Save women from breast cancer in South Africa

by Hoedspruit Training Trust
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Health awareness day for local men
Health awareness day for local men

Hlokomela takes care of men’s health too

On 29 June 2022, Hlokomela hosted a men’s health awareness day in Hoedspruit town. The objective of this day was to provide men with information on prostate health, diet, fitness, and general health. We offered blood glucose tests, PSA tests as well as blood pressure and BMI. We were very well received in the community and had a great turnout. We are already planning another awareness day for the men in our community.

Baby survives, mother and twin dies

The past three months at Hlokomela Women’s Clinic have been jam packed with activities and a wide variety of clients. We are so grateful to our GlobalGiving family for enabling us to provide health care services to the vulnerable people in rural Limpopo Province, South Africa.

At the beginning of March 2022, one of the beneficiaries of the Sex Work Program delivered twin girls. The Sex Work Programme targets sex workers in the Mopani District of Limpopo Province and teaches sex workers to make better choices for their own health and the health and wellbeing of their families. The twin pregnancy was diagnosed at Hlokomela Women’s Clinic. It was a great shock for this expecting mother as she already had 4 children who she was struggling to care for.

Her pregnancy was very challenging; living in poverty, battling to care for her other children, and stressed about how she would take care of two more children. On top of having existing stressors, she had a high-risk pregnancy, which lead to the premature delivery of her twins. The babies were very small at birth and spent a week in the hospital after delivery. Hlokomela donated formula, baby clothes, and some other basic necessities. Unfortunately, the mommy did not recover well after the birth and sadly passed away 3 weeks later. One of the twins passed away a day before her mother. The cause of the baby’s death is unclear, but we suspect dehydration because her mother was very ill.

The surviving twin is doing well and Hlokomela is still involved with the her and the family who is taking care of her. We are grateful that we were able to assist this family, although this story once again shines the spotlight on the massive struggles we face in our communities. We have our work cut out for us and we rely on the support of each and every kind-hearted friend of Hlokomela to assist us in helping families like these.

Breast cancer

Hlokomela celebrated the Women’s Clinic’s 6th birthday on 7 July 2022. During the past 6 years, we have reached thousands of women; if not through medical consultation, then by outreach campaigns and awareness days. We have assisted more than 25 women through their breast cancer journeys and unfortunately lost 3 patients to this devastating disease. In the last month, we have had three new breast cancer diagnoses and we are fortunate to have identified this early in two of the patients.

With breast cancer awareness month coming up in October, we will be partnering with other local organizations to host an event in the community, for the community - raising funds, spreading awareness, and celebrating survivors.

Fundraising for Hlokomela in Big 5 territory

Before COVID-19, Hlokomela hosted it’s most important annual fundraising event, the Hlokomela Bush Party, each year in various exclusive Big 5 game reserves in the area. The event is well known and loved by locals and their guests. This year we were finally able to host the 10th annual Bush Party at Pridelands Game Reserve outside Hoedspruit. The evening was a great success for the organisation and the funds raised will be used to improve facilities at Hlokomela’s Blyde Clinic venue where the Women’s Clinic is also situated.

Staff wellness

Charity starts at home and at Hlokomela we have taken this to heart. Through the Employee Wellness Programme we offer our staff annual medical check-ups, access to our clinic services, Tension Releasing Exercises (TRE) as a body-based therapy for debriefing, health talks and healthy cooking demonstrations and much more. Thank you for helping us offer these services to our valued employees.

COVID-19 Vaccination Program

On 1 July 2022 Hlokomela partnered with the Ndlovu Care Group to reach 20 000 migrants from neighbouring countries as well as local farm workers and get them vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 2023. This project has not been without challenges, however. We have a vaccination team that travels to farms and villages every day in an attempt to reach as many people as possible. On 29 August 2022, the total number of people reached and vaccinated stood at 3600. We will continue to work tirelessly to reach our goal!

Hlokomela Bush Party fundraising event
Hlokomela Bush Party fundraising event
Tension Releasing Exercises (TRE) with staff
Tension Releasing Exercises (TRE) with staff
COVID-19 vaccination outreach to rural community
COVID-19 vaccination outreach to rural community

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Healthy twin girls born to a sex worker.
Healthy twin girls born to a sex worker.

