Crèche owner Margery de Lange, “Aunty Margie”, is interviewed on Heart FM.
Cape Town - Margery de Lange, or “Aunty Margie”, as she is affectionately known, runs a crèche for the children in her neighbourhood. The 70-year-old has been a godsend to parents in Atlantis who have no means to place their children in sought-after daycare.

In 2002, Margery was retrenched and found herself unemployed with no work prospects in the foreseeable future. She was distraught and had no idea what would happen next, still with her own children at school and financial obligations to meet.

Then, as if by some miracle, one of her former Sunday School pupils knocked on her door when she heard of Aunty Margie’s recent retrenchment. The mother of two asked whether she would consider looking after her children as she could not think of anyone better suited.

Without hesitation, Margery agreed to be their day mother. It soon became apparent that there was an urgent need for childcare in the community, and within weeks the word had spread, and there were 20 children placed in her care. Today, there are over 60 kids on the premises.

Aunty Margie has run the day-care operation since its establishment, from her own home, and later had no choice but to convert her home garage into a classroom, with the addition of wendy houses in the backyard, to accommodate the number of children needing daycare from her home.

The house, more than four decades old, has been neglected and the backyard has become a dumping ground for rubble. Rooms are overcrowded, and the heart of the establishment, the kitchen, is falling apart.

Although she says she may not have much to brag about, Aunty Margie takes enormous pride in the way in which she cares for all these kids. She cares for them as if they were her own, and insists on feeding them the nutritional meals she would serve her own family. She feels the least she can do is ensure none of her kiddies goes home hungry. They are fed cooked meals every day, with mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks in-between.

As part of the 16 Days for Youth initiative, project manager Denver Apollus was made aware of this day-care centre when scouting the area and speaking to the locals.

He was shocked at the state of the facilities, but what struck him the most was how much love and care this grandmother shows the children in her care.

She provides an invaluable service to the community at a mere R320 a month (for those who do pay), and parents are desperately in need of her services in order to be able to work.

Volunteers and donations streamed in yesterday to what felt like an episode of Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition.

Volunteers came to lend a hand, clearing the rubble, cleaning the house and making food for the locals. Donations of furniture and appliances flooded in - a new playground was even built in the now cleared backyard. Aunty Margie’s kitchen was stripped and renovated, refurbished with new appliances, and her fridge, grocery cupboards and freezer stocked with food.

Aunty Margie had no idea what was happening around her. She was teary all day and overwhelmed by the generosity of the Heart FM listeners, clients and team of volunteers.

With every recipient, the station conducts a thorough enquiry into their circumstances - from management of finances to health and safety. Aunty Margie’s situation will be closely monitored, and assistance will be provided in the long term.

* For more information about the initiative, go to http://16daysforyouth.com/
** Follow the journey on social media @Heart1049FM or @16DaysForYouth - #16DaysForYouth.

Cape Argus