Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa

by Even Ground
New Executive Director at Siyabonga
New Executive Director at Siyabonga

As the year draws to a close, we want to thank you again for your generous donations for the work we do in South Africa. Siyabonga Centre is an area that struggles with extreme poverty, inequality, and disease. By supporting our community-based early education program, you are helping to provide care to young children and an educational foundation that will help them change their futures. You are also providing much-needed assistance to their families.

This year Siyabonga provided services to 65 children and recently held a graduation ceremony for 32 children who will now move on to Grade R (kindergarten) at the local school. The children and families, along with the staff, enjoyed the celebration. The children were proud to be able to perform for their families. Parents and guardians expressed their thanks to Siyabonga for taking such good care of their children. They are very appreciative of everyone who makes it possible for their children to have a safe, enriching, and fun place to be during the day.

The center has had a long waiting list of children wanting to attend and has already filled the 32 slots that opened up for next year.

New Executive Director

A new executive director started working at Siyabonga in September. Khethiwe Khzwayo has a bachelor’s degree in social work and spent over eight years working for the South African Department of Social Development, including four years as a supervisor. One of Ms. Khzwayo’s responsibilities with the department was to monitor early childhood development centers. Ms. Khzwayo also spent a year at a local nonprofit, Edi Development Center, as the manager of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Program. Prior to starting her career in social services, Ms. Khzwayo spent four years as a teacher.

One of Ms. Khzwayo’s first accomplishments at the center was to start a garden. She recruited the grandmother of one of the children at the center as a volunteer and, after only three months, the garden is producing enough beans, potatoes, cabbages, and onions to meet the needs of the center. Next year Ms. Khzwayo is hoping to have not only enough produce to feed the children, but also enough extra to be able to sell in town to raise funds for the center.

In her first couple of months, Ms. Khzwayo completed an evaluation of the center’s educational programming, looking at daily preparation, activities, themes, and lesson planning. She worked with the teachers to develop a new approach for next year with an emphasis on teaching the children English, knowing that this will greatly help them when they begin attending public school where they are taught in English. In order to kick start the 2017 school year, Ms. Khzwayo invested in new education materials needed by both the teachers and the children, including art supplies, books, puzzles, music, and more. Ms. Khzwayo has plans to implement an extended care program soon after the beginning of the year to meet the needs of many families at the center. We are very happy to have Ms. Khzwayo on board and pleased with all she has accomplished in the few months she has been with Siyabonga. Her background in education and social services, her knowledge of early childhood development centers, and her keen understanding of the needs of the community will help her take Siyabonga to the next level.

Keep Siyabonga Strong through 2017

Thank you for continuing to support Siyabonga and the work of Thembanathi. Please consider us in your year-end giving. In this most joyous of seasons, help bring hope into a child’s life by making a tax-deductible contribution to Thembanathi today. Working together, we can create healthier and happier lives for children and their families.

Warm wishes for a wonderful new year,

Lindsey and Helen

Children Performing at Graduation Celebration
Children Performing at Graduation Celebration
Vegetables for Siyabonga
Vegetables for Siyabonga
Andrew Klaber visits Siyabonga
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 ( 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
Children of Siyabonga welcome Even Ground board
Youngsters Showing Their Creativity
Youngsters Showing Their Creativity

Early childhood education for disadvantaged children provides the highest return on investment in the world today, according to James Heckman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, from the University of Chicago. Based on years of research, Heckman believes “Early childhood education fosters cognitive skills along with attentiveness, motivation, self-control, and sociability – the character skills that turn knowledge into know-how and people into productive citizens.”

On June 15th, your investment in Siyabonga Early Childhood Education Center will have an even greater impact. If you make a donation during Global Giving’s annual bonus day, Siyabonga can receive matching funds of up to 50%.  The event begins at 9:00 EDT on June 15 and lasts until the $110,000 in matching funds runs out. 

