Dear Friends of Thembanathi,
Since I last wrote, we've made great progress in the construction of our new building. The land is now leveled and fenced, the foundation poured, and the building half way up. Thanks to all of you, we're on track to finish in January 2014 as planned, in time for the start of the school year in South Africa.
It's so exciting to watch the building grow each day and to begin to envision all the activities that will take place within it.
While we've raised nearly all the funds for the construction itself, we still need to raise funds to equip the classrooms, offices, kitchen, and community room, to build a playground structure, and to provide additional education materials. We'd really appreciate your support in this effort, either through donating to support our project yourself or helping us to spread the word and raise funds from others. Global Giving has a great fundraiser platform that supporters can use to raise funds themselves. You can do this for a birthday, sporting event, wedding, or any other reason, and could dedicate your funds to a specific cause (e.g. building a playground, buying seedlings for the garden, etc). Check it out here - http://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/fundraiser-new/type Feel free to get in touch with me to discuss this option in more detail - email@example.com
I write to you to report on the start of our second year of operations at Siyabonga Thembanathi early childhood care and education center. After months in the US focused on fundraising for our new building project, I was really excited to head back to South Africa last month to visit the project, see the old and new faces at the center, catch up with staff and community members, and make plans for next steps. I'll be in South Africa for the next year or two and plan to visit the center frequently, oversee our new building project, and provide all of you with regular updates and stories as things unfold.
In December, as the South African school year came to a close, the Siyabonga staff and committee members organized a small celebration for the first group of 12 children to graduate from the new center and go on to primary school. They invited parents and community members to join them at the center to celebrate the children and the success of the center's first year. After a year at the center, the children are much better prepared to start school and we look forward to watching them continue to learn and grow. We also believe it is essential to continue to support and care for the children in primary school and beyond and, to this end, when our new facility is completed, we hope to expand our services to include after school programming for older children in the community.
On January 16th, the center opened again for the new school year, welcoming a new cohort of young children. It's amazing to witness the powerful differences between the children who have attended the center for a year already and those who are just arriving in the program. The children who are in their second year are confident, articulate, and social, and keen to help teach the new arrivals all they've learned.
In other news, the capital campaign for our new building has been a great success so far, and we are getting ready to start the design phase of the project here. With your support, we hope to reach our fundraising goal in the next six months so that we can complete the new center by the start of the next academic year in South Africa in January 2014. As we described in our July 2012 update, our goal is to build a larger permanent center that will accommodate 60 children in the early childhood care and education program, and will serve as a community center at which a range of other community services can be offered, including after school programming, community gardens, and income generation projects. Through the new center, we aim to help this community provide opportunities for vulnerable young children to learn, to develop socially, and to play. In addition to making a difference for children in this community, our model of partnering with local community groups to establish programs to provide critical services for children is one we believe could be replicated in other areas facing similar challenges. We are hoping to use this new center as a model program for how to develop such services in new communities. We hope you'll help us achieve this goal.
Thanks for your support!
With your support, we were able to open Siyabonga Creche near Mtubatuba, South Africa last January. The small, temporary facility is providing services to 28 young children. In the nine months the children have been attending the early education program, they have already learned many new things and developed socially. They have also been given at least two healthy meals a day while there, something not all the children enjoyed consistently before attending the crèche. Here is a quote from a mother about how the crèche has changed her son: “The crèche has helped my son in many ways. Now he knows how to greet in foreign language (English) and how to count. Before the crèche he used to keep to himself. Now he plays freely with other children and his future is promising too.”
Over the last three months, we have continued to work towards funding a permanent early education center that can accommodate up to 60 children. We are now working with Architecture for Humanity to complete a preliminary design of the building that will help us move forward with our plans and our fundraising efforts. We also received a generous donation from the Emmons-Bradlee Foundation that will fund one of our two classrooms. We now have almost half of the funds needed to build the center. We are optimistic about reaching our goal by next summer and being able to open the center by the start of the 2014 school year. Your continued support will help us provide these critical services to more disadvantaged children and not only meet their and their families’ immediate needs, but also set them on a course to succeed in school and change their future.
A young woman from the community, Nothando, recently spent a month volunteering at the crèche and shared with us what she experienced there. I asked Nothando what the children enjoyed most. She said they loved looking at books. Many of them don’t have books at home and they often sit in groups of three or four and look through the picture books together. They also love it when they are read a story and often interject comments. Nothando commented that they never get tired of the books they have. The children also love singing songs and reciting poems, which they like to act out. Nothando said the children are crazy about playing with blocks and they also like puzzles. She said she, like most of these children, never had blocks or puzzles at home when she was growing up. And, of course, the children love playing outside – racing each other, playing soccer, and playing with sand.
Nothando recently received a diploma in Fine Arts, so she did a number of art projects with the children. They had a chance to draw, paint, and work with clay. For their last project, Nothando had each of the children paint clothes, using watercolor. They then cut them out and pasted them up on display. She said it was great to see the children work on a project together.
Nothando said that many of the children have very sad stories. She shared with me one story that she said really touched her heart. Ntando is a five-year girl who lives with her little brother, father, grandmother, and her uncle. Her mother passed on in 2011. Ntando’s grandmother is the breadwinner of the family. She tries to support them by selling vegetables and fruit. However, she often gets taken advantage of by other people and comes home empty handed, so the family really struggles to have enough to eat. Nothando has seen Ntando buying two small bags of chips – one for herself and one for her little brother – and she knows that is all they will have for dinner. Yet, in spite of it, Ntando is a very happy child who plays and laughs at the crèche. “She is a real sweetie.” Ntando told Nothando that when she grows up, she is going to be a cook and listed all the types of food she will prepare.
Nothando said she really enjoyed her time with the children. “It was fun. Being with the children makes you appreciate life more.”
Thank you for your support. You are truly making a difference in the lives of these children. Your additional support will help fund the building of an early childhood education center that will ensure these and more children will continue to have this important opportunity.
“EDUCATION IS THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON YOU CAN USE TO CHANGE THE WORLD” - Nelson Mandela
What happens to children in the early years of their life is of critical importance to their immediate well-being and to their future. Their experiences during this period set a foundation for their entire life. Especially for vulnerable and disadvantaged children, early childhood education and care is the key to change. Since 2004, Thembanathi has been working to provide funding for early childhood education and development programs, while strengthening families and building communities, in an area of rural South Africa devastated by the HIV epidemic and the longstanding effects of racial segregation, poverty, and unemployment. This year Thembanathi worked with a new community group to help them open their first early childhood education and care center. Approached by community leaders who saw this as an urgent need in their community, Thembanathi’s founding director enthusiastically agreed to help make their dream come true.
Because of the critical need for this service, the community leaders decided to approach the project in two phases. In January of this year, with the support of many generous donors, Thembanathi was able to assist with the opening of Siyabonga Crèche in a temporary facility, on loan from a community member. Although the building is small (400 square feet), 28 children were enrolled and since January have been attending the crèche. The children, many of who are from single parent families or living with extended family, now have a safe place to learn and play.
Since January, Thembanathi has been able to secure the funds needed to ensure the center is able to continue operating for the next year. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us reach our first milestone. We are very grateful to all of the individuals and organization that made this possible. We would like to give special thanks to MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation for funding the crèche for six weeks and to the Delta Kappa Gamma Education Foundation for their grant to purchase books and education materials, and to Varme Små Hjerter (Warm Little Hearts) from Norway who sent clothes and shoes to all the children at the crèche. We would also like to acknowledge Andrew Klaber and the Board of Orphans Against AIDS for their support of our project.
Our focus has now shifted to raising funds to build a permanent home for the crèche. The director of the crèche recently completed interviews with local families and learned there are an additional 30 children between the ages of two and five that urgently need services. Additionally, there are 20 children under two that will need the service in the near future. This census reinforces the validity of our plan to build a new center that can accomodate at least 60 children.
We are off to good start with this new campaign, having raised or received pledges for 20% of the estimated building costs. With everyone’s help, we are confident we can achieve this ambitious goal. In addition to financial contributions, Thembanathi supporters can help in a variety of ways. We’d love for you to get involved!
Some examples of things you could do are:
Please visit our website for more information or to contact us – www.thembanathi.org. We are very enthused to work with all of you to help this community make their dream a reality!!
“I can't wait for the child care center to be built in my community. Thanks to all of you, now our future will be brighter. This is the best thing that has happened in my community.“ - Nothando Sabela
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