The past few months at the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic has been jam packed with activities! We are pleased to report that we were able to care for and support those who needed it the most, thanks to your support through the wonderful service offered by GlobalGiving!

 

Sex worker gives birth to twins

At the beginning of March, a beneficiary of Hlokomela’s Sex Worker Programme, *Maggy, gave birth to twin girls. The pregnancy was diagnosed at the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic. It was a great shock for the mother who already has 4 children.

Her pregnancy was very challenging; living in poverty, battling to care for her other children and stressing about how she would take care of two more babies. In addition, it was a high risk pregnancy which lead to pre-mature delivery of the twins. Both of them are healthy and doing well. Hlokomela donated formula, baby clothes and some other basic necessities. Over the course of the two weeks since the birth of the twins, *Maggy’s health deteriorated. Just in time, the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic learnt of the situation. One of the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic nurses drove to the informal settlement where *Maggy and one of the twin girls live. The structure is unstable and there is no running water or sanitation. When our nurse got to *Maggy, she was not very responsive and just sat there with the one baby in her arms. She was pale, breathing fast and seemed dissociative. We learnt there that the other twin was sent away with another sex worker, as to lighten the burden for *Maggy.

When our Nurse took the baby from *Maggy, the baby was dehydrated, had a fast pulse and was extremely lethargic.

There was nothing for the baby. No milk, no diapers, no bottles. All the donated supplies were sent away with the second twin, and that twin one was left to her own devices, with a very sick mommy.

*Maggy and the baby were rushed to the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic where both were attended to by a doctor from the Tshemba Foundation. The doctor established that *Maggy is in cardiac failure and has floral effusion. The situation was serious and she needed to be admitted to hospital immediately.

The baby just needed 2 hourly feeds, to be dressed warm and monitored. Two Hlokomela nurses offered to foster the babies until the situation improved and the mother was healthy and able to make good decisions. It had become clear at this time that *Maggy did not want to keep her twins.

The twins spent a total of 10 days in foster care. They gained weight and did very well.

They are both back in the care of their mother and a social worker is monitoring the situation closely. Unfortunately, because *Maggy ran away from hospital before her treatment was complete, it is difficult to say how she is doing health wise. We trust that the outcome will be good for everyone involved.

 

Teenage pregnancies

Teenage pregnancies are at a staggering high in South Africa, with Limpopo being one of the highest rated for teenage pregnancies.

Recently, a 16-year-old girl from a school in the Mopani District, came to visit the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic as she suspected that she was pregnant. *Susan came to the clinic not knowing what to expect. She was scared and emotional.

After having a conversation with *Susan, it became clear that she was in an abusive relationship. Initially she consented to a sexual relationship with him but later changed her mind. She could not get out of the relationship and ended up having non-consensual sex.

*Susan fell pregnant and by the time she came for her first appointment at the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic she was 25 weeks pregnant and completely unprepared for what lay ahead.

After intense counselling *Susan decided to keep her child. She was given her first month of vitamins, as up to this point, she had had no antenatal care. We referred her to her local clinic.

At Hlokomela Women’s Clinic we strongly believe in not only providing medical care, but also in supporting our patient through emotional difficulty as we follow up, guide and support where possible.

After receiving a donated baby bag filled with baby accessories, and gathering together some more essentials, including a comprehensive book explaining pregnancy and birth, *Susan went home.

We look forward to reach out to more schools and colleges in our area to present the learners with sex education as COVID regulations are relaxed.

 

Breast cancer diagnosis

This monthtwo very different ladies came to the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic for breast ultrasounds. Both ladies, *Lucy and *Linda, had palpable lumps in one of their breasts.

*Lucy is unemployed, 35-years-old and has a 10-year-old daughter. When the ultrasound scan was performed, there really was no doubt that the mass was malignant. However, *Lucy still needed to go through the process of a mammogram, and a possible biopsy. Being unemployed and at the mercy of the state health system, we knew that the road ahead would not be easy.

