Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa

by Even Ground
Weekend with students in the new playground
Weekend with students in the new playground

Dear Friends,

Thembanathi is very pleased to introduce the new Executive Director of Syabonga Early Childhood Development and Care Centre - Weekend Ngubane. Weekend joined the Centre on October 1. We are thrilled to have him on board to help take the organization to the next level in terms of fundraising, sustainability, and program development. 

Weekend grew up and studied in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where he graduated with a BA in English and History and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Natal. Weekend went on to earn his Master of Education degree from Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape. Weekend began his career as a teacher. He spent a number of years teaching English and History at Umthoqotho High School in the community where he grew up outside of Pietermaritzburg. He then moved on to be a History teacher and Head of the Social Sciences Department at Alexandra High School in Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg.  Weekend told us that he enjoyed his teaching career, but decided to leave it to pursue his interest in working with programs providing services for children and youth. He spent several years working as the Director of the SOS Children’s Villages in Pietermaritzburg and then was the Director at Ethelbert Child and Youth Care Centre in Durban.

Weekend shared that he has a passion for children. He believes in their protection, empowerment, and holistic development. It is for these reasons that Weekend was so excited to become a part of Siyabonga Centre, where he hopes to lead and facilitate the growth of the organization. Weekend believes in teamwork, and hopes that together with local stakeholders, the centre will "grow from strength to strength." He envisions the organization not only as an early childhood development centre, but also as a resource centre for primary, secondary, and tertiary students. He sees the potential for the centre to develop to offer programs like computer literacy lessons, a community library, educational enrichment programs for students, a training centre, and a vibrant hub for other community development projects. In the area, many people study for university degrees online (due to issues with cost and accessibility), so such a centre could support children from early childhood education through the completion of their secondary education, and even help community members complete their university degrees.

Weekend has told us that when he arrived as an "outsider” in the Mtubatuba area, he found the community members in the area to be immediately welcoming, friendly, and easy to work with. The members of the community share their ideas openly and enjoy sharing words of wisdom with him. He has been impressed with how hard they are striving for the betterment of their lives despite the difficult circumstances in which many live. "They are the people one can walk with to achieve common communal objectives," he explains.

We are really excited to have Weekend joining the team at Siyabonga and are very optimistic that with his vision and direction, and the leadership of new members of the Board of Directors, the organization is poised to grow in amazing new ways. We hope you will continue to support Siyabonga as they work to become more stable and independent and expand to include broad-based, holistic services for children and families in the area.

Thank you for your ongoing support and for helping us reach this new milestone for Siyabonga and the children it serves.

 

With gratitude,

The Team at Thembanathi

Our new director
Our new director
Nqobile at Siyabonga
Nqobile at Siyabonga

MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR JULY 15 WHEN GLOBAL GIVING WILL HAVE ITS LARGEST BONUS DAY OF THE YEAR. OUR SIYABONGA EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION CENTRE WILL RECEIVE A 50% MATCH ON DONATIONS YOU MAKE ON JULY 15.

Introducing Siybonga’s Lead Teacher and Her Student

Nqobile Msweli was born and raised in Mtubatuba, South Africa.  She is the oldest of five children and currently is living with her siblings, parents, and grandparents at the home of her maternal grandmother. Nqobile obtained her Matric certificate in 2006 and had hoped to go on to college but her family could not afford to send her. This year, with help from Thembanathi, she has started studying early childhood education at the University of South Africa.

After high school, Nqobile worked at Thembalesizwe Community Care Centre as a caregiver for orphans and vulnerable children. She also provided home-based care, helping to identify the needs of families in the area. When the Siybanoga Early Childhood Education Centre opened in January 2012, Nqobile was hired as the assistant teacher.  Visitors to Siyabonga have commented that Nqobile is a natural. She is engaged, calm, and caring.

Nqobile told us she really enjoys working with children. She feels working at Siyabonga has improved her life and she is thankful to everyone who has contributed to the centre.

Mandisa is a four-year-old student at Siyabonga. Nqobile told us that everyday Mandisa comes to school with a story to tell her. She focuses well as she plays and learns. She also gets along well with other children in her class. Mandisa appreciates everything her parents and teacher do for her and loves to share her happy moments with others. Mandisa is the oldest child in her family and is very talkative at home.

Working Together to Help Children

Although started as an AIDS hopsice, Holy Cross soon recognized the need to help children impacted by the disease and in 2002, opened an early childhood education center in a one-car garage. Thembanathi’s founder, Lindsey Reynolds, visited there in 2003 with a fellow college student and they began raising funds for Holy Cross soon after.  In 2004, the organization obtained funding to build a new early childhood education centre that accommodates up to 120 children. The director of Holy Cross, Sister Priscilla Dlamini, has not only inspired us through her tireless dedication to improving the lives of children and families in need, but also has been a tremendous resource for other local leaders. When we started working with community members in a nearby region to open Siyabonga Early Childhood Center, Sister Priscilla stepped up to provide guidance and assistance to the new director and board.

