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

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:

  • provide a positive, supportive, and enriching environment for children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development,
  • provide a safe place for families to leave their young children while they work, seek work, or continue their education,
  • provide healthy meals to ensure our children have the nutrition they need for healthy growth and development, and
  • provide a school readiness curriculum that gives our students the foundation they need to be successful as they continue their education.

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,

 Khethiwe

Mawenzi
Mawenzi
Nhlanzeko
Nhlanzeko
Thandolwethu
Thandolwethu
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Jasper at Siyabonga
Jasper at Siyabonga

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,

Lindsey

 

Working Hard
Working Hard
Meal Time
Meal Time
Having Fun
Having Fun
Performing for our guests
Performing for our guests
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Asiphile
Asiphile

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.

Kindest Regards,

Khethiwe

Thandolwethu
Thandolwethu
Zizipho
Zizipho
Andiswa
Andiswa
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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,

Khethiwe

Melokuhle Performing at Graduation Ceremony
Melokuhle Performing at Graduation Ceremony
Asiphile Singing and Dancing on Cultural Day
Asiphile Singing and Dancing on Cultural Day
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Manquele, age 3
Manquele, age 3
The year has been a roller coaster for Siyabonga, as I am sure is true for many early childhood centers. A second hard lockdown at the beginning of the year, when the Delta variant first hit South Africa, kept schools closed until February 15. When the program was finally able to open, Siyabonga’s enrollment went up to 94 students and classes got underway with great success.
Unfortunately South Africa had another wave of COVID-19 cases in July, hitting their highest infection rate yet. The President imposed another lockdown and closed schools at the end of July. Luckily, the lockdown only lasted a couple of weeks, and Siyabonga was able to reopen in mid-August.
KwaZulu Natal, where Siyabonga is located, has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic this year, especially with the most recent surges. Although many nearby early childhood centers and schools have been directly affected, fortunately none of the students or staff at Siyabonga have been infected and there has been no change in the number of children attending. And we are happy to report that all of the staff at Siyabonga have now been vaccinated. 
In light of the current crisis, It has been even more difficult than usual for Khethiwe, Siyabonga’s director, to find funding sources in South Africa. There is just so much need right now. Also, government funds, which they have received in previous years, have been difficult to even apply for due to government shutdowns. On behalf of Khethiwe, we're asking for your help to get Siyabonga through the last few months of this challenging year.
Please consider making a donation to help us provide additional support to Siyabonga. If you give from today through Friday, September 17, at 11:59 pm EST, GlobalGiving will match your donation of up to $50 at 50%. So the funds you give will go even further.
We know that everyone across the globe is feeling the impact of this virus and that the needs are great everywhere. We are very grateful for the support we receive from our generous donors and for this week's GlobalGiving matching campaign. No matter what you give, we can promise that it will make a real and lasting difference to our children and their families.
Thank you and stay safe.
Mikhwanazi, three years old
Mikhwanazi, three years old
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Even Ground

Location: New York - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Lindsey Reynolds
Scarsdale, NY United States
$65,701 raised of $100,000 goal
 
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