Thanks to the incredible networking skills of our director Christine du Preez, the visiting mammogram unit, Cornerstone Radiology, was willing to provide a free mammogram for *Lucy, which confirmed our suspicions of breast cancer.

A miracle happened for *Lucy. Out of sheer desperation we made a call to the Breast Health Foundation (BHF), in hope of some way to help *Lucy. Low and behold, funding was available for one more patient through the programme that was in place prior to the COVID pandemic.

*Lucy consulted with a specialist doctor on 12 April 2022 in Johannesburg.

Then we have *Linda, a 60-year-old lady, working and traveling between South African, the USA and Europe. She has access to private health care. She came to the clinic concerned about a lump in her breast. Ultrasound confirmed that the mass needed further investigation. *Linda was able to go for a mammogram that same day and booked a biopsy for a few weeks later in Europe.

These two ladies both have breast cancer. Both ladies experienced the same emotions. Both ladies deserve the same quality of care. We sincerely hope that they will receive it.

 

Breast cancer patient journey (follow-up)

As many of you know, Josephina Sekgobela (who we have reported on many times before), is doing well. She was transferred from Polokwane Provincial Hospital to Johannesburg for her chemo therapy. Her children are in Johannesburg and are able to support and assist her with travelling and living expenses.

Josephina reports that she is feeling good, has gained weight and that the mass in her breast has reduced in size since she has been getting her chemo regularly as scheduled.

Josephina is one of the bravest souls I have ever met, may she recover fully and live a long and happy life.

 

Sex education at local high school

During April the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic visited a local high school to provide sex education and a talk on general wellness and life for teenagers. Topics covered included sex, contraceptives, menstruation, puberty in boys and girls, different sexual orientations and “My body my rights”.

There was great conversation after the talks with many good questions and opportunities to communicate facts and clear myths around sex and reproductive health.

*Pseudonyms were used in this report to protect the identity of our clients.

Sex education at a local high school
Sex education at a local high school

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Self breast examination demo at fundraising event
Self breast examination demo at fundraising event

The past three months has been jam packed at the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic. From raising breast cancer awareness at a special fund raising event, to supporting sex workers through unwanted pregnancies and tackling the 4th wave of COVID-19 that hit South Africa during December.

We would like to thank you, our sponsors and the GlobalGiving team for making all of this possible. Without your support the Women’s Clinic and our efforts with COVID-19 would not be able to reach so many people as we have done.

Rise in unwanted pregnancies amongst sex workers

During the past 2 months, the unplanned pregnancy rate among sex workers in the Hoedspruit area of Limpopo Province, South Africa has rapidly increased. As part of Hlokomela’s sex worker programme, we work hard to tackle the many issues and challenges that sex workers face every day.

Yet despite numerous attempts to educate on birth control and alcohol abuse, sex workers still default on birth control and in many cases abuse alcohol. This leads to defaulting on condom use also.

At the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic we work closely with the sex worker programme’s. Through referrals from staff on this programme, we become aware of pregnant sex workers. In most cases by the time the sex worker realises she is pregnant, the pregnancy is already in an advanced stage.

Although this poses a huge challenge, we are not about to give up. It is the nature of our business to help, educate, rethink and come up with ways to assist these vulnerable, often abused and neglected women in our society.

We would like to share one particular case with you. One of the sex workers we work with recently had a baby. This sex worker abused alcohol during her pregnancy and the baby was born with a disabled right hand. This may or may not be related to the alcohol abuse. The sex worker’s niece (17 years old) is cognitively disabled and has the intellectual capacity of a 7-year-old child. This 17-year-old girl is currently pregnant. She has no idea what her body is going through and has a very limited understanding of how she got pregnant. She also has very little to no understanding of how her baby will be birthed.

The Hlokomela Women’s Clinic has been seeing her for ultrasound scans for the past 3 months. We are working with the sex worker programme’s social worker and volunteer doctors from the Tshemba Foundation to compile a report in request of an elective caesarean section for this your girl as a normal birth may be dangerous for her, physically and emotionally.

