Support children orphaned by AIDS in South Africa

by Starfish Greathearts Foundation
A little boy playing
A little boy playing

“I asked the local municipality for some land to start a childcare centre, and they gave me a dump site.” Thandi Khanyile reflects on the inauspicious start to what is today Thy Kingdom, a thriving centre in Sebokeng that assists 450 orphaned and vulnerable children from the local community. “I was totally committed to setting up the centre, so I just went ahead anyway.”

That was in 2012. Today, Thy Kingdom is one of the many thriving projects supported by Starfish Greathearts Foundation. When Thandi started building Thy Kingdom, funding was a real challenge. “We had no money” she recalls, “we received a few cash donations and some food and clothing from churches in the area. We couldn’t afford to pay anyone, so we were all working as volunteers, it was tough but Starfish has changed all that. Now we can at least offer a stipend to some of our care-workers and can give proper support to the children.”

Sebokeng, like many parts of South Africa are crippled by poverty, unemployment and crime. In these conditions, children are at risk of starvation, physical and sexual abuse, fatal illness, and have limited access to education. Many of them have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and live in child-headed households or with ageing grandparents. “I could not sit by and watch this happen. I had to do something,” explains Thandi. “So we turned a dump site into a hope site.”

The former dump site, although still limited in size and lacking proper infrastructure, now has a small playground, flushing toilets for the children, and even a kitchen. But perhaps the most treasured space in Thy Kingdom is the children’s library. Housed in a camping caravan, the collection is humbly stocked with less than 50 books, but it is impeccably neat and well ordered. The obvious care the little boys and girls show each book and toy underscores how special and rare a children’s library is in their community, in fact for many adults too this is the first library they have ever seen.

Thanks to our donors, Thy Kingdom is now able to provide a range of services for young children going all the way up to high school. “Given the pressures on teenagers today, they are just as much in need of care and guidance as the younger ones are. Their needs are just different,” explains Thandi.

The children receive cooked meals every day after school and are given school uniforms and school supplies, but the help they receive goes far beyond their physical needs. “Feeding their bodies is one thing, but feeding their minds and souls is another more important factor,” says Thandi. Every child is offered additional assistance with homework and assigned a dedicated care-worker, who helps them with emotional issues, peer pressure, abuse situations and mentor them with general life orientation.

At the end of my site visit, and a long work week, the care-workers gather in the meeting room for a simple meal of chicken and samp. Some of the staff are on a small stipend, others are simply community-centered volunteers, but they share the same enthusiasm for their work. When asked what their one wish would be for Thy Kingdom, hands shoot into the air. “Space to take in more kids; books for the library; school textbooks and stationery; soccer balls and sports supplies; winter clothing for the kids; computers, no matter how old; more old containers or parkhomes to be turned into offices and teaching rooms”...the list goes on and on.

As the care-workers share their dreams for what Thy Kingdom will one day become, feelings of hope and optimism flood the air. “We don’t have a lot but we will optimise what we have” Thandi says, and I imagine the same fiery determination in her eyes when she first surveyed the dump site in 2012. Her team nods encouragingly around her as she adds, “We need much, much more, not for ourselves but for the children we already serve and for the children who need us but have to be turned away.”

The donations Starfish receives allow our partnering organizations like Thy Kingdom to keep their doors open and grow to serve more children every year. Its 2016 and the dump site has gone; a place of loving care and hope has replaced it. With your generosity, Starfish is able to help the faraway dreams of Thy Kingdom’s care workers a reality, so Thandi and her team can make a real difference for the children of Sebokeng.

Everybody say hi!
Everybody say hi!
Care worker, Sunday and her favorite troop!
Care worker, Sunday and her favorite troop!
Wellness Wagon brings healthcare to communities
Wellness Wagon brings healthcare to communities

As she plays in the schoolyard with her friends, Nokwanda is a pretty typical 8 year old with bright eyes and an infectious laugh. She loves playing outside, reading, and hopes to become a doctor when she grows up. Nokwanda was born with HIV, and lost both her parents to AIDS, so she lives with her elderly grandmother in a corregated iron shack in South Africa.

Just ten years ago, being born HIV positive in an impoverished South African township was a death sentence. In a country where nearly 1 in 8 children are born with HIV, and over 340,000 children die annually from AIDS related causes, Nokwanda is defying all odds. But thanks to your generous donation to Starfish, she is able to celebrate the new year with her family, and is a standing testament to how basic health care and access to medication can literally save lives.

Today both she and her grandmother are going for their health check-ups at Sethani, a community health organisation in the Kwazulu Natal region, serving at risk families like Nokwanda’s. Community based health centers like Sethani, which offer ARV medications and other crucial health screenings and treatments, are a keystone in the fight against HIV, and a path towards ensuring orphaned and vulnerable children have access to basic health care needs and nutrition.

