Greetings from South Africa,
I am happy to report that I was finally able to make it over to Siyabonga this week after being unable to get there for several years. It was wonderful to see the children we support and observe how much they enjoy their time at the Centre. I spent time in each classroom and watched the children doing their lessons – singing and reciting their numbers, shapes, colors, alphabet, body parts, and more – and getting a chance to play. Such fun! I shared some pictures below that I took when I was there. I wish all of you could visit and see for yourself how much your donations mean to these children and their families. Plus, the children love to perform for company!
It was also good to get the chance to catch up with Khethiwe, Siyabonga's Director, in person and to see the staff, some of whom have been with us since we first opened in 2012. Khethiwe reported that things have been going well with the program since they opened for the school year in January but, unfortunately, they have had very heavy rains in the area again for the last month that have caused serious damage and even some deaths. Many people had yet to recover from the flooding last April and are now facing even more challenges. Khethiwe said that in addition to homes in the area, many schools were impacted. Siyabonga sustained some damage, though not as much as some others. We talked through a plan for completely replacing the roof and ceilings and doing other needed repairs to the building. The rain also impacts the student’s ability to get to the Centre since most roads in the area are mud. Only about half of the 97 children enrolled were there on Monday.
Please consider making a donation to help us provide additional support during these difficult times and to ensure there is continued funding for this critical program for children and their families.And this week your gift to Siyabonga will have an even bigger impact on our ability to help! Starting tonight at 9:00 pm PDT (12:00 am Monday EDT) through Friday, April 7, 8:59 pm PDT (11:59 pm EDT), all donations up to $50 will be matched at 50% by GlobalGiving during their Little by Little Campaign.
Thank you once again for the essential role you have played in the work of Thembanathi over the years. I am confident that the hundreds of children who have attended Siyabonga since it began have benefitted greatly from the support, education, and nutrition they received while there.
With deep gratitude and best wishes,
As another school year ends and the children begin their summer holiday, I want to extend my sincere thanks to you for your support this past year. We would not be able to provide the services we do without your compassion and generosity. Your donations truly make a difference in the lives of the young people in our program and their families.
I am pleased to report that the year went smoothly for us and for the 97 children who attended our centre. We enjoyed several special days during the year, including National Youth Day and Heritage Day, and just held a graduation celebration for the 24 children who will be moving on to primary school next year. Our biggest challenge this year was caused by extreme weather events. After years of severe drought in our area, where the scarcity of water was a major concern for all of us, two times this year we experienced heavy rains and flooding that impacted not only the roads and bridges in our area but also many homes and some structures at our centre. We are still working to raise funds for needed repairs and to find a qualified contractor willing to come to our remote location.
As most of you know, our mission encompasses four goals:
I recently had the opportunity to visit three families of former students and was pleased to hear they are all doing well in school. Two of the students are attending a multiracial school in Mtubatuba, the closest town to our centre. Mawenzi is just completing Grade R (kindergarten) and is doing well in all areas. She is independent and responsible, and also very creative. Nhlanzeko is seven years old and is also doing very well. He has gotten many achievement awards since he started school. Thandolwethu attended Siyabonga from 2017 to 2020. She is eight years old and just finished Grade 2. I was told she is one of the best English readers in her school. She has represented the school in competitions and has read for the whole school on special occasions. I also got feedback from another parent of a former student who is doing well in one of the best schools in Durban. We are very proud of all these students!
I would like to thank you again. Your support has been vital to our success, and we are deeply grateful for your partnership. You have truly helped to enrich the lives of all our students.
If you have not given recently, please consider a donation to Siyabonga as you do your year-end giving and help ensure we can continue to serve children in the upcoming year. Working together, we can create healthier and happier lives for children and their families.
Warmest wishes for the new year,
Dear Friends of Thembanathi,
It’s been a while since I’ve written to you! Things have been busy for me in South Africa, with building a new non-profit research organization focused on participatory research, youth engagement, and social justice, and growing my own family. And with the pandemic, I haven’t been able to travel to KwaZulu-Natal to visit Siyabonga for 3 years. In April, Helen and I planned a trip up to visit Siyabonga and the other projects in the Even Ground network of community-based educational organizations and were both excited to visit Siyabonga again after so long. We managed to get to KwaZulu-Natal, but then were caught in a major storm that caused hundreds of deaths, thousands of homes lost, and significant damage to roads and other infrastructure throughout the province. We had to turn back to Cape Town because the roads to Siyabonga were washed out.
After the province had recovered somewhat from the devastation of the floods, I was finally able to successfully make it up to Siyabonga, accompanied by my partner and toddler son. My partner Franc, a professional photographer, spent two days capturing everyday life at Siyabonga, while I was able to spend time with the director Khethiwe gaining a deeper understanding of their current circumstances. Our son, Jasper, spent the two days in the preschool class, enjoying time with the friendly children and generous teaching staff. We were touched by how warmly everyone received him. It’s amazing how easily young children can connect, offer kindness, and show affection for each other, despite significant language and cultural barriers – we adults could certainly learn a thing or two from them!! We will be sharing more pictures and stories of the children at Siyabonga in upcoming updates.
In the meantime, since you haven’t heard directly from me in a while, I wanted to briefly share my impressions and thoughts about how things have been going at the center, which we built more than 10 years ago with support from many of you. When I lived in the area, I used to come to the center often and got to know many of the children by name. By now, all these children are many years further in their educational journeys and there’s a whole new crop of eager young children. Some of the teachers, by contrast, have been working at Siyabonga since we first opened the doors of the early childhood development center – amazing staff retention for this rural area with high population mobility. Their knowledge and experience, enhanced through continuing education funded by Thembanathi, are obvious in the well-run classrooms, happy children, and committed families. The director, Khethiwe, has also done an amazing job of managing the center and ensuring that all programs are delivered at a consistent standard.