We are also assisting the family with baby products and working on the possibility to have a bilateral tubal legation done on her after the birth. This will depend on her guardian’s consent and a psychologist’s report. We are hopeful that all will go well for her and will report in the months to come on how she is doing.

The Boob-Geosie ladies brunch

In light of breast cancer awareness month, the Boob-geoisie ladies brunch was born. The main aim for this event was to create a space where women from all walks of life could get together for one common cause - breast cancer awareness.

The event was held on 23 October 2021 at the Greater Kruger Hotel School. Tickets were sold out as 60 guests attend the function. The morning started with guests arriving to enjoy a glass of bubbly on the balcony along with a bite to eat. The program was filled with everything from self-breast examination and lucky draws of amazing prizes to a live music performance.

We showed a very special slide show, produced by Discovery and the Breast Health Foundation, sharing the journey of 5 women who have had to travel many hours to get to treatment. Their pain, their hope, their fears and their experience with Hlokomela Women’s Clinic was excellently captured.

A local breast cancer survivor and patient of Hlokomela Women’s Clinic was the guest of honour and she shared her incredible journey with us.

Each lady also received a goody bag filled with fantastic products and the entire event was made possible by donations! The proceeds made during this event will be used to assist patients to travel to and from breast cancer treatment and consultations.

COVID-19 news

As we reflect on the last 3 months, South Africa reached the peak of the 4th wave of COVID-19 at the end of December 2021. October and November 2021 showed a drastic increase in COVID testing at Hlokomela. We did up to 50 rapid antigen tests per day at our main clinic alone.

Although the positivity rate was high on a daily basis, it was evident that the symptoms patients reported were much less severe in comparison to the previous 3 waves.

Hlokomela Women’s Clinic staff have been actively involved in filling the gap in staff shortages to perform the antigen tests. As with every previous wave, other health care needs have been neglected by patients and the Women’s Clinic has not been very busy with patients accessing women’s health services. Breast cancer and cervical cancer awareness remain important and it is a central part of our outreach schedule.

COVID testing at Hlokomela Clinic
COVID testing at Hlokomela Clinic

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Staff ready to assist at vaccination outreach
Staff ready to assist at vaccination outreach

As COVID-19 changed the world in general, it also changed our focus to what is currently required of all healthcare facilities – to get South Africans vaccinated. We are extremely grateful to the GlobalGiving family and network for helping us to make this possible!

Over the past few months, Hlokomela has been actively involved in hosting and organising vaccination outreaches by the local government hospital.

After returning from a long trip to a government hospital in Limpopo Province transporting the elderly for COVID vaccinations, Christine du Preez (Hlokomela Director) realised we need to secure C19 vaccinations for our beneficiaries in the form of a vaccination site that is accessible to the vulnerable, and highly mobile, population of local and migrant farmworkers who work and live in the Mopani District of Limpopo Province. This key population group does not have the means to travel to far flung vaccination sites, nor can they afford to take time off work as many are employed as seasonal workers and every day’s earnings can mean the difference between having a meal on the table or going hungry.

Fully realising the need for urgency as the third COVID wave picked up speed, we approached the farming group that owns the farm where Hlokomela Blyde Clinic is located, for permission to renovate the old, deserted school building near the clinic as a vaccination site. They were amazing, getting on board immediately and soon the renovations were complete with the help of many farmers in the area. Support from GlobalGiving made it possible to get the vaccination site up to standard, thank you!!

Department of Health (DoH) staff says it takes a great burden off their shoulders by having adequate support and communication through our networks to mobilise as many people as possible for vaccination on outreach days at the Hlokomela vaccination centre.

To date, Hlokomela has facilitated nearly 4000 vaccinations.

We are very fortunate that vaccine hesitancy is not a problem in the Hoedspruit area, judging by the number of people queuing up each week to be vaccinated!

COVID-19 News

Hlokomela recently started using a COVID rapid antigen test which provides reliable results after 15 minutes where a positive result indicates a current infection. We did almost 2000 rapid antigen tests between April and August! We also performed PCR tests. From April to August 85 PCR tests were done on symptomatic patients only, with a positivity rate of 54,1%.

