• Sustainably IMPROVE the standard of EDUCATION
  • DECREASE GAPS between families/communities and the schools
  • REACH families and communities THROUGH SCHOOLS
  • UPSKILL TEACHERS and equip them to create CHANGE
  • Bring HELP and HEALING to disadvantaged FAMILIES
  • SUPPORTING TEACHERS so that they may support children and families
  • WORKING WITH communities and schools COLLABORATIVELY
  • BREAKING CYCLES of abuse and trauma
  • CREATE COURSES and TRAINING programmes that can be ADAPTED and ROLLED


  • Greater ENROLMENT and ENGAGEMENT in school at ALL levels
  • LESS behavioural challenges in schools and in homes
  • Emotional and practical SUPPORT for PARENTS in disadvantaged communities
  • Greater outcomes in ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS
  • LONG TERM BENEFITS of reduced family violence, substance abuse, criminal behaviour, unemployment, mental health issues etc.
  • Greater JOB SATISFACTION for teachers and teaching staff


The Pelo Project aims to improve academic progression, increase school engagement and increase positive mental health through the introduction and implementation of emotional regulation and family support in pre-schools.


Currently, many schools in South Africa are facing a number of challenges, barriers and limitations. This is particularly true for schools in rural or impoverished areas. The Department of Education as well as other NPO organisations have identified some of these barriers to be:

  • Overcrowded classrooms
  • Lack of resources and learning aids
  • Multiple grades in one classroom
  • Teachers without appropriate qualifications and skills
  • Lack of financial support
  • Behavioural challenges
  • Lack of skills to manage the diverse needs of children in disadvantaged communities
  • Lack of consistent school engagement
  • Uneducated families and lack of academic support for children in the home
  • High levels of trauma (often identified in other ways such as behavioural challenges)
  • Children not receiving the appropriate nutrition and dietary requirements for their development
  • Children not receiving enough sleep in the home
  • A lack of involvement and valuing of education in general within families and the community
  • Gaps being created between educated students and their families, affecting their sense of belonging
  • Parents being teenagers themselves.

It is our belief that many of these issues can be combated through the introduction of emotional regulation awareness and strategies in pre-schools. Parents and families are the key to creating societal change and the information out there is not reaching those who most need it. One of the biggest sources of support and influence for many parents are schools and their teaching staff. Tackle the Feelings before the Behaviour believes that in order to help families, we need to help the schools. In order to create the most sustainable and positive change, this needs to be aimed at children in their formative years. Thus, the focus needs to be on pre-school age students, particular those under 5 years of age.

The Pelo Projects aims to:

  • Train teaching staff through customised seminars, short courses and workshops – designed by Paula Taylor and Abigail Barrell.
  • Provide Parenting seminars through schools.
  • Create family support programs and processes within pre-schools.
  • Reduce and minimise gaps between communities, families and the schools through various initiatives and school engagement and support programs
  • Assist schools to create or adapt positive and strength based school environments and learning curriculums
  • Assist schools with creating structures and strategies within their means and limitations
  • Assist teachers to standardise levels of pre-school education and ensure that children going into Reception are meeting academic and developmental requirements and milestones.


The Pelo project consists of 3 staff members:
Miss Paula Taylor – Founder and Project Manager, Psychotherapist, Trained Facilitator and Educator.
Miss Abigail Barrell – Teacher with experience in adult education and teaching English as a Foreign Language.
Mrs Sarah Van Der Bank – Brand Manager and Designer, Advisor and Parent.

Paula Taylor – Founder and Project Manager

Paula Taylor is a fully qualified Psychotherapist who has experience working therapeutically with families in Melbourne Australia. Paula specifically targeted families with children in their formative years (under 5 years old) and specialised in behavioural challenges, attachment issues (parent/child bond), emotional regulation and increasing parental confidence and skill. Paula also worked with families with complex issues and concerns around mental health.

After collaborating with other health care, child care and education professionals, it became evident to Paula that teachers and child care workers have an incredibly influential role within communities and families. Paula found that most parents would rather talk to teachers and child care professionals than mental health professionals when it came to struggles with their children. Through the organisation Drummond Street Services in Melbourne, Paula began delivering parenting and mental health seminars to pre-school (kindergarten) staff and other professionals in order to assist them to work with anxious children, behavioural challenges and general parenting struggles. Paula is also a big believer in psycho-education and empowering people to learn and develop transferable skills in parenting and childcare.

Paula has currently been working in the role of Principal and Grade 2 teacher at Madikwe Academy, a little school based in Derdepoort, just outside Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province. Paula has assisted the founder and the directors to develop this school and create structures and foundations in order to achieve full registration. Paula has been doing a micro level Pelo Project within this school and the results are evident. Although the children enrolled at the school are not as disadvantaged as other students in the neighbouring community schools, many of the same issues have ensued (Behavioural challenges, teaching more than one grade in the classroom, lacking resources and support, gaps between families and the school, the impact of children struggling with problems in the home etc.).

