Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa

 
$23,269
$1,731
Raised
Remaining
Banele
Banele

Dear Friends,

As you know, Thembanathi has been working for more than ten years to strengthen systems of education and care for young people and families in rural South Africa by supporting community-based early childhood education and care programs. In early 2011, we helped a group of community leaders in rural KwaZulu-Natal to establish a new early childhood development center in an area that was desperately lacking in much-needed early childhood education and care programs. The new program is called Siyabonga, which means 'we thank you' in Zulu. Since it was founded in 2011, Siyabonga has grown from 24 children in a tiny house (converted into a temporary center) to our current class of 66 children in our lovely new building, which was constructed with support from many of you.

Over the last year, word about the services and the wonderful new building has spread in the area. One single parent, for example, told us that she has brought her daughter to live with her grandparents so she can attend the center, as there were no educational programs for young children where she'd been staying before. Faced with extreme poverty and high rates of HIV/AIDS, safe and secure places for young children to learn and grow are essential. All of the guardians we've talked to say that they are excited to bring their children to our center because of the well-trained and caring staff, the safety and security it offers, and the quality of the facilities and equipment, incomporable in the area. The mother of one of our new two-year-olds told us: "I am very proud of the school my son attends. I like the high quality education and that everything about Siyabonga is up-to-date. Banele comes home everyday with something new he's learned. He also is very well fed." After only a year of operation in the new center, we've already exceeded capacity in the new classrooms and have had to create a waiting list. With additional donor funds, we hope to be able to open a new classroom soon to accommodate this expanding need. 

As we've told you before, the vision for the new building is to do more than just increase numbers. Our aim is to use the new center as a site for the development of a more holistic, comprehensive, and integrated model of support that will better serve children and their families in these communities. While we currently offer vital early childhood education and care programs that lay essential foundations for young people’s educational success, it is also critical that support for these disadvantaged young people continue into their primary and secondary school years. Even with the head start of an early childhood program, children can struggle to overcome the obstacles of the poor quality educational system and the other impacts of chronic poverty, and thus need ongoing support. This is why we are currently working on plans to expand our services to include other programming that will continue to support our young children as they grow. We hope to have some exciting updates for you on these new developments soon. 

We hope we can count on your continued support to not only ensure the needs of our current program are met but also to enable us to keep expanding our programs to serve even more young people and families in need.

 

Best wishes!

 

The Thembanathi Team

Aminathi
Aminathi
Sbongakonke
Sbongakonke
Playtime in one of our new classrooms
Playtime in one of our new classrooms

Links:

Even Ground
Even Ground's New Executive Director at Siyabonga

Dear Friends,

On September 22, Siyabonga Early Childhood Education Center had a special group of visitors from the United States, including two Board Members from Even Ground and Even Ground’s new Executive Director. The children were surprised to see them and quite shy at first. However, once the group volunteered to help the students with an art activity they were doing, the children quickly warmed up to them. The teachers also enjoyed meeting and working with the visitors and told the Director of the Center they wished the day would never end. The Director reported that they all felt that the visitors were humble, down-to-earth people who truly cared about the children and the work they are doing at the Center. She was glad that they were so interested to learn about the challenges their community faces and the needs of the Center. The day ended with the visitors giving the children some toys they had brought and, in return, the children performed a traditional Zulu dance for them - a rhythmic dance where they kick their legs high and then bring them down with a thump.

Even Ground’s Executive Director reported that he and the Board Members were most impressed with the quality of the teaching and with the Director’s engagement with the students. The children are alert, active, and well behaved, he said, a good indicator of the success of the program. They were pleased to learn that nearly all the parents of the children at the center are involved in the development and implementation of the program through monthly meetings where they discuss school objectives, curriculum, and nutrition. He commented that the work done there is extraordinary given the depth of challenges the area faces around lack of infrastructure, food security, HIV/AIDS, and sustainable livelihoods.

One of the immediate challenges that the center faces is the severe drought that has been plaguing the region for the past months. The municipal water supply has been dried up for many weeks, and the center’s back-up rainwater collection system is also depleted due to the lack of rain. The lack of water has made even basic activities like cooking and hand washing a huge challenge for center staff, and has also delayed the completion of the landscaping and outdoor play area. The Board members recognized that addressing the Center’s water needs is a priority, as is finding a way to provide ongoing funding.

