Start a Preschool for 60 Children in South Africa

by Even Ground
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
Nqobile at Siyabonga
Nqobile at Siyabonga


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!

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

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Organization Information

Even Ground

Location: Buffalo Grove, Illinois - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Lindsey Reynolds
Buffalo Grove, Illinois United States
$28,580 raised of $35,000 goal
300 donations
$6,420 to go
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