Paula is passionate about TFBB and teaching people the concept and benefits of emotional regulation. Paula believes the very best way to go about this is to target the education system and join the movements to improve the quality of education in South Africa and make a difference within families and communities.

Abigail Barrell – Teacher

Abigail is a 34 year old Education Specialist with a wide range of experience in the education sector, spanning almost ten years in South Africa, England and the online space. Abigail has a unique blend of skills which are influenced by her degrees in both Psychology and Education. Abigail is thus able to bring a sound knowledge of mental health, childhood development and the human condition into her work as an educator.

After graduating from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, in 2008, Abigail went on to teach English and Art (Grades 4 to 6) in England for 4 years. Abigail also taught in the Special Education Needs Department during this time and thus has experience working with disabilities.

In 2012 Abigail returned to South Africa, where she taught English and Art at Pridwin Preparatory, in Melrose, for 3 years. Whilst teaching, Abigail tutored children in Grades 4 to 7 in various subjects – focusing on increasing knowledge, skills and confidence in different subject areas, as well as exam preparation. Abigail also has experience in lecturing Student Teachers in the School of Education at Varsity College (Sandton).

Abigail is currently lecturing Academic English and Research Practice, part-time, at the University of Johannesburg (Doorfontein). She is also the drama teacher at Crossroads School, in Victory Park – a remedial school that endeavours to reintroduce the learners back into mainstream schooling. Abigail is passionate about making a difference to education and the well-being of children in South Africa.

Sarah van der Bank – Brand Manager and Designer

Sarah is a Freelance Graphic Designer and Photographer over and above her half day secretarial position. Sarah has a work history of being an AutoCAD Draughtsperson for engineering firms before she transitioned into the more creative world of graphic design. On top of multi-tasking between her different areas of work, Sarah works hard in her home life as well.

Sarah is a divorced, single mother to her 8 year old son Merrick. After 7 years in an unhealthy relationship, she chose to leave her marriage and move back to Howick in KZN and start a new life with Merrick who was 3 years old at the time. Sarah values her parenting role above all else and has grown passionate about expanding her own parenting knowledge and understanding of children and their development. Sarah has been implementing emotional regulation strategies successfully in her own parenting.

Sarah started working closely with Paula and an independent web designer in 2015 when the initial set up for Tackle the Feelings Before the Behaviour (TFBB) was taking place. Sarah’s role was in the branding and development of TFBB – initial concepts of the logo to designing the tip sheets and emotion booklets that are still currently being used in Australia. As the business has evolved and progressed, Sarah has assisted with all branding and design work needed. This has involved documents for private therapeutic practice, business documents such as letterheads and contracts and assistance with branding and graphic design within the TFBB website.

Sarah has designed all branding and creative/written material for the Pelo Project thus far and has worked collaboratively with Paula to deliver her vision and bring the creative and professional content to life. Sarah also assists Paula in an advisory role within the Pelo Project.
With Sarah’s loving and diligent nature, she is able to communicate effectively while understanding and attending to her client’s needs. Sarah is always willing to go the extra mile to help clients, often at short notice, and always remaining calm and professional. Sarah is a team player and an extremely talented and compassionate designer.

Additional information:

Children’s emotional ‘processes’ are often misunderstood and regarded (and at times assessed) as an illness or disability. This is because trauma and/or anxiety can very often present this way. A child will often struggle to focus and retain information in the classroom if they are going through problems in the home or within their environment. Depending on the child’s personality, we will likely see some form of acting out and defiance – often in more extreme ways. A child’s mental health plays a key role in their academic journey and ability to achieve positive academic outcomes. Thus, the family and community cannot be separate from the school, it is imperative that these 3 systems are linked.

If one child in the classroom is experiencing struggles in the home and starts to act out, this creates a ripple effect in the classroom and places a great deal of stress on the teacher. Behavioural challenges within the peer group as a whole will start to increase. This is due to modelling of behaviours as well as children reacting to their own anxiety in regards to the child acting out and the behaviours being displayed. The increased stress of the teacher will also impact the children and affect behaviours. If a teacher is able to confidently assist and emotionally regulate the child who is struggling and advise the parents to do the same, the behaviours of the child will decrease (the emotional need has been met) and the disruption to the classroom will likely lessen.

The design and construction of the courses, seminars, workshops and programs will all have emotional regulation at the core and will be strongly influenced by the identified need and information gathered through collaboration. Research into similar programs and concepts will also be gathered and will be utilised as a guide to the customized designs and templates being created. We will also be gaining assistance and advice from other professionals and mentors in the field. Optimally these courses will be constructed to meet SETA Authorisation standards and thus doors for further funding and access to a wider scope may be aimed for down the track.