After seeing the program first-hand, our Board members are more motivated than ever to raise more funds to increase the number of children served, to improve the curriculum, to hire more staff, and to help solve challenges like the current water crisis. But we need your help to do so.

As we begin our annual fall campaign to raise the funds necessary to keep offering essential services to young children and to grow our programs to help more young people in need, we want to reach out to all of you to thank you for your support and to ask for your continued assistance. If you are considering helping us out again this season, we wanted to let you know that this coming Wednesday, October 15, at 9:00 am EDT / 6:00 am PDT, Global Giving will be giving a 30% match on your donations. Check out our program page for more information.

All the best,

Helen and the staff of Siyabonga

In this report, we thought we’d do something a bit different and introduce you to the local visionary behind our new program, who currently as the director of Siyabonga Early Childhood Development Center.

Nonhlanhla was born in 1969 in Ladysmith, South Africa, the third of seven children. In 1977, the family was forced to leave Ladysmith when the Apartheid government took their land, part of a national campaign of forced removals designed to claim arable land for the white South African population and move black South Africans to the margins. After living for some time in a resettlement camp, Nonhlanhla’s family decided to move to the Mtubatuba area, where they had a few friends staying. The area was then part of the ‘black homeland’ (or bantustan) of KwaZulu, and so they were allowed to buy a small plot of land on which to build a home from the local chief. Not being from the area and having lost everything in the forced removal, Nonhlanhla recalls that the family struggled a great deal to survive in their new home and to gain acceptance in the area.

Despite these challenges, Nonhlanhla was able to stay in school and complete her high school diploma. She has always loved learning, and found solace in education, despite the difficult circumstances she faced and the challenges of getting a good education under the Apartheid government’s segregationist policies.  After graduation, she was encouraged by her high school teachers to study social work at the university. In 1989, she was accepted at the University of Zululand but struggled to finish the program because of her family’s financial circumstances.

In 1994, Nonhlanhla married Mfanafuthi, and was blessed with her first of four children.  She could not afford to study full time but continued part time at the South African College (now University of South Africa), working towards a teaching degree. In 2004, her husband was tragically killed in a car accident, and she was left to support her four young children on her own.

 Even though the going was tough for her after her husband’s death, she made sure that her children continued in school, and worked hard to instill her belief in the value of learning in all of them. Her oldest child, Nothando, was one of the few young people from her high school to get a scholarship to attend university. She completed a diploma in Fine Arts in 2011, and is now working towards her teaching degree. Her second child, Mbali, graduated high school last year with top marks, and is currently participating in an engineering training program, and applying to universities, where she hopes to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering. With support from Thembanathi, Nonhlanhla is now also finally completing her degree in early childhood development from the University of South Africa. The educational success of this family is quite amazing, especially given that high school failure rates in the area are as high as 70 percent.

 During the many difficult times that Nonhlanhla and her children have faced, they have relied on the kindness of neighbors and community members to get by. As her children grew older, Nonhlanhla wanted to find a way to repay the community for the kindness they had offered her family. With other women from the community, she aimed to start an early childhood development program for young children in the area, which lacked quality facilities to provide educational and developmental support for young children. In this community, affected by both the long-term effects of racial segregation and unequal development and by one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, education remains the key to breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty. However, because of the Apartheid government’s system of separate education, many adults in the area lack basic education and the local schools are some of the worst performing in the world. South Africa’s schooling system ranked 130th out of 139 countries in the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness report. To address these challenges, Nonhlanhla envisioned a center of learning that would ensure that all children could get a chance “to learn in life and continue to strive for success.” However, she and her fellow community members lacked the funds, the knowledge, and the connections to get the project off the ground.

