A tribute to Poulina:

“Go through whatever difficulties will be along the way; and there will be some because a journey is a journey, and journeys have difficulties. But stand up and be yourself. Our families, our marriage, our kids – they let us down, but don’t hang on to that. Go out, walk tall, smile and shine, and you will see the stars. Because there are always stars. Never give up – whatever you’re dreaming, never give up. “ Poulina 2016

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Poulina who passed away on 1 August 2019. Her death was unexpected and has left her family, her friends and her colleagues shocked and bewildered.

August is women’s month, and in South Africa the day commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s pass laws that required South Africans defined as “black” under The Population Registration Act to carry an internal passport, known as a pass. We hear about amazing women who have made their mark through the ages both here in South Africa and around the world.

But to me – it is the unsung heroines who are often forgotten or indeed unknown. Poulina was one such person. She had a difficult childhood and had to leave school at 11 to go and work in the fields. But tucked away in the innermost part of her heart and soul, there was a spirit of determination and passion. She loved children and was determined to one day have a chance to work with them. She took a job as a cleaner in a crèche in the Cape and taught herself English. But she wanted more and so she tried to enter college but was refused as she did not have the South African school leaving certificate, matric. Through dogged determination she managed to persuade them to let her take a prior learning test which she passed and she started on her new path. She decided to turn her home into a care centre and when we first met her, she was valiantly trying to run her crèche with a leaking roof, dilapidated walls with mould on them and sick children. But she never gave up. She told us she always knew God would answer her prayers.

Once she had her new school Little Stars donated by Home Choice Development Trust, she ran it with pride. With the help of Lo Dagerman, a Swedish volunteer who became her friend and mentor, her school became the first Starting Chance school to be registered with the Department and began to receive subsidy. Her dreams had come true and her story is testimony to someone who never gave up. She touched the lives of many children in Mfuleni and she inspired her colleagues, friends and family. She leaves a lasting legacy for her 3 children who are determined to continue their mother’s work.

Poulina – we salute you. Rest in peace dear friend. Starting Chance feels honoured to have been in your life for but a brief moment but one we will never forget. We look forward to helping your children to continue your life’s work, shining brightly out into your community and changing the lives of children for many years to come.