Oct 2, 2019

Topsy's New Parent Support Programme

Topsy's Holistic Early Childhood Development Model
Topsy's Holistic Early Childhood Development Model

Since its inception 19 years ago, The Topsy Foundation’s purpose has been to make a difference in the lives of communities in rural areas of South Africa. The communities we service face many social ills, one of the biggest is poverty, and the most affected by this are the children of these communities. That is why it is our mission to provide these rural communities with support and tools needed to raise happy, healthy and capable children through our Holistic Early Childhood Development (ECD) Model.

It is our vision to see the children grow to be successful and confident adults. One of the ways we aim to better the lives of children is through our new Parental/Caregiver Capacitation Project. On 16 September 2019, a weeklong training session on this subject began for the Topsy Community Workers, Social Auxiliary Workers and Nurses. The training was facilitated by eLRU (Early Learning Resource Unit).

According to the South African Early Childhood Review, in Mpumalanga, 111 000 children between the ages of 3-5 do not attend any early learning group programme (2017). By expanding our programme to include non-centre based Early Childhood Development, we will be able to reach those children whose parents cannot afford to send them to a creche or an ECD centre. This will ensure that they too are provided with the opportunities to allow them to develop mentally and physically.

This programme has been adapted from the UNICEF Parenting Support Programme to enable trainers, ECD practitioners and ECD fieldworkers to capacitate parents/caregivers who take care of babies and young children from birth to five years old.

The main objectives of this new programme are to:

1. Build the capacity of primary caregivers to access the essential elements of an ECD package from conception including good nutrition, primary health care, opportunities to play and learn as well as social protection services for children from conception to 5 years of age;

2. Implement capacity building programmes for early years practitioners so that they can facilitate early learning opportunities for young children;

3. Develop and strengthen the capabilities of primary caregivers (mothers + fathers) to parent positively, stimulate their children and demand ECD services; and

4. Increase access to early learning opportunities for young children from birth to entry into formal schooling.

Since the training from eLRU concluded, our staff have participated in additional practical training sessions, to ensure our staff are confident to deliver the workshops to parents and caregivers in our communities. The programme will begin from October in Early Years settings, including parenting support workshops, home visits, playgroups and ECD centres.

With your financial support, we can ensure that all children in rural parts of Mpumalanga have access to quality ECD, nutritious food and loving and support and care. Thank you in advance to making a difference in the lives of less fortunate children.

Working in the community with caregivers.
Working in the community with caregivers.
Mamsy, Parental Support Community Worker
Mamsy, Parental Support Community Worker


Jun 25, 2019

Topsy Provides Seeds for Life

Paul working on his farm
Paul working on his farm

Topsy partners with communities in and around the crossroads of the Mpumalanga, Free State and Gauteng provinces of South Africa. This area, often referred to as a forgotten part of the country, due to its scant infrastructure and lack of large-scale industry, is home to several large rural communities.

As part of the support to orphaned and vulnerable children and families in Mpumalanga, we offer food security and nutritional support in the form of vegetable gardens.

The families participating in the project are required to develop and maintain their own vegetable gardens to supplement their food intake.  This participation is key to the buy-in of the project. Topsy’s trained vegetable gardener, supported by fieldworkers, trains and mentors the families and provides ongoing and regular support and training. 

The project provides on average each month, 6 880 adult and children with fresh, nutritious vegetables. The food garden projects aims to:

  • Teach beneficiaries how to establish and maintain home gardens and encourage the production and consumption of vegetables
  • Teach practical nutrition education in order to promote healthy diets and lifestyles
  • Providing beneficiaries with a tool for survival at times of food shortages
  • Familiarise beneficiaries with methods of sustainable production of food that is applicable to their homestead and important for household food security
  • Promote income-generation opportunities

Paul and his family have been beneficiaries of Topsy’s vegetable gardening programme since 2011. He is one of our favourite success stories.

He started in the programme because he wanted to plant vegetables to sell but did not have the resources to start a garden on his own. Topsy provided him with garden tools, compost, seeds and a hose pipe to continue with his entrepreneurial vision.  What started as a small scale vegetable garden is now a fully-fledged farm, with crops, chickens, ducks and rabbits. He sells the produce from his farm to families in his neighbourhood and also supplies to tuckshops within the community. Using his own initiative,  he started breeding rabbits as a source of protein for his family.  He uses the manure from these rabbits as compost on the vegetable garden, which is one of the reasons he has had such great success with his crops. From selling the crops he grows, he has been able to take care of his children who are now attending tertiary education. His eldest daughter, Ruth, is following in Paul’s footsteps and studying  Agriculture Economics at The University of Free State. Topsy helped Ruth secure funding from Rural Education Access Programme (REAP) to pay for her studies.

Paul's flourishing crops
Paul's flourishing crops


Mar 12, 2019

Topsy Teaches Protective Behaviours to Prevent Sexual Abuse

Hayley Walker, Protective Behaviours SA Chair
Hayley Walker, Protective Behaviours SA Chair

Child abuse is a national crisis.

In research compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a research programme supported by the World Childhood and Oak Foundations, South Africa scored only 56.1 % for our effectiveness in dealing with child sexual abuse and exploitation.1

With this in mind, the Topsy Foundation (Topsy)* sent 20 practitioners from 10 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres on a Protective Behaviour (PB) training course. Topsy works with ECD centres through initiatives that support children to unlock their full potential.

Topsy believes it is crucial to develop ECD facilitators who build children’s mental capacity, rather than being “babysitters”. Since the Protective Behaviours course, these ECD practitioners are now equipped with skills to empower children between two and six years old with personal-safety knowledge.

The Protective Behaviours Education training course, facilitated by Hayley Walker, chairperson of Protective Behaviours Southern Africa, takes a proactive, life-skills approach by teaching children to identify unsafe situations and to protect themselves from potential harm.

Dr. Ewa Skowronska, Executive Director at The Topsy Foundation, said, “ECD Practitioners and Topsy staff enjoyed the training so much. Hayley taught us not only the theory but a practical approach to protecting our children. We were surprised by how simple and effective the programme was and we can’t wait to implement it with every child in the communities we partner with.”

The Protective Behaviours course safe guards children’s right to feel safe all the time. Practitioners are taught to recognise a child’s unique concept of safety, teaching them to trust their intuitive feelings and developing strategies for self-protection.

This can heighten their ability to take protective action, trusting their skills, and seeking the support of others when needed. When practitioners gain these skills, they also learn to identify signs and symptoms of sexual abuse.

Practitioners empowered in this way become more likely to advocate for therapeutic programmes, and to lobby for improved laws, policies and practices.2

Practitioners can encourage conversation with children and reiterate the message that there is nothing too awful or too small to discuss with them. They reinforce the themes of Protective Behaviours by:

  • Reviewing personal networks to ensure they are reliable;
  • Persisting with necessary action to feel safe again;
  • Protectively interrupting in unsafe or potentially unsafe situations;
  • Observing the language of safety with others.

Through the course, practitioners meet other people in their field and start to build support networks. Practitioners are also connected to organisations with useful Protective Behaviour resources.

“Our children are valuable and ECD is vital for them to develop into responsible, upstanding citizens,” concluded Skowronska. “The better prepared the practitioners and children are, the more successful we can be as a nation,”.

*Topsy is a registered, internationally respected South African Non-Profit Company and Public Benefit Organisation on a mission to work with ECD centres through initiatives that support children to unlock their full potential.


  1. https://outoftheshadows.eiu.com/
  2. http://www.ci.uct.ac.za/ci/projects/current/child-abuse-tracking-study
ECD Practitioners Engaged in PB Training at Topsy
ECD Practitioners Engaged in PB Training at Topsy


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