In 2009, Nonhlanhla met Lindsey, Thembanathi’s founder, who was living in Mtubatuba conducting research for a PhD in Public Health and Anthropology. She offered to help tutor Lindsey in isiZulu, and welcomed her into her home. During these visits, she shared with Lindsey her dream of establishing an early childhood education program. Both felt very fortunate to have connected, given their shared passion for education for children in the area. Several years before, Lindsey had founded Thembanathi in order to support to community-based programs focused on early childhood care and education services and other forms of assistance for children and families affected by HIV and poverty in this region. Moved by Nonhlanhla’s enthusiasm and commitment, Lindsey encouraged her to take her vision forward, and committed to help raise the needed funds.

In January 2012, with support from Thembanathi and the involvement of a local community committee, the Siyabonga Early Childhood Development Centre was started in a small building on Nonhlanhla’s property. Although the building was only 400 square feet and she had hoped to have a maximum of 20 children, enrollment quickly grew to 37 children, as there were so many children in the area in need. This year, with the support of our generous donors in the United States and elsewhere and the involvement of the local community, Nonhlanhla’s vision was realized with the completion of a beautiful new building with space for 60 children and room for additional programs as well.   

Nonhlanhla believes the center has had a great impact on the community, “raising hopes for a brighter future for all.” Now, parents have a place to bring their children each day where they know they will be well taken care of, while they support their families or look for employment. And, even more importantly, the children have a place to grow, play and learn, setting them on a path of life-long learning. Nonhalanhla, the other Siyabonga staff, and the local volunteers are all excited to continue to grow their vision, and to help even more young people and families in need. They deeply appreciate the help you’ve given them thus far, and hope you’ll continue to be a part of the Siyabonga family and to inspire possibility and hope for young people in need through your ongoing support.  

Nonhlanhla and her children
Nonhlanhla and her children
Nonhlanhla
Nonhlanhla's four children at the center opening
Celebrating the opening of the new centre
Celebrating the opening of the new centre
Singing itsy bitsy spider with new students
Singing itsy bitsy spider with new students
Cutting the cake at the opening ceremony
Cutting the cake at the opening ceremony

Dear friends of Thembanathi,

Since our last quarterly report in December, we've reached some major milestones in our programs here in South Africa. On the 11th of January, over 100 people came together to celebrate the completion of the new Siyabonga Early Childhood Development and Community Center.  Representatives of the traditional authority, the local municipality, and local churches attended, along with the families and students who have participated in our program and community members excited to see this new facility built to benefit all the young people of the area.  We were very pleased that six of our US-based volunteers, as well as the directors and staff from two of our sister projects in South Africa - Thanda and Holy Cross - were able to join in the celebration. Many who spoke expressed appreciation for the people from across the world that made this possible, reminding us all that we are connected no matter how far apart we are or how different the lives we lead. In addition to the many celebratory speeches, there was a great deal of singing and dancing, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and a feast shared by all.  It was a great day for all of us to celebrate the accomplishments of our partners in South Africa and our supporters in the US and elsewhere.   

The next week saw the opening of our two new classrooms just in time for the start of the South African school year on January 16. The children who were with us in our old temporary facilities were delighted by the new classrooms filled with many new amazing materials. While initially a bit more tentative, the 43 new children who have been able to join our programs this year thanks to our expanded facilities have quickly opened up and are beginning to catch up with the others in their skills at learning games, songs, and other activities. The chalkboard walls, a suggestion of one of our advisory board members, have been an especially big hit with all of the children. They love covering the walls in drawings and then helping to wipe the surfaces clean to begin again. The children have also quickly discovered the many new blocks, trucks, dolls, and books – things many of the children had not seen before. It is fun to watch how fast they have become adept at building tall towers and then knocking them down.

It's amazing to think about how far we've come. None of this would have been possible without your generous support. We want to thank you for this! However, in order for the program to continue to serve these needy young people, and to grow to offer services to even more children and their families, we would very much appreciate your ongoing commitment to our programs. Please consider making a pledge to provide monthly support, as this form of support allows us to ensure continuity of care for young children facing adversity. A donation of only $25 per month will ensure that one of our center children continues to receive nutritious hot meals each day, while a $50 monthly pledge will cover the full costs of a young child's education, food and care at our high-quality early childhood center.

Thanks again to all of you for your support. We're excited to see what comes next!