Last year Starfish and our partnering community organisations, like Sethani, provide health screenings (including HIV testing and eye exams) as well as medications and medical referrals to over 1,400 children. Your donation increased access for at-risk families to health services, by helping purchase a Wellness Wagon. This little orange minibus is a mobile medical clinic, able to reach the most rural of villages. With your gift, this basic medical access meant that orphaned and vulnerable children were healthy enough to go to school, and live healthy and vibrant lives.

We all know education is the foundation of a society, and ensuring these children have health care means that Nokwanda can go out and become a doctor, and not simply another victim to the HIV/AIDS mortality rate. Nokwanda isn’t the only one, the donation you made goes towards providing accessible health care to even more children just like Nokwanda, children to whom an easily treatable or even preventable illness, like TB or malaria, is certainly fatal.

As we continue to build this partnership with our donors, it’s children like Nokwanda that remind us what Starfish is really all about, and we want to say thank you again for helping them.

Nokwanda receives treatment in the Wellness Wagon
Nokwanda receives treatment in the Wellness Wagon
School children waiting for their health checkups
School children waiting for their health checkups


Testing for HIV, TB, malaria and diabetes
Testing for HIV, TB, malaria and diabetes

“For the first time we will be able to go to school in our uniforms and look just like the other children who still have parents” – Lerato, aged 10

Our Wellness Wagon brings healthcare to children in rural, impoverished communities

Starfish recently introduced our Wellness Wagon, a mobile clinic that delivers healthcare to children in rural communities, without access to healthcare. The Wellness Wagon tests for HIV, TB and malaria and monitors the children’s general health and development. The Wellness Wagon visits impoverished areas, where the number of child-headed households is intolerably high, HIV is prevalent and your support is desperately needed. This month a staggering 67% of the 1,327 children treated were referred for further services, including malnutrition and treatment of ringworm.

“14 year old Grace was born HIV positive. She started to become weaker and thinner, but she lived with her aged granny with dementia, and there was no one to take her to the clinic. Starfish’s Wellness Wagon visited her rural village and tested her for HIV, we were alarmed that her CD4 count was only 10. It was amazing that she was still alive.

The Wellness Wagon referred her for treatment for TB and ensured that she knew how and when to take her anti-retroviral medication. Her CD4 count is now 54 and she is in the hospital, where we have visited her. She is grade 7 this year and we hope that she will return to school next year and resume her life.” - Starfish care worker.

Ethembeni (Kwa-Zulu Natal)

Ethembeni has partnered with a local daycare centre, to ensure that preschool children are stimulated and ready for school, as Ethembeni do not have space for all the children at their facility. This initiative by Ethembeni is part of their program to empower community members. They have restructured and strengthened their Children’s Program to maximize the impact of their childcare.

Loaves and Fishes Network (Eastern Cape)

The Positive Parenting Skills Workshops held in the villages were well attended. The support groups have been well received. Pateka Mtintsilana, LAFN General Manager, was selected as a finalist in the Business Women’s Association 2015 Awards, in recognition of her development work. Ten social worker interns have been appointed and a full-time social worker has been employed.

Bulungula (Eastern Cape)

Children in the preschools are being weighed regularly and given deworming medication and Vitamin A every six months. The Wellness Wagon visits monthly to immunize children not yet in preschool. Playgroups are held regularly and parents are taught the importance of playing with their children, in order to teach them shapes and colors etc. Fresh vegetables from the food garden are used to feed the preschool children.

Isipho (Eastern Cape)

Situated in one of the poorest regions of South Africa, Isipho is home to 66 children who have been orphaned by AIDS. Funding from Starfish enables Isipho to give these children a chance to complete their education, keeping them well fed and caring for those with nowhere to live.

Isipho provides not only a shelter for a group of orphaned children, but is also a pre-school, a library and a community center for AIDS awareness and training. Thanks to these programs, Isipho is no longer experiencing school drop out and teenage pregnancy. 94% of the children that Isipho supports passed their school exams. Funding from Starfish has helped Isipho train childcare workers in early childhood development, so that they are better able to respond to the children’s needs.

Cleaning materials and toiletries were provided to the children to help them maintain a high standard of hygiene.Nutritious meals were provided during the school holiday programs. The children alsoget meals at the crèche and the aftercare program.Older children receive vocational skills development. A support group for children is providing life skills training and counseling. Almost 50 children benefitted from medical supply services.

Tsogang (Gauteng)

The number of children being assisted with homework and participating in afterschool activities has increased. 150 children received health screening and 15 have been referred to the local clinic. An additional 75 children received TB screening. Outreach to 150 adolescents on HIV/AIDS prevention. Caregivers received training on health screening and counseling children with emotional needs.