Recently, Sister Priscilla partnered with Embury Institute for Teachers Education to provide early childhood development training to teachers from Holy Cross and invited Siyabonga staff to join them. Three teachers from Siyabonga have been attending the program, dedicating their weekends to the training. We are excited for this opportunity to partner our two programs with other resources in the province. Staff told us they are learning about the needs of young children and the role of a good teacher. We are hopeful the training will provide our teachers with the tools and techniques to be able to facilitate active learning appropriate to their community and promote healthy development in the children we serve.  

Looking Ahead

We are very pleased to be able to fund a new position at Siyabonga starting next month. We are currently recruiting for an executive director who will lead an effort to make the organization more independent, sustainable, and responsive to the needs of the community. The new director will be responsible for expanding the services we offer to provide more support for children and families in the community.  While early childhood education is a critical service that lays the foundation for children’s future, it is vital in areas of extreme poverty to continue to provide children with support throughout their primary and secondary school years. We hope you will continue to support the efforts of Siyabonga to make a difference in the lives of these young children by donating during Global Giving’s bonus day on Wednesday, July 15.

Thank you!

Mandisa
Mandisa
Nqobile
Nqobile
Children at Siyabonga
Children at Siyabonga

Dear Friends of Thembanathi,

This past week marked the 50th anniversary of the Head Start program in the United States, an early childhood education program created to fight the harmful effects of poverty on children’s lives. Head Start, President Obama reminded us in his public address, was “founded on the idea that every child -- no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they grow up -- deserves the chance to reach their full potential.” 

On this day, President Obama took the opportunity to remind us all of the importance of early childhood education. “Supporting our children in their earliest years with high-quality care and education is one of the best investments we can make as a Nation,” he proclaimed. “During a critical period in a child's life,” President Obama went on, “Head Start sets our Nation's young people on the path to success. We know that investments in early childhood education boost graduation rates, increase earnings, and reduce violent crime. And 3- and 4-year-olds who attend high-quality preschool are less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to need special education, and more likely to graduate from high school. This head start in life leaves a lasting impact on our students and fuels their curiosity, helping them to grow up with a passion for learning, a fair shot at good-paying jobs, and a more secure future.”

The critical need for and positive impacts of early childhood education and care are universal. A growing body of evidence from countries around the world shows that appropriate investment in early childhood development can have a positive effect on national health, education, and socio-economic outcomes, especially in less developed countries. A strong foundation in early childhood lays the groundwork for responsible citizenship, economic prosperity, healthy communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. This is why organizations such as UNICEF, UNESCO, and The World Bank have emphasized its importance.

Children who acquire learning deficits in their early years fail to catch up during formal schooling. Rather, these deficits continue to grow over time until they become insurmountable. Reports on educational achievement in South Africa demonstrate that far too many of school-going children are performing below minimal standards, often failing to acquire functional numeracy and literacy skills. Research shows that children who participate in quality early childhood development programs, by contrast, are more ready to learn when they begin school and are less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school.

While the need for quality early childhood education is clearly recognized in South Africa, as it is in the United States, many areas of the country--especially the more rural, impoverished regions--struggle to provide these programs. That is why we at Thembanathi have dedicated ourselves to supporting and helping to build early childhood programs in northern KwaZulu Natal. As many of you know, we began working with Holy Cross in 2003, helping them to expand their early childhood program from an informal care center in a one-car garage to a center of excellence able to accommodate 120 children in need. In addition, we have supported their expansion into the more remote areas surrounding the main center through the construction of four satellite centers. Over the last few years, we’ve also helped open a new center of learning in another area, and hope to continue to grow our support programs to offer assistance to even more children in need.

While we know you all understand and support early childhood education, we want to take this moment--the anniversary of a program that has transformed the lives of many young people in America--to reflect on the importance of early childhood education and care for all children in need and to recommit ourselves to doing our part to ensure that children faced with historical and economic disadvantages are given the head start they need to allow them the chance for a bright future. We hope that you will do the same.

 Thank you.

Children at Siyabonga Enjoying Breakfast
Children at Siyabonga Enjoying Breakfast
Lindsey, Thembanathi Director, Visits Siyabonga
Lindsey, Thembanathi Director, Visits Siyabonga
Thanks for Your Commitment to Siyabonga
Thanks for Your Commitment to Siyabonga
Banele
Banele

Dear Friends,

As you know, Thembanathi has been working for more than ten years to strengthen systems of education and care for young people and families in rural South Africa by supporting community-based early childhood education and care programs. In early 2011, we helped a group of community leaders in rural KwaZulu-Natal to establish a new early childhood development center in an area that was desperately lacking in much-needed early childhood education and care programs. The new program is called Siyabonga, which means 'we thank you' in Zulu. Since it was founded in 2011, Siyabonga has grown from 24 children in a tiny house (converted into a temporary center) to our current class of 66 children in our lovely new building, which was constructed with support from many of you.

