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Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa

by Even Ground
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa
Graduation 2019
Graduation 2019

As the year draws to a close, we want to thank you again for your support of Siyabonga. Your donations make it possible for us to provide critical early childhood education and care programs for 90 children from extremely disadvantaged families, many of whom struggle every day just to put food on the table.

Last month 33 children qualified for progression to the next level, which is Grade R. The graduation ceremony, held on November 28, went off smoothly and both the children and families were very excited to be there. We were humbled by the attendance of the Circuit Inspector from the national Department of Education and the principals of nearby schools. The teachers and I couldn’t have been prouder of the way the children performed. I think everyone in attendance was surprised and pleased. I hope it was a day the children and the families will remember for a long time.

All the graduating children were dressed in caps and gowns and received a certificate of completion. Three children were given special recognition for their accomplishments - Mvelo, Andiswa and Seneme, all five years old, pictured above (from left to right). Mvelo is a highly intelligent child and a class leader. He is excellent in all areas and has developed all the skills he will need to help him as he moves on in his studies. At our event, he boldly and independently told the story of Mr. Mandela. When he grows up he wants to be a doctor.

Andiswa was given her certificate for her excellent performance in numeracy and Seneme was given the award for excellence in literacy. Andiswa said she would like to be a doctor when she grows up and Seneme would like to be a lawyer.

We look forward to inviting both new and returning students again in mid-January when classes resume. In addition to our regular early childhood education program, we are pleased to be continuing our after-care program. We also will be implementing a new pilot parent training and support program early in the year. We believe the program will help all our families reinforce the work we do in the classroom at home. However, we think it is particularly important for our young mothers who are struggling in so many ways.

Please consider a donation to Siyabonga as you do your year-end giving and help ensure we can continue to serve as many children in the upcoming year. In this most joyous of seasons, you can bring hope into a child’s life by making a tax-deductible contribution. Working together, we can create healthier and happier lives for children and their families.

We at Siyabonga send warm wishes for a wonderful new year to all of you who help make our work possible. Thank you for your support.

Thanks for your support
Thanks for your support
You make it possible
You make it possible
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Fun times at Siyabonga
Fun times at Siyabonga

Dear Friends and Supporters of Thembanathi,

Many of you have been supporting Thembanathi since its inception and thus already know my story. But for those who don’t, I thought I would start this newsletter with a brief intro and recap. I was drawn into HIV peer education programs and activist circles at a young age, serving as a youth educator and HIV program leader throughout my teens and early twenties. This commitment led me to South Africa, the country with the largest number of people living with HIV in the world, when I was 20 years old. In the small local AIDS hospice where I came to stay in rural KwaZulu-Natal, every bed was occupied, though many patients didn’t survive long after their arrival, as there was little to offer them beside palliation. Faced with this overwhelming scene, I felt compelled (as many others have) to intervene directly, founding a small NGO to provide educational support for the many young people I met who had lost their parents to the epidemic.

Upon returning to the US, I started Thembanathi (meaning ‘Hope with Us’ in Zulu) to raise support for the nascent early childhood education program at the hospice where I had stayed. I continued to visit South Africa and to lead Thembanathi over the next decade, while pursuing my graduate education in Public Health and Anthropology. I lived in Mtubatuba, about three hours north of Durban, for a period of two years while I did the research for my doctorate. In 2011, I was approached by a few community members who asked me to help them start an early childhood program. I enthusiastically agreed to assist them and, with support from many of you, we were able to open a temporary facility the following January. Over the next two years we raised funds to build a new center and in January 2014, we opened Siyabonga Early Childhood Education and Development Centre. Since completing my doctorate, I have remained committed to ongoing work to address the effects of the HIV epidemic on young people and families in South Africa, but my focus has moved from non-profit work to critical research and university teaching. Due to my busy academic schedule, I had not had the time or opportunity to visit Siyabonga for a few years.

Last month, I was finally given the chance to spend some time at Siyabonga again, accompanied by a photographer, who spent two days capturing life at Siyabonga and in the surrounding community. We will be sharing pictures of the children and staff with upcoming updates. In addition to the candid shots of everyday activities at Siyabonga, we also thought it would be fun to take portraits of all the children. We plan to print them and share with the children’s families, as school photos are not something that most families in the area are able to afford.

It was great to have the opportunity to return and see Siyabonga with fresh eyes, and to witness how things had progressed in my absence. Visually, the buildings and grounds look better than ever. A local volunteer has taken on the task of landscaping and gardening, and the fence and building are painted bright, welcoming colors. Siyabonga has added an additional teaching position since I last visited, allowing them to offer more structured lessons for the 4-year-olds (the age at which the South African Department of Education recommends that children begin school preparedness activities). For instance, on one of the days that I visited, the children were engaged in a lesson about how plants grow, each inspecting a small seedling they had visited previously and discussing how water and light helped it to grow big and tall. They were also delighted to perform songs and recitations for myself and the visiting photographer.

It was also my first time meeting Siyabonga’s current Director, Khethiwe Khuzwayo. She has clearly done a lot to develop the programs at Siyabonga and to ensure the stability, sustainability, and professionalism of the Centre. I was pleased to hear about their plans to keep improving and expanding their services, especially their aim of starting a new parenting program for the community. I hope we can support them to achieve these goals and continue to offer these much-needed services.

