Spend a few days in Tara Theron’s company and you’re likely to be impressed by three things: her big heart, disarming smile and her common sense attitude.
As manager of Spur Corporation’s Full Tummy Fund (formerly the Spur Foundation), Tara has a lot on her plate, but she seldom seems overwhelmed.
With a strong focus on early childhood development (ECD), the Full Tummy Fund’s success is rooted in a simple yet effective stance which Tara embraced from the first day she joined the company in April 2016 – You can’t fix a problem until you understand the full context. “In the first few months I just observed and tried to establish how we could make a real and meaningful difference,” she says.
On her regular visits to the day care centres in Alexandra which the Full Tummy Fund supports, Tara always receives a warm, friendly welcome from the 19 women the Fund has assisted through specialised ECD training. This part of her job gives Tara the most pleasure – building relationships, getting to know the women who run day care centres and finding innovative ways to support them.
Apart from appropriate educational content, the training programme also focuses on helping teachers look after the health, nutrition, emotional welfare and development of children. The teachers learn how to cater to children with disabilities and learning barriers. The Full Tummy Fund also regularly lends a hand with renovations and resources such as books, educational toys, tables and chairs, mattresses and blankets, eating utensils, kitchen equipment and First Aid kits. This support makes a tremendous impact on the quality care the ladies provide.
“The women we’ve trained have all made significant strides with their schools,” Tara says. “They’ve taken the opportunity and put in the hard work and it’s amazing to see them reap the benefits of running a successful, profitable caring business. The women who have completed the courses and graduated are completely self-sustainable. We stay in touch and remain a support by visiting their schools frequently.”
Expecting her first child has made visits to the crèches even more emotional, Tara confesses with a toddler on her lap. “I’ve always loved kids. I love their innocence, their creativity. And I like being a big kid; I like getting down to a child’s ‘level’ where you get to enjoy the simple things that bring them joy and see the world through their eyes from time to time.”
But don’t let her playfulness fool you. Tara is very serious about the urgent need to invest in early childhood development in a country where one out of every five children under the age of five is developmentally stunted. “The first 1000 days of a child’s development is critical, it sets them up for life. If a child does not get the right nutrition and stimulation before the age of four, they never catch up. Only when you look at how children’s brains develop in the first years do you understand why the right exposure and care is so crucial. Kids who go through proper ECD systems are more likely to finish Grade 12 and make a success of their lives.”
Tara always leaves Alexandra feeling rejuvenated. “There is so much hope and potential in our country and it starts with our children. Providing teachers with the skills to help young kids achieve their full potential is the best possible investment in our country’s future. These kids grow up inspired and equipped for challenges. They could be the next entrepreneur or scientist or even president.”
On her vision for the future: “Our mission is simple: We want to grow the Full Tummy Fund so that we can train more teachers, feed more kids and give more children the opportunity to be successful in whatever they put their hearts and minds to.”
The general public can support the amazing work of the Full Tummy Fund by purchasing a Feel Good Meal on various kids’ menus at Spur Steak Ranches, Panarottis and John Dory’s. For every meal bought, R2 is donated to the Full Tummy Fund. For every child that enjoys a Feel Good Meal, another child gets access to proper nutrition and a better chance to excel.
For more information on The Full Tummy Fund visit www.fulltummyfund.co.za