Siyabonga’s director, Weekend Ngubane, describes the important character skills that early childhood education programs develop in young children:

Our youngsters at Siyabonga Crèche displayed great talent in artwork recently. Inspired by their teacher, groups of four-year-olds worked together to produce beautiful pieces of artwork. The teams of five to seven members were challenged to produce an art project of their choice. Each member had to be creative and share his or her ideas with the rest of the team before a decision was made as to which project they were going to undertake.

Surprisingly, the students worked very well together, with team leaders showing the way and team members pulling together to achieve the target they had set for themselves. The students produced many beautiful and colorful pictures. The highlight of the day was a globe made by a team of seven students. They used an inflated balloon, covered it with dough, put it in a sunny spot to dry, and then painted it. Everyone in the group made a contribution, taking turns to show their creativity.

In addition to inspiring creativity, this project helped children to develop skills such as listening, communication, teamwork, and leadership.

The children shared their enthusiasm with their parents and guardians and expressed interest in doing art projects at home. Increasing parents’ involvement in the development of their children is one of Siyabonga’s goals. This project was inspired by the training our teachers have been receiving in early childhood education through Embury College. Holistic development is important to both the staff and the families of Siyabonga.

Please help Siyabonga continue their critical work with children by donating through Global Giving on Wednesday, June 15 as soon after 9:00 am EDT as you can.

Thank you for your support!

Children Happy to be at Siyabonga
Children Happy to be at Siyabonga

Dear Friends,

In January, we began our fifth year at Siyabonga.  The staff and I were excited to welcome back our returning students and to meet the new children who have joined our program.  We are really looking forward to a new year and to working together with our Board and the community to improve our early childhood education program.  We also our eager to see the changes the year may bring for Siyabonga.   As I begin my first full year at the Centre, I wanted to reach out personally to all the people who have made Siyabonga possible.  I am truly humbled by the caring and generosity of so many people.  On behalf of the Board, the staff, the children and the community, I say THANK YOU for keeping these needy children in mind. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to all of you.

I am confident that 2016 will be a year of change at Siyabonga Centre.  I am no longer calling it “Siyabonga Early Childhood Development Centre” because we envisage it becoming an “Educational Centre” for everyone in the community.  Your ongoing support of our program has prompted us to widen our horizons.  Our first step towards creating an education centre will be to establish an after-school program that will assist the children in the nearby primary schools to meet the challenges they will face, and to address their other needs that our schools do not have the resources to respond to. The after-school program will not only benefit those children who had been with us at Siyabonga, ensuring their continued educational success as they move forward, but also will assist more children in need.  Our goal will be to improve their academic results and to assist them to achieve success into the future.  As part of this program, we hope to have our own mini-library, so all of our students will have access to books and other learning materials.  This is important as many of the students find it difficult to pay for transportation to the closest library.  We also hope to add computers and Internet access, so all the local students, including the tertiary students, can benefit from the resources here.  It would be so exciting to introduce our little ones to computing as early as possible and to encourage older students to volunteer to help, allowing them to get some work experience.

Once the after-school program is established, we hope to add a third pillar to our education centre.  Under Apartheid, many of our older local residents were denied the opportunity to gain an education.  Even after Apartheid ended, local schools, particularly in the rural areas, lacked the resources to provide a quality education.  The completion rate for secondary school in the area remains extremely low (well below 50%).  Consequently, there is a very high rate of illiteracy among the parents and guardians of our students.  To address the needs of the adults in the community, we hope to add an Adult Basic Education and Training course.   By offering adults basic education, many doors will open for those who attend.  They will not only be in a position to assist their children in their learning, but will also have the ability to access more employment opportunities.

I am looking forward to a new beginning, with ideas being shared among all the relevant stakeholders who have and who continue to make significant contributions towards the growth of Siyabonga. I am pleased to have you all on board.

Thank you again for all your support.

Weekend Ngubane

Executive Director, Siyabonga

Children Starting at Siyabonga
Children Starting at Siyabonga
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

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Organization Information

Even Ground

Location: New York - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Lindsey Reynolds
Buffalo Grove, Illinois United States
$30,835 raised of $40,000 goal
328 donations
$9,165 to go
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