I want to take this opportunity to personally thank you for all the support you have given to 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,

Lindsey

Teaching about trees
Teaching about trees
Understanding how plants grow
Understanding how plants grow
Teachers and kids reciting a rhyme
Teachers and kids reciting a rhyme
Recess!
Recess!
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We just completed the first half of the 2019 school year and are pleased to report that things at Siyabonga are going well. All our students are doing well – enjoying their time here and learning many new things, but our 4-year-old group is doing exceptionally well. Even though we are only in the middle of the year, they are already meeting the performance expectations for the full year and showing more maturity than usual. The teachers too are focused on learning - all four are continuing with their studies at University of South Africa and meeting regularly to share what they are learning.

In recognition of the contribution of students to ending Apartheid in South Africa, June is Youth Month and June 16 is a national holiday. For those who don’t know the history, in June 1976, during Apartheid, students boycotted school to protest a law that required Afrikanns as the medium of instruction, a language a majority of students did not speak. The students, who were demonstrating peacefully, were met by heavily armed police who first fired teargas and then live ammunition at the students. This event was significant in bringing worldwide attention to the policies of Apartheid and is credited with beginning the change of the political landscape in South Africa.

In recognition of Youth Month, every June at Siyabonga we have curriculum and activities related to the theme of Children’s Rights and Responsibilities. Although our youngest may not fully understand the significance of the history and the importance of children’s rights, we think it is critical to introduce the ideas to our children. We talk with them in particular about the right children have to a good education and their responsibility to study.

Just prior to our school holiday, we concluded our Youth celebration with an event for families and community members. The children did activities to demonstrate the rights they had learned and other accomplishments they have achieved during the first half of the school year.

Shorthly before our own celebration, we were honored to host the Minister of the Department of Social Development. Siyabonga was selected from all the ECD centers in the district to perform during her visit. The children performed some of things we had been preparing for our own celebration. The Minister was impressed with the performance of the students, particularly our older students who did extremely well on their rhymes, shapes, parts of the body, and their rights and responsibilities. The children also appeared on the television news that afternoon. Children were thrilled to be given school bags for performing.

Thank you again for your ongoing support. You are the ones that make it possible for us to provide this important program for children in our area.

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Siyabonga opened for the new school year on January 7. It was wonderful to see all of our returning children, as well as welcome children coming to the Centre for the first time. We have 79 children enrolled this year, which is all we are able to accommodate. (Another 37 children are on the waiting list.)

January is always a challenging month, with new children adjusting to a different routine and being away from family. Many of the younger ones cry when they are first left. Older children who are just starting school for the first time have a different challenge, as most children their age are ahead of them in their learning. Fortunately, our staff is well trained and patient and able to provide the support the children need to help them through the transition.

February and March were more joyful for the children, as they all had adjusted to school and made friends. Particularly during outdoor play, we could see that they were really having fun at the Centre.

In addition to the critical services we provide for children and families in our community, we are proud to be able to provide job opportunities for seven people in our area, which has an extremely high unemployment rate (over 50%). We are committed to providing training to staff and encouraging them to pursue their own education. One of our three original staff members, who was hired as a cook, completed her high school education and went on to get two certificates in early childhood development while working for us. A few years ago she was promoted to teacher. Currently, we have a 43-year-old woman volunteering with us who has two children and one grandchild. She comes in each morning at 5:30 am to prepare breakfast for the children. She had stopped school at Grade 11; so when she became a volunteer last year, I encouraged her to continue. She is now getting her Grade 12 certificate and is planning to register for early childhood development classes in the coming year.

Thank you so much for your support. You can help us continue to make a difference for people in our community by giving to us through GlobalGiving. And if you give next week, April 8-12, your donation will go even further. GlobalGiving will match donations up to $50 at 50% during their Little by Little campaign, a week-long event designed to help celebrate the power of the crowd and demonstrate that small donations add up to BIG change!

With deep appreciation,

Khethiwe

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On December 6, a celebration was held for the 31 children who graduated from Siyabonga Early Childhood Development Centre. Along with families, staff, and Board members, a number of principals and teachers from nearby primary schools attended. The children were excited to perform for so many people. Everybody who attended was surprised by how well the children did. Both the children and the staff felt proud of all they have accomplished this year.

The families in the area that Siyabonga serves struggle with many challenges, including extreme poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, and serious health issues, all of which can negatively impact the children’s cognitive, motor, and social development. The programs at Siyabonga are designed to positively influence the children’s development by providing nutritious meals, a stimulating learning environment, and positive social interactions with other children and staff. Children leave Siyabonga more prepared to start primary school. In addition, we believe the early support the children receive is key to changing the course of their lives. Siyabonga was pleased to be able to provide services for 80 children this year and to add a new after school program. In addition to continuing their current programs for the upcoming school year, they are hoping to start support groups for parents and guardian next year, especially young parents.

We want to thank you again for your donations this past year. We are truly grateful to all of you whose generosity made it possible for us to support these critical services. And, a very special thank you to those of you who have signed up to give monthly. You are all an essential part of the work we do. Without your help, Siyabonga would not have been able to continue these vital programs.

As the year draws to a close, please consider giving what you can to ensure we can continue to serve so many children from disadvantaged backgrounds in the upcoming year. We are only a few thousand dollars short of our fundraising goal for 2018 and, with your help, I know we can reach it by the end of the year. In this most joyous of seasons, you can bring hope into a child’s life by making a tax-deductible contribution to Siyabonga. Working together, we can create healthier and happier lives for children and their families.

Thank you so much for your support!

Warm wishes for a wonderful new year.

Graduation 2018
Graduation 2018
Children Performing at Graduation
Children Performing at Graduation
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Even Ground

Location: New York - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Lindsey Reynolds
Scarsdale, NY United States
$43,799 raised of $50,000 goal
 
550 donations
$6,201 to go
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