Carol Michaels, 54, is a jill of all trades who uses her skills and passion to help the community, especially the children of Lavender Hill.
She and her partner, Charmaine Davids, have opened a daycare centre in Tyne Court under their NPO, 12 Tyney Baskets, to take care of children who are not yet of school going age and whose parents cannot afford to put them in school.
Ms Michaels said her brother, Cecil-John Fabricks, came up with the name 12 Tyney Baskets, and they coincidentally happened to have 12 children in their care.
The 12 baskets reference also comes from a Bible story in John 6 verses 1 to 14.
Ms Michaels was born in Rondevlei, the area right next to Lavender Hill and spent almost 30 years there until she married Brian, and they moved to Mitchell’s Plain.
After her mother Rachel died 10 years ago, she came back to Lavender Hill to look after her father, Gert, who has also since passed away.
Ms Michaels believes she had leadership qualities from a young age. “My family always used to say I am bossy and like to order people around,” she chuckled.
Ms Michaels said although she was always active in the community, she became a member of a Tyne Court committee about three years ago when residents were forming these to take ownership of their flats during the scourge of gang wars.
“I walked down to the other side of Tyne Court where residents were choosing members to serve on the board. As I approached them, I heard someone call my name out to elect me as the assistant secretary,” she said.
When the court committee broke up, they established 12 Tyney Baskets to help feed the community and assist seniors with repairing and painting their flats. Ms Michaels is now the secretary of 12 Tyney Baskets.
She is also employed by the City of Cape Town’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
Ms Michaels said as part of the programme, they interact with schools and chose to help Hillwood Primary School where they clean in and around the classrooms and help teachers with pupils in need. “I will address absenteeism. We go to the children’s houses to find out why they are not in school,” said Ms Michaels.
She said she had compassion for her community and had witnessed the struggle of many single mothers.
She said there were many sad stories to tell about broken families and their struggle.
One particular situation in-volved a 10-year-old girl who stayed absent from school for three weeks.
Ms Michaels said when they found the girl she was wearing dirty clothes. “She refused to go to her class because she was afraid the children would make fun of her. I washed her and put on new school clothes provided by the principal, Gavin Alkana, and staff. The school provided her with school uniforms several times but the girl would come back to school in other clothes. So, we decided to keep the uniform at school and dress her ourselves. We went to investigate her situation at home. We found out that she had to look after her four younger siblings while her mother gave all her attention to her boyfriend. This little girl wants to get away from her house and we are trying to get the social worker for permission to allow the girl to live with her granny.”
The challenges in the community continue, but Ms Michaels keeps extending a helping hand to the youngsters in the area.
Her eyes light up when she speaks about them. She stepped in to help them after she saw children running across the road where taxis and cars speed through every day. She decided to rather take them in to her flat and started a daycare centre.
Ms Davids helps her with the 12 children every Tuesday and Thursday. “Mothers are happy to drop them here, for free, and we feed them and sometimes clothe them as well,” said Ms Davids who is also a dressmaker.
In May, she decided to take the children to Simon’s Town on their first train ride. I wanted them to look nice, and made them T-shirts. When we got there, a good Samaritan offered to take us with his taxi to the penguin island. The kids enjoyed it and the driver waited for them to play on the beach, then took us all home.”
Ms Michaels said although the children’s situations sometimes “bring tears to my eyes”, she feels good when she is able to help them.