Report from South Africa

Report from South Africa

New Childcare Center Opens

We are happy to announce that on Monday, January 16, after a busy month of preparations, Siyabonga Thembanathi Crèche opened its doors. Lindsey and I had the pleasure of being there in person to help them get ready to open, meet the staff and all the children and get to know them a bit during the first week.

Opening day was greeted with a huge rainstorm, which started during the night and continued all day. Though the water was much needed by the drought-stricken community, it also meant that many children were unable to get to the center due to the difficulties of traveling from their homes on foot on muddy roads. Those that were able to make it mostly walked barefoot up the road, which was now more of a thick red creek. I did also manage the walk from the gravel road, and was glad I did to meet our very first student.

Children doing art projectThe next day, the sun came out, and all the children arrived. Twenty children have been enrolled, so we are at capacity for the current, temporary building. Unfortunately, we had to turn away additional children due to the size limitations of the space. The staff is keeping a waiting list for all the children who we couldn’t accommodate in this center, and is hoping that funds for a new, larger center will come through soon. Although some of the children were a little scared initially on their first day, having never been in a center of this type before, it didn’t take long for them all to start enjoying the new toys, books, and art supplies.

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to be there to see the children and to know that they would now have a nurturing and safe place to be during the day. The crucial need for this facility became even more apparent as we heard about the situation some of these parents have been facing–like the single father of a 2 ½ year old who had been left with the choice of not working to provide for his family, pulling his 8 year old out of primary school to care for her younger brother, or leaving a toddler home alone. Whichever choice he made had devastating consequences for his family. Now, the boy is happily enrolled in the center, receiving support and care while his father works to provide for his family. His older sister drops him off and picks him up every day on her way to and from school.

Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this first phase possible. We are extremely grateful for your support. Due to one of our best years ever for the sale of jewelry and crafts and increased donations, we were able to assist this community in the Umkhanyakude District of KwaZulu Natal, one of the poorest in South Africa, start this desperately needed service.

We want to give a special thank you to all of the people who hosted sales events for us this year. We hope you will spread the word about how easy and fun it was and encourage others to join with you next year in hosting us. We’d like to thank everyone who made a donation through JustGive, Causes, Global Giving, or directly to us. We’d also like to thank everyone who purchased items from us throughout the year.

Thanks to McCornack Elementary and to U of O Bookstore, we were able to deliver books and art supplies from Eugene to the new crèche near Mtubatuba, South Africa. We want to send our deep appreciate to them both for their generosity, and to Dennis Reynolds for choosing great art supplies and purchasing many supplies, books and balls to send along.

Building Renovations

Over the months of December and January, improvements were made to a 400 square foot building being loaned to us by the Sabela family to ready it for use as a childcare center. The building started out as a simple cement block structure with no electricity or water. The first change was to plaster the building both inside and out and to put down a new floor. It was wired for electricity and a rainwater tank and gutters were added. A fence was built around the yard so the children could play freely outside and burglar bars installed to prevent theft. The building also now has a ceiling with insulation and is completely painted. The Sabela children volunteered to paint the walls, and had great fun working together on the project. By the time they were done, they were covered with speckles from head to toe. They also volunteered to haul water from the river so the workers could make cement from the sand that had been delivered. We had a covered porch added, which the children can use when it rains or the sun is too hot. We also had a new pit toilet built, with a washbasin installed for children to clean up.

Siyabonga CrecheI had the fun job of working with the laborers to coordinate the renovations. My role