The women’s clinic staff are an intricate part of the testing team and has dedicated most of our time to COVID testing during the 3rd wave.

We have witnessed many sick people come to the clinic and we are grateful that we put solid isolation and rerouting measures in place at the beginning of the pandemic.

Our staff work together very well and patients feel safe and comfortable at the Hlokomela clinics.

Menstrual cup feedback

Hlokomela women’s clinic has been promoting the use of menstrual cups during the past months and we have handed out more than 100 donated menstrual cups. Although the menstrual cup was viewed by many first time users as something foreign, we have gotten some fantastic feedback. Women reported that the financial savings have helped tremendously and that they feel more in control.

We have introduced menstrual cups to sex workers as part of Hlokomela’s Sex Worker Programme and it has been well received here too.

Goodbye for the last time to Mrs D, a breast cancer patient

It is with a sad heart that we report of the death of Mrs D. As previously reported, Mrs D was one of the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic breast cancer patients. Mrs D had fought a good fight. Unfortunately, due to a lack of medical insurance, which most South African women face, she was unable to receive the intensive treatment and procedures she needed.

She was left to the mercy of a government system that failed her. Hlokomela Women’s Clinic as an NGO and the initial point of diagnosis, supported her as far as possible during her journey. May her soul rest in peace and may her story continue to motivate us to always strive to do our best to educate and create awareness about breast cancer in our country. We trust that with continued support from funders and the GlobalGiving family, it will soon be possible to have treatment facilities in our region, which will cut out long and expensive travelling times and delays in receiving treatment.

Mrs S, who we reported about previously, is still fighting her battle against breast cancer courageously. Her cancer has taken a turn for the worst, yet she continues with a positive attitude.

Mrs S is unfortunately also a state patient and because of people like her, suffering under the poor conditions and lack of adequate healthcare, we will continue seeking funding and support to ensure that we are not only there to diagnose and support but also assist with accessibility of treatment and the continuation of proper oncology management for our local people.

Gratitude from our community

The Hlokomela staff have been very fortunate during the past months to have the support of a very caring and appreciative community offering to assist and keep up our spirits. We receive treats like cupcakes, snacks and goody bags from different members and organisations of our community.

We are also happy to report that despite the focus on COVID-19, we still receive donations of clothes, toiletries and bras for our women’s clinic patients. We received 35 litres of ultrasound gel from Moditlo Lodge here in Hoedspruit, some of which we donated to a local government hospital, Tintswalo.

Hundreds eagerly wait to receive COVID vaccine
Hundreds eagerly wait to receive COVID vaccine
Hospital nurse receives donated ultrasound gel
Hospital nurse receives donated ultrasound gel

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Patient receives menstrual cup at clinic
Patient receives menstrual cup at clinic

These past three months have been busy at the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic as we have been involved with sexual reproductive health education, assisting with COVID rapid antigen testing, the sex worker programme and of course supporting our breast cancer patients throughout their treatment journey. Thank you, our GlobalGiving family, for making all of this possible with your loyal support!

Educating young girls about reproductive health

On 8 March 2021 the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic staff presented syllabus applicable sex education and reproductive health to the 17 and 18-year-old female students of a high school in Hoedspruit. This was a wonderful opportunity to give true and factual information to these young women. The reproductive system, menstrual health, development and different contraceptive methods where discussed. The girls had an opportunity to ask questions during which myths were busted and they could ask questions that are often not allowed or frowned upon at school. Through sessions like this we help develop the youth into well-educated and responsible adults who are equipped to make wise choices about their bodies and about sex. The topic of different kinds of sexual relationships, homosexuality and sex work was also discussed.

COVID-19 News

At this time, the second wave of COVID is declining and there is some sense of normality again as we have moved down to Lockdown Level 1. We have witnessed the benefits of wearing masks and regular hand washing. At Hlokomela we remain committed to high standards of hygiene and educating the community. Unfortunately, many farm workers and other members of the community still don’t adhere to the regulations. Thus having our work continue at high levels of intensity, remains extremely important.

