LETCEE’s founding director, Mary James, retires at the end of February 2022, after almost 30 years. In April 2021, Mary announced to the team that she will be leaving, which evoked a lot of emotions and tears. As always, Mary had a well thought out plan to make the transition process easier on the staff and safe for the organization as a whole. Since then, LETCEE and the new leadership team have been through a thorough coaching process, facilitated by a renowned coaching company. The selection of the new Managing Director was rigorous and we are excited to introduce the incoming Managing Director, Mrs Poonam Dwarkaram to you.

Some refer to Poonam as the early bird that catches the worm. Her passion for her work means that she’s always first at the office! Poonam is an ECD expert with 34 years of experience within the field of early childhood development. She has worked at LETCEE for almost three years as ECD Quality manager. She has successfully transformed that department, through implementing new strategies. In 2021, she was awarded a bursary by Harvard Graduate School and Project Zero to complete the “Lets Play 1” course, which was on teaching strategies for playful learning. Poonam was a Pre- and Primary school principal for 6 years previously.

Poonam lives and breathes ECD. She strongly believes that learning through play is the key to a strong foundation. Poonam has worked tirelessly to empower our ECD practitioners, who work with the children. Daily, she provides guidance, inspiration and instructions via Whats App. Every week she and her team provide training and mentoring visits to practitioners. Poonam enjoys being in the community and has already built strong relationships within the local communities.

Poonam is also a trained Word Works trainer and is registered with ETDP SETA as an assessor. She has also been celebrated by the HCI foundation as a Hero in the ECD sector. Her passion and commitment to ECD are infectious.

Poonam will be supported in steering the organisation by two other powerful leaders.

Kitso Maragelo is the new Director of Projects. She has headed the community projects for almost 8 years. Her ability to interact with community leaders and residents is outstanding. She has built a trusted relationship with the community leadership structures in all of the communities in which we work. She is passionate about strengthening families, including food and income security. Kitso is currently completing her Ph. D in Development Studies.

Astrid Gifford has been appointed as Director of Operations. She joined LETCEE at the beginning of 2021, having managed another community NGO for many years. She is an experienced, highly qualified physiotherapist, and a “systems person.” Astrid has already made improvements to the M & E system. She is an experienced fundraiser and project reporter. On one day of each week, Astrid wears her Physiotherapist hat and visits the children with disabilities, and their families. We have seen wonderful progress in the children as they benefit from regular therapy.

Dr Mary James has retired as Director but will always be part of the LETCEE spirit and team. We wish her all the best in her retirement. She will be greatly missed!