“Starfish, you make me feel better, you make me cry lesser, you make me dream bigger.” Nathi, aged 11

The Wellness Wagon provides healthcare to children
The Wellness Wagon provides healthcare to children
Bringing healthcare to rural areas without it
Bringing healthcare to rural areas without it
On the road to health!
On the road to health!


In the past few months since our last report, Starfish has supported a total of 8,435 children left orphaned or vulnerable by AIDS, in 30 community organizations throughout South Africa, thanks to your generous donations. The greatest number of supported children was in Mpumalanga followed by Gauteng, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal respectively. Child Protection was the highest accessed intervention (67%), followed by education (60%) and healthcare (60%). The highest recorded services relate to home visits, followed by after school care, material support and food provision.

The number of children receiving HIV testing and TB screening has improved. Your contributions were also used to fund the disbursement of nutritional and material support, including school shoes and winter clothes. Childcare training for 11 caseworkers was conducted, with further training scheduled for the upcoming months.

Our Wellness Wagon program has progressed steadily and 1,263 children have been screened and tested in our mobile clinic. A number of health promoting campaigns have been conducted, for example health education, prevention of TB and STDs, and the promotion of male medical circumcision.  Here is what some of the receipents of your support have said: 

“Receiving food, uniforms, medical supplies and toiletries, as Starfish had started to give these items in these last three months, has brought back self-esteem and hope in these families. You can see how happy they are when you are doing visits and how thankful they are. Starfish has made such a big difference in the community and the children are so happy and thankful.” - Community Outreach Centre

“I have 15 years living with HIV, I was born with it and I have accepted that I will die with it. My mother passed away when I was 11 years. It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I receive support from community health workers from Starfish. They have taught my aunt and me so much about living with HIV. Thank you Starfish for the food parcels.” - Tshokolo

“Things start to become better when I met the Starfish caregivers who are providing us with more health talks, which had made our lives better. Today we are living a happy life and accepted and moved on. We have joined the support group that helps us a lot. We all take our medications if one seems to forget one will remind them. Living with HIV it’s not a nightmare, it only needs us to accept and do what you been told to do by doctors.”- Hendrick




Starfish provides educational toys for children
Starfish provides educational toys for children

Your generous support has provided thousands of children in South Africa with healthcare, education and child-protection services this year. We can't thank you enough, but these letters from the children say it best:

"Dear Starfsh,  I live with my granny and uncle.  I am in grade 11 at Chuch School in Yeoville.  I am very grateful for the opportunity that you provided for me. Education is the best gift one can ask for.  I would like to thank you for this immense gift that changed by life and brought more colour, more hope and more optimism.  I have realized that my background doesn't determine my future and I am motivated that I can be anything in life. This gift has made my life better and has really changed the way I see the world. Yours truly, Nombulelo"

"Dear Starfish, I am in grade 4 at NkaThuto School.  We are a family of 8 people. I would like to thank Starfish for being part of my life and making sure that my edicational needs are taken care of. My wish is to finish school.  Love from Botlhale" 

"Dear Starfish,Thanks for everything that you have done for us and thanks for the jersey, book and t-shirt that you brought us and I hope you will continue to help us. Thanks again for everything, you are special people, don't turn your back on us. Thank you, Daweti"

"Dear Starfish, I am 17 years old and I'm currently in grade 11.  I wrote this letter to thank you and show my gratitude for providing for my educational needs, and providing me the opportunity that many don't have, which is education. Yours truly, Ellen Khersani" 

"Dear Starfish, Thank you for your support, thank you for everything, for the blankets, school bag, school uniform and food.  I am so glad to have you, you support me like any parents.  Those blankets are so soft and smooth and the school bags you have given me help me put my books safely.  Those school uniforms help me to change, and not to have just the one pair to wash and wash. And I thank you for the food you have given me to eat.  I am so happy. Thank you for your support again. May God bless you, Zitha Kitso (grade 9)"

Thank you for your continue support and bringing joy to these children's lives!  Please donate today and GlobalGiving will match your donation, so that we can have an even bigger impact on the lives of these children. 

Starfish caregivers hard at work
Starfish caregivers hard at work
Starfish lets children be children
Starfish lets children be children
Children sleep soundly, thanks to your support
Children sleep soundly, thanks to your support
The impact that your donations made last year
The impact that your donations made last year



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Organization Information

Starfish Greathearts Foundation

Location: Sandton, Johannesburg - South Africa
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Nicola Atherstone
Bryanston, Johannesburg South Africa
$139,570 raised of $150,000 goal
335 donations
$10,430 to go
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