Our team performs at the opening ceremony
Our team performs at the opening ceremony
Children celebrating before the ribbon cutting
Children celebrating before the ribbon cutting
One of our new classrooms
One of our new classrooms
A student enjoying our new chalkboard walls
A student enjoying our new chalkboard walls
A happy student
A happy student

Links:

Siphelele - one of our 2013 graduates
Siphelele - one of our 2013 graduates

Dear friends,

As the year draws to a close, we at Thembanathi want to thank you for the support we’ve received from the Global Giving community and our Thembanathi supporters, and update you on the amazing progress we’ve made this year. 

As most of you know, the new early childhood education and community center we’ve been working to build over the last 18 months is nearly completed. We’re planning to open our doors to a new group of 60 children when the South African school year begins on January 15, 2014. It will be so exciting to see this community's dreams for a place of potential for their young children to learn and grow finally coming true! 

The new building has two classrooms, a large community room (which will also house a small library), an office, a meeting room for staff development and community activities, and a kitchen equipped to feed all 60 children two hot meals a day. We were happy to be able to bring electricity and running water to the site, so there will be indoor facilities available, which is unique in this area. We still have a ways to go on equipping the center with appropriate furniture and educational materials and preparing the outdoor spaces for young people—we’d like to have a high quality, developmentally appropriate playground and a large income-generating garden—so would definitely appreciate any support you may be able to give to help us with this effort! As the center becomes established over the next year, we also plan to grow our programs to include after-school education activities for primary school students and family support programs.

In addition to the building project, we’ve had a great year at the current center. This month, 15 young people graduated from the early childhood program ready to begin primary school in January. We thought you’d enjoy hearing a bit about a few of these young people and how your support has touched their lives and the lives of their families.

Akhona (age 5) was one of the first attendees at our new centre when it opened in January 2011. “Before the center,” her mother told us, “I was struggling to raise my child right because her father was absent and I had no job. The center helped me a lot because it gave me a place where I knew my child could be safe and where her mind would be enhanced. It offers many things that parents cannot afford to give their children, like books, toys, educational materials, and knowledge.” Akhona is excited to go to primary school to join her older sister. However, she will miss all of the singing, reciting poems, and Zulu dance they got to do at the centre.

Another of our graduates, Siphephelo (age 5), attended the center only for one year. His grandmother reported that he had improved a great deal in that year: “ With the center,” she said, “we are gaining so much because our children will be able to go to school with knowledge. The learning enhances their creative minds and makes them brighter.” “I’m excited about going to school,” Siphelelo told us. When he grows up, he wants to build houses for others in his community.

Siphelele (age 5) lives with a very large extended family of 25 people. Her mother passed away in early 2012, and she is now cared for by her grandmother and great-grandmother. “Siphelele’s going to the center helped her to forget about the loss of her mother,” her grandmother told us. She was very fragile and shy when she began attending the center, but she is now active and happy. The teachers at the center call her mchwanezi, which means chick, because of her tiny structure and her timid nature. At the center, her favorite activities are beating the drum and doing fantasy play. At home, she likes playing at her neighbor's house and fetching water in the streams for her grandmother. She is sad to leave the center, but is glad she will be joining her sister at primary school.

To sustain and expand our work for these young people, we need to raise program funds for the new center. In this season of giving, we’d very much appreciate your including Thembanathi in your end-of-year giving. One hundred percent of the funds Thembanathi receives from your donation go directly to the education and care of young people in need in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We’d particularly appreciate your considering a recurring donation, as it allows us to ensure continuity of care for the children in our programs. Also, between today and December 31, Global Giving is offering a 100% match on all new recurring donations made on the site, so your gift can have an even greater impact. Please help.

Thanks again for your support! 

Happy holidays!

-Lindsey

 

PS If you haven't already, don't forget to LIKE US on Facebook to keep updated on our activities.

Siphelelo - another 2013 graduate
Siphelelo - another 2013 graduate
Akhona - another graduate
Akhona - another graduate
The new building under construction
The new building under construction

Links:

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Organization

Even Ground

Buffalo Grove, Illinois, United States
http://www.evenground.org

Project Leader

Lindsey Reynolds

Buffalo Grove, Illinois United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa