she was a young girl. She suffered from various illnesses where she landed up in the hospital paralyzed on her right-hand side. She had to go to occupational therapy in order to regain functionality. She still knits and crochets until today to keep her hands active. It was through this experience from illness to recovery that she discovered the importance of sculpting, moulding and resilience of a young brain. She says that it is because of the various challenges she went through that she is a strong, emphatic person today.

Although her health experiences shaped a lot of who Jess is today, she says that community and ECD is ‘in her blood’. Her mother worked in Khayelitsha managing a centre for abused women. Her father is a medical doctor who serves the Department of Health. Her Makhulu (a word used for grandmother in isiXhosa) started teaching when she was merely 17 years old, she is now 91. And her aunty is an ECD teacher for the deaf and also served the Department of ECD.

Jessica-Marie studied her Level 5 ECD at the College of Cape Town in June 2014 and went on to work as a teacher in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. She returned to Cape Town and volunteered at the Nonceba Centre for abused women and children teaching maths to young children. In 2016 she started her degree and in 2018 she started volunteering at Kwakhanya Preschool (Ikamva Labantu’s model preschool in Khayelitsha) and says she loved every minute of it. Now she is a permanent part of our Ikamva team.

Jess did something selfless for her birthday this year!

Jess has been able to see first-hand how COVID-19 has affected Cape Town’s township communities. She says that many families are starving due to the lockdown and not being able to get to work. For her birthday she decided that she would ask her family and friends who are used to spoiling her at this time of the year, to donate instead to Ikamva Labantu’s COVID-19 relief efforts. She created a Facebook donation page where she managed to raise R2 800 and those that didn’t donate through this platform give directly to Ikamva. Her philosophy is that if you do have – you should give because as much as you give, you will receive!

Jessica-Marie, we love you and WE are very privileged to have you as part of the Ikamva team. You are a true IKAMVA HERO.