Hlokomela Women’s Clinic staff have been actively involved in performing COVID rapid antigen testing for a high end game lodge in the Kruger National Park. Staff returning from leave have to undergo a COVID antigen test. The test results are available within 20 minutes, allowing the employee to return to work with his/her COVID test result.

COVID has resulted in the Women’s Clinic staff engaging in many events and outreaches in the attempt to try and beat this pandemic. However, we remain committed to fighting breast and cervical cancer and we continue to educate and screen our patients for these diseases.

Menstrual cup donations

Hlokomela received a donation of 100 menstrual cups. The Women’s Clinic has been distributing these cups amongst our female patients. This product is environmentally friendly, cost effective and has been well received by our patients. This product is small and easy to travel with. It is made up of silicone and is 100% safe and reusable. One menstrual cup can last up to 10 years if taken care of correctly!

Mrs. O, a young mother of two boys, used to dread having her period as she would be on tenterhooks for a whole week, not wanting to risk going for a jog as she always has a heavy flow. During her last period before starting to use the menstrual cup she had an embarrassing accident at work despite using a tampon and a heavy flow sanitary pad. Although desperate, she was still hesitant about this “gadget” but she decided to give it a go nonetheless. She is over the moon with the results! She now feels free to go jogging at any time and is comfortable going anywhere, doing anything, while having her period.

Breast cancer patients’ journey

During early March, a mass was found in Mrs X’s right breast. Because she has a strong family history of breast cancer, she came in the moment she felt a mass. It was very small but she knew to come and have it checked out. The mass was scanned and found to not have all the typical characteristics of a malignant mass. The mass however made the sonographer uncomfortable and had one or two features that inclined her to advise the patient to have a mammogram and a biopsy done as soon as she could.

The patient immediately took the advice and had a mammogram and biopsy done. The results unfortunately came back as a very aggressive carcinoma. The patient started on chemo therapy during April. The patient communicated with the women’s Clinic, thanking them for assisting her in the process of diagnosis.

Our long standing patient Mrs S, has had quite a journey up until now. She has finally started on chemo therapy and unfortunately had an extremely adverse response and side effects. She is however still keeping positive and trying to fight as best she can. We are very proud of her strength and her determination. Even when she feels sick and warm out, she always has a smile and a grateful heart.

Mrs D, who’s journey we have also shared, is battling with a gaping wound in her left breast caused by breast cancer. She has undergone 2 courses of chemo therapy. Because of logistics and better treatment options, she has relocated to Johannesburg in Gauteng Province where she will start on second line chemo therapy at the Helen Joseph Hospital. We wish her the best.

Outreaches to sex worker hot spots

During February, the Women’s Clinic attended two risk reduction workshops with the Sex Worker Programme. On 11 February 2021 we gave talks on sexual health, STIs, HIV, condom use and breast cancer at the Oaks Village near Hoedspruit. We also shared information on the importance of Pap smears, what cervical cancer is and how to prevent it. We conducted Pap smears on site.

We also went to Mariveni Village where the risk reduction workshop was held at a bar. The group of women and men interacted well with us and enjoyed the health talks, asked many questions and we had to deal with some challenging situations.

There was a 14-year-old girl, who is being raped by the man who provides her family with food. Hlokomela’s social worker intervened and assisted the girl to open a case of rape at the police station and start the process of getting her out of the toxic situation.

On 7 April 2021 the Women’s Clinic staff went to Tzaneen with the Sex Worker Programme Mobile Wellness Clinic. During this outreach we did Pap smears and general women’s health consultations. Education regarding self-breast examination, breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases was shared. During this outreach the clinic team fill PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) prescriptions and monitor vital signs of the all the sex workers attending the outreach. The Women’s Clinic also make use of this opportunity to introduce the menstrual cups and hand out sanitary products and bras. 

COVID rapid antigen test done at game lodge
COVID rapid antigen test done at game lodge

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Organization Information

Hoedspruit Training Trust

Location: Hoedspruit, Limpopo - South Africa
Website:
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Twitter: @Hlokomela
Project Leader:
Christine du Preez
Hoedspruit, Limpopo South Africa
$80,749 raised of $100,000 goal
 
458 donations
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