Picture of Cailey Hart with a group of kids

Cailey Hart

In 2010, Cailey Hart graduated from Durham College’s (DC) Early Childhood Education program, packed up her familiar life in the Durham Region and traveled to South Africa for a one-year volunteer opportunity to work with underprivileged children.

Eight years later, she’s still there – having worked her way up to principal of Botshabelo’s Urban Kids Educentre (UKE) where she manages a team of

13 staff and provides 120 low-income preschool students with a high-quality education.

“For many children in the impoverished areas of South Africa, the only option for education is a preschool run by an uneducated teacher in a makeshift schoolhouse,” says Cailey, who has helped to build the non-profit organization’s preschool program from the ground up. “My favourite part of my job is when I get to tell a

parent that their child has other options, and that we’ve found a sponsor to pay for their school fees and can bring them to UKE to receive a better education.”

While Cailey never imagined she would stay longer than a year, she has since made a home for herself in Johannesburg and at Botshabelo – driven by an understanding that access to high- quality education can change a child’s life.

As UKE’s first set of graduates head to high school next year – with one receiving a sought-after scholarship for a private, all-boys school – Cailey and her team continue to keep in touch and watch as they grow into strong, intelligent students.

“It’s amazing watching our past graduates flourish and they do so not just academically, but by taking the confidence they have gained in our care and building on it after they leave, allowing them to conquer any circumstance they may face in their life.”

As Cailey’s preschool continues to thrive year- over-year alongside the successes of its students, she hopes to take the centre further by securing additional funding for her own staff to continue their education and upgrade their skills.

She also aims to provide future child psychology and occupational, art and speech therapy internship opportunities to local university students so that UKE may become a resource centre not only for its own students, but for other schools whose teachers have gone through Botshabelo’s UpliftED Teacher Training program.