Home People It takes two with Lily Geerdts and Mary Shuttleworth

It takes two with Lily Geerdts and Mary Shuttleworth

When great minds think alike they can take over the world. Lily Geerdts and Mary Shuttleworth make one amazing team and share the same passion: changing the lives of our next generation.

Founder of HeadStart Kids School, Lily Geerdts, changes the lives of thousands of
children on a daily basis, endeavouring to equip productive and effective citizens of our country. The core objective of HeadStart is to eradicate malnourishment, activate key and critical age-appropriate learning and ensure optimal child development by curbing stunting and iron deficiency through the holistic, collaborative wellbeing programme of HeadStart. “The impact our programme is making on South Africa through our partnership with Nutrilite™ Little Bits products globally, is truly significant as it impacts and reverses iron deficiency and growth stunting in children in the first five years,” says Lily.

It all started with Lily’s personal journey when her adoptive son, at the age of six, came into her life in 2006 after his biological mother had passed on. “It made me look at the reality we are facing around malnourishment in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) platform. Overturning malnourishment in the form of iron deficiency and growth stunting can improve a child’s ability to function optimally in the classroom. As they grow up, they
can positively impact the growth of the economy of our country.” While growing up, Mary Shuttleworth was like a second mother to Lily. “During my student years, I also lived with her and her family in Los Angeles. The two of us are super passionate about our platforms and on a personal level we work hard and play hard.” Because of the nature of their work, they make sure they have downtime with their own family and make time for travelling and exploring. “I first studied Computer Graphics at Platt College in Burbank, California, and before I getting married, I was busy with my B.Com degree,” Lily says. Since being a little girl, all Lily wanted to be was a mom. Then, being told that she could not have children, Lily now has the pleasure of being a stepmom, adoptive mom and biological mom to her four precious kids. “The impact and change I see in the kids we work with are truly rewarding. I am privileged to be able to do what I love.”

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Growing up during the Apartheid years in South Africa, Mary saw the devastating
effects of discrimination. “At the age of 15, when I travelled and studied in Europe,
I saw further discrimination and realised that discrimination is a global issue which
challenges individuals, communities and countries around the world.” Mary learned
about the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
She then realised that 193 countries are members of the United Nations. “So these 30
universal rights are like a common ground, a common point of respect, a common
responsibility that we all share … universally.” YHRI, which stands for Youth for Human
Rights International, and is a volunteerbased organisation, was founded by
Mary Shuttleworth. “My most memorable experiences are of meeting the volunteers
on the ground, in their own communities and learning first-hand from them about
the challenges they are facing and the remarkable work they are doing to teach
human rights. Especially when I personally meet the people who now know their
human rights and have more confidence in themselves and their own abilities.”

In Mary’s eyes ‘Knowledge is power’. “Hearing about the enormous impact learning about
human rights has. For example, a 9-year-old boy was seriously considering
committing suicide because of being bullied. When, through YHRI, he learned about human rights, he realised that those bullies had no right to bully him. He reported them. That
changed his life. The school wrote a letter commending YHRI and I can truly state
that the Youth for Human Rights programme is lifesaving.” Mary daily receives many letters
with stories like this and therefore knows that what she is doing, is truly working. “It is
so heart-warming to see how many youth, teachers and government officials support
YHRI,” she adds.

Mary is also a teacher. “With this exponential expansion, our YHRI material is now available
in 27 languages and through broad internet access, we can teach more people faster
than ever before.” With the incredible support they have received, Human Rights
Education is growing fast and far. “With this, energy and enthusiasm, we can truly make
this a more respectful and peaceful world.”

Text: Suanne Engelbrecht

Photos: Mariska Venter from Colour Photography


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