Who We Are

Thembanathi is a grassroots fundraising organization dedicated to providing support to community-based organization in South Africa offering education, support, and care for young people and their families. We were founded in 2003 by Lindsey Reynolds and Angela Larkan, both students at Wesleyan University, after they won research grants to travel to South Africa to study HIV prevention and care programs. During their research, they spent time at Holy Cross, an AIDS hospice and care project in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Both were so impacted by the situation they saw that they decided to start an organization with the aim of increasing awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and providing support to Holy Cross and other community-based non-profit organizations like it. Because of their strong belief in empowering families to provide care and support for their own children, the founders developed a fundraising model centered around the purchase and sale of fair trade crafts made by women’s income generation projects in the same region of South Africa. The proceeds from these sales, as well as the generous donations of people like you, have made it possible to provide ongoing support to needy children and families.

Child at Holy CrossSince 2003, Thembanathi has maintained its commitment to supporting organizations providing care and support for children and families in areas affected by HIV/AIDS. Over the years, the project has also grown and changed. Angela has moved on to start another program in South Africa which provides after-school care for older children, while Lindsey continues to serve as the director of Thembanathi.

Since 2003, Lindsey has returned to South Africa for at least three months each year to oversee Thembanathi’s programs and to continue to conduct research on structures of care for young people. She completed a master’s degree in International Health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 2006 and a Ph.D. in public health and anthropology from Johns Hopkins in 2013.  Lindsey completed two years of in-depth research in rural KwaZulu-Natal, in the area where Thembanathi works, for her doctoral dissertation. Her dissertation examined the dynamics of care for children and families in rural KwaZulu-Natal in the context of the HIV epidemic and the effects of aid policies on the lives of these young people.  Since completing her doctorate, Lindsey has been a research associate, first with Stellenbosch University in South Africa and now Brown University.

Thembanathi’s approach to providing support for young people is directly informed by Lindsey’s research, and by other cutting-edge research on effective programming for young people in Africa. Thus, our model focuses on community-based and community-driven programs that provide culturally appropriate forms of education and care for young people, while at the same time strengthening families and communities to build sustainable solutions for their own children.

Thembanathi is affiliated with Even Ground (formerly known as Orphans Against AIDS), an umbrella organization composed of several programs in Africa. All of Even Grounds’s projects were started by young people to provide support for the education of children in impoverished and HIV-affected areas. We have been a central project of Even Ground since the organization was founded in 2003. Even Ground provides administrative and developmental support, as well as creating a collaborative network of small, like-minded organizations. Even Ground’s partner organizations work together to improve our services, raise funds, and expand our programming to benefit young people in areas affected by HIV.