Andrew Klaber visits Siyabonga
In April 2003, after having had the opportunity to travel internationally and see first hand the effect HIV/AIDS was having on children, I decided to start a nonprofit, now known as Even Ground, to provide educational and other support to children living in areas impacted by the epidemic and by extreme poverty. My vision was to bring together a group of like-minded young people in the U.S. who were interested in providing guidance and support to local, community-based organizations in Africa. Later in 2003, I met Lindsey Reynolds who was just beginning her research work in South Africa. Years later, through Lindsey, we became aware of the community near Mtubatuba and their needs and agreed to support their efforts to form Siyabonga
On Monday, August 29th, I and two other members of the Even Ground board (www.evenground.org) had the opportunity to visit with the children at Siyabonga, its new Executive Director, and members of the Siyabonga board, including its Chairman.
Without a doubt, Siyabonga is a game-changing lifeline for these youngsters. The most critical components of an individual's brain development occurs from birth through age 5 and, without Siyabonga, area children would have no access to brain-stimulating early childhood developmental education. We listened as Siybonga's 60 young children confidently and proudly sang songs to welcome us to the classroom, counted and recited the days of the week in both English and isZulu, and engaged in traditional Zulu dancing. The Siyabonga facilities are incredibly clean and have newly installed toilets (a luxury in this part of rural South Africa). Equally importantly, the Siyabonga children receive five meals and snacks per day--by not having to go hungry, they can best focus on their studies.
The Siyabonga’s executive director and board have big plans for the future. Although they are still working to create an independent and sustainable organization, they are hopeful they will soon be able to start an after-school program. Additionally, they are evaluating the possibility of turning the Siyabonga facility into an Internet hub in the evenings where older children and adult learners would be able to access computers. Plans are also in the works to cultivate a Siyabonga agricultural garden behind the center, which will be a fun activity for the children and teach them important scientific concepts.
The Siyabonga children are disciplined and passionate about learning. Their instructors are first-rate, and we look forward to seeing what these youngsters will achieve in primary school and beyond as a direct result of their excellent Siyabonga education.
I and other Board members will not soon forget all that we saw, felt, and experienced during our time in South Africa. We now have a better sense of the economic, educational, and social struggles the children there face, and recognize that with this knowledge comes responsibility. These children have motivated us to continue our work here and energized us to do more.
By supporting Siyabonga, you are an integral part of the work we do. You enable 60 youngsters to receive a stellar early childhood education; you enable these youths to receive myriad high-quality meals; and you enable the Siyabonga staff and board to plan for a very exciting and impactful future. Please join us in continuing to support Siyabonga.
Children of Siyabonga welcome Even Ground board