Teaching children English in their formative years is also an important addition to the project as this will open many doors for students and will allow them to apply for scholarships to more advantaged primary schools if this is something their families would like to do. The Pelo Project would also like to explore an initiative that teaches English to teenagers and adults too. It is recognized that many families in rural communities are uneducated and research shows that children perform better academically with academic support and involvement from their parents and carers. Thus, increasing capabilities and competence in parents will assist children to perform better academically. Parent and community programs will also aim to reduce the gaps between families and the school and hopefully increase school engagement and attendance.

Although the Pelo Project will not focus on practical need such as providing stationary, desks, books etc., there is recognition of the importance of this in terms of creating a positive learning environment. Creating professional partnerships with other organisations or projects will be beneficial to achieving positive outcomes in the Pelo Project. The Pelo Project, however, does not require this practical support in order to make a difference and to create change.

It is important to note that the Pelo Project aims to be flexible and adaptive. It is centred on collaboration and working within the means of various schools and families rather than trying to introduce entirely new structures that are unfamiliar and difficult to adapt to. The Pelo Project would like to meet people on their level and help them to help themselves and feel empowered in the changes being made. The Pelo Project would also like to approach members of rural communities with an attitude of wanting to learn FROM them and allow them to inform content by identifying need and teaching us the best way to deliver the needed information and support.

The current statistics released by the Department of Education in South Africa show an alarming amount of children who are not enrolled or engaged in school. Currently we are seeing only 37% of children aged 3 – 4 years of age enrolled in pre-schools in South Africa – http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/Report%2092-01-03/Report%2092-01-032016.pdf

This is both alarming and concerning due to the extensive research that shows us that it is within these formative years that a child’s brain develops the vast majority of its neurons. In other words, children learn how to learn and this is said to pave the way for whether a child will be able to achieve academically or not. Neuroscientific studies will also show you that 80% of a child’s intelligence at age 18 has been developed by the age of 6.

Children in their formative years do not have the cognitive brain development to have higher ‘thinking’ or cognitive processes and rely predominantly on their emotional systems for learning and guidance (Limbic System). In order to effectively guide and teach a child, one must understand this and assist children with emotional regulation and managing their emotions. If children are experiencing trauma, neglect, nutritional deficiencies, abuse or other barriers and hardship, this will influence their development and impact their overall well-being. It will also likely lead to mental health issues later on (regardless of how we view and label these issues).

It is the hope and hypothesised outcome of the Pelo Project that the introduction of family support, community initiatives and decreased behavioural challenges will increase enrolments and the valuing of education within disadvantaged communities.

The role of a pre-school is complex due to what we now know about childhood development. Children require more than a curriculum and learning resources in order to learn optimally. Teachers and carers are assisting parents to raise their children and have an enormous role in terms of educating children, keeping them safe and nurturing their physical, emotional and cognitive needs. Teachers are also managing a variety of issues regarding parents, families and their communities and are ill-equipped to effectively cope with this in many of our South African pre-schools.

TFBB aims to assist teachers to feel more confident, implement positive and effective strategies and be comfortable and knowledgeable in giving advice and support to parents regarding their children. TFBB aims to increase family and community involvement in schools and increase the valuing and prioritising of education within disadvantaged communities. Through the implementation Pelo Project’s strategies and initiatives mentioned above, it is the hope that the benefits will also ripple through to primary and secondary schools.


The Pelo Project has the potential to expand as the concept of emotional regulation is not specific to any demographic or population. It is a powerful tool that could influence the way people cope with life’s hardships and challenges. Children are unable to learn if they are not feeling safe, particularly if they have trauma.

Our emotional system is the thread that connects us as human beings and it is our most neglected system and the least understood. So many of the issues we see in this world stem from childhood trauma, emotional neglect and an inability to cope with difficult emotions. We see this in the form of substance abuse, anger issues, relationship issues, abuse, crime, mental illness, eating disorders, repeated poverty cycles and a range of maladaptive behaviours. We also have research proving the strong links between physical illness or pain and our emotions. Teaching children how to recognize and process difficult emotions will enable them to cope with just about anything they are faced with.

As the saying goes – ‘We can’t always control what happens to us but we can control how we react to it’


In order to run this project successfully, Paula will be working on this fulltime with her team. This requires some financial assistance. The Pelo Project is on the path to becoming registered as a Not For Profit Organisation (NPO) and all donations will be used for the below wish-list and will enable us to reach more communities and schools. Please help us to make a difference and click the Donate button and reference ‘The Pelo Project’.


  • Transportation and travel expenses
  • Accommodation if required
  • Business expenses
  • Funding to create and implement community initiatives and family days
  • Create care packages for teachers
  • Salaries to cover living expenses for staff
  • Costs of professional supervision as needed
  • Access to ongoing WIFI/ internet
  • Funding to customise and design all courses/seminars/resources/workshops etc.


The Pelo Project is all about the empowerment of communities through education and community upliftment. This project will target a number of issues that are currently being faced in our disadvantaged schools. The strategies being proposed by the Pelo Project, aim to improve both education and over all well-being in both children and families. The Pelo project has a strong focus on sustainability and decreasing the gaps and barriers to education in disadvantaged communities.