Over the last year, word about the services and the wonderful new building has spread in the area. One single parent, for example, told us that she has brought her daughter to live with her grandparents so she can attend the center, as there were no educational programs for young children where she'd been staying before. Faced with extreme poverty and high rates of HIV/AIDS, safe and secure places for young children to learn and grow are essential. All of the guardians we've talked to say that they are excited to bring their children to our center because of the well-trained and caring staff, the safety and security it offers, and the quality of the facilities and equipment, incomporable in the area. The mother of one of our new two-year-olds told us: "I am very proud of the school my son attends. I like the high quality education and that everything about Siyabonga is up-to-date. Banele comes home everyday with something new he's learned. He also is very well fed." After only a year of operation in the new center, we've already exceeded capacity in the new classrooms and have had to create a waiting list. With additional donor funds, we hope to be able to open a new classroom soon to accommodate this expanding need. 

As we've told you before, the vision for the new building is to do more than just increase numbers. Our aim is to use the new center as a site for the development of a more holistic, comprehensive, and integrated model of support that will better serve children and their families in these communities. While we currently offer vital early childhood education and care programs that lay essential foundations for young people’s educational success, it is also critical that support for these disadvantaged young people continue into their primary and secondary school years. Even with the head start of an early childhood program, children can struggle to overcome the obstacles of the poor quality educational system and the other impacts of chronic poverty, and thus need ongoing support. This is why we are currently working on plans to expand our services to include other programming that will continue to support our young children as they grow. We hope to have some exciting updates for you on these new developments soon. 

We hope we can count on your continued support to not only ensure the needs of our current program are met but also to enable us to keep expanding our programs to serve even more young people and families in need.

 

Best wishes!

 

The Thembanathi Team

Aminathi
Aminathi
Sbongakonke
Sbongakonke
Playtime in one of our new classrooms
Playtime in one of our new classrooms

Links:

Even Ground
Even Ground's New Executive Director at Siyabonga

Dear Friends,

On September 22, Siyabonga Early Childhood Education Center had a special group of visitors from the United States, including two Board Members from Even Ground and Even Ground’s new Executive Director. The children were surprised to see them and quite shy at first. However, once the group volunteered to help the students with an art activity they were doing, the children quickly warmed up to them. The teachers also enjoyed meeting and working with the visitors and told the Director of the Center they wished the day would never end. The Director reported that they all felt that the visitors were humble, down-to-earth people who truly cared about the children and the work they are doing at the Center. She was glad that they were so interested to learn about the challenges their community faces and the needs of the Center. The day ended with the visitors giving the children some toys they had brought and, in return, the children performed a traditional Zulu dance for them - a rhythmic dance where they kick their legs high and then bring them down with a thump.

Even Ground’s Executive Director reported that he and the Board Members were most impressed with the quality of the teaching and with the Director’s engagement with the students. The children are alert, active, and well behaved, he said, a good indicator of the success of the program. They were pleased to learn that nearly all the parents of the children at the center are involved in the development and implementation of the program through monthly meetings where they discuss school objectives, curriculum, and nutrition. He commented that the work done there is extraordinary given the depth of challenges the area faces around lack of infrastructure, food security, HIV/AIDS, and sustainable livelihoods.

One of the immediate challenges that the center faces is the severe drought that has been plaguing the region for the past months. The municipal water supply has been dried up for many weeks, and the center’s back-up rainwater collection system is also depleted due to the lack of rain. The lack of water has made even basic activities like cooking and hand washing a huge challenge for center staff, and has also delayed the completion of the landscaping and outdoor play area. The Board members recognized that addressing the Center’s water needs is a priority, as is finding a way to provide ongoing funding.

After seeing the program first-hand, our Board members are more motivated than ever to raise more funds to increase the number of children served, to improve the curriculum, to hire more staff, and to help solve challenges like the current water crisis. But we need your help to do so.

As we begin our annual fall campaign to raise the funds necessary to keep offering essential services to young children and to grow our programs to help more young people in need, we want to reach out to all of you to thank you for your support and to ask for your continued assistance. If you are considering helping us out again this season, we wanted to let you know that this coming Wednesday, October 15, at 9:00 am EDT / 6:00 am PDT, Global Giving will be giving a 30% match on your donations. Check out our program page for more information.

All the best,

Helen and the staff of Siyabonga

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Organization Information

Even Ground

Location: Buffalo Grove, Illinois - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.evenground.org
Project Leader:
Lindsey Reynolds
Buffalo Grove, Illinois United States
$26,225 raised of $35,000 goal
 
274 donations
$8,775 to go
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