There have of course been some setbacks and challenges in the past few years, as was the case for nearly all non-profit organizations in South Africa during the pandemic. In addition, the region where Siyabonga is located has faced chronic issues with lack of service delivery and have had water shortages and inconsistent electricity for years. The water situation has gotten even worse recently, and the center has had to spend a significant amount of their limited funding to buy water privately to cover their basic sanitation needs. In addition, after several severe storms, the center roof has started leaking. Khethiwe made a special appeal for support to help repair the roof.
As always, your support is essential to keeping the program operational. With additional funding, we could also help Khethiwe fix the roof and improve the center infrastructure. And, your gift to Siyabonga this week will have an even bigger impact on their ability to serve the children in their community! Starting tonight at 9:00 pm PDT (12:00 am Monday EDT) through Friday, September 16, 8:59 pm PDT (11:59 pm EDT), all donations up to $50 will be matched at 50% by GlobalGiving during their Little by Little Campaign.
Thank you again for the critical role you have played in the work of Thembanathi, Holy Cross, and Siyabonga over the years. I am confident that the hundreds of children who have attended Siyabonga since it began have benefitted greatly from the support, education, and nutrition they received while there.
With deep gratitude and best wishes,
I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the first weeks of Spring (or fall for those of us in the southern hemisphere). We opened for the school year in January, and everything has been going really well so far. We have our highest enrollment ever, as it is difficult to say no to families facing so many adversities.
We are excited to be able to proceed with a couple activities that we were unable to do during the uncertain times these last two years. We have again prepared a small portion of land and will soon be planting it. We love having fresh vegetables to feed the children for lunch. We are also planning to finish the building of a third classroom that we started two years ago and which we urgently need to accommodate the 100+ children who now attend our program. We also hope to start up our parent training program this year, which we had plans to do in 2020 before the COVID crisis hit. Our goal is to partner with our families to provide the children the best educational and developmental assistance we can both at school and at home.
Each week we have a theme for our teaching and do various activities to support the children’s learning. The attached pictures are from an activity we did in conjunction with the theme of appropriate and positive behaviors. In the picture above Asiphile, one of our four-year-olds, is leading the group reciting what they have learned this week. Thandolwethu, below, is also four years old and has been attending Siyabonga since she was two. Zizipho also has been attending Siyabonga since she was two. She is now five years old. All three children live with their maternal families and only Zizipho’s has a member of the family who is employed, her mother, though she needed to leave our community to find a job. Unemployment is extremely high in our area (well over 50%) and many extended families depend on social welfare grants for survival. The last picture is Andiswe, who started with us this year. She has a lot of energy and loves to play outside. She also volunteers often to answer questions.
We need support to continue providing services to our children and families. The impact of COVID and the resulting lockdowns created a greater need for the nonprofits working to provide services to families struggling to get by and funding here is even more difficult to find. Please consider making a donation to help us provide services to all in need in our community. And, if you give between now and Friday, April 8, 11:59 pm EDT, during GlobalGiving’s Little by Little campaign, your donation of up to $50 will be matched at 50%.
Thank you again for all your support. We at Siyabonga our humbled by the donations we receive from you. We couldn’t do what we do without you! And please remember all donations this week, up to $50, will be matched at 50% by GlobalGiving.
On behalf of the staff and board of Siyabonga and all the families we serve, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for your support throughout another challenging year. Without your generous donations, we would not have been able to continue providing services to the young children and families in our community, many of whom struggle every day to put food on the table. The education, care, support, and meals we provide are crucial for our children’s well-being.
Despite a late start and a break mid-year due to lockdowns during COVID surges, we were able to keep the center open and welcome 94 children. All the staff worked hard to ensure we met our goals and finished our established curriculum. This is particularly important for the 34 children who graduated from our program this year. They will be starting primary school in January better prepared to succeed both academically and socially. We were diligent all year to continue following COVID protocols and are happy to report that none of our staff or children tested positive during the year.
I wanted to share the stories of two three-year old children who started in our program this year (pictured above). Mawande, who has asthma, had never been to school before this year. She is a very bright, jolly little girl, who is very creative and energetic. I was pleased to have her join us, since I taught her grandmother in Grade 7 early in my career. When I was taking her home a few months ago, we ran into a neighboring school principal. Mawande surprised us both by introducing herself without prompting, with her full name, age, where she goes to school, and where she lives.
Uzonotha is the girl standing right behind Mawande. Her grandmother, a teacher at a nearby school, was very worried about Uzonotha’s development, particularly her speech, and asked us to accept her into our program last February. One of our Even Ground partners has developed a red flag assessment tool, designed to identify the needs of at-risk children, and shared it with us last year. We were so glad to have a tool we could use to help us identify Uzonotha’s specific needs so we could provide the special support she needed. She is now doing very well in school, and able to speak clearly, sing, and even recite rhymes.
Thank you again for your trust in us. As we continue working to meet the ongoing challenges in our area, as well as the additional challenges COVID brings, we are so grateful you have been willing to step up your support. If you have not given recently, please consider a donation to Siyabonga as you do your year-end giving. Working together, we can create healthier and happier lives for children and their families.
I wish you and your loved one’s health and happiness during these difficult times and all the best for the new year.
With deep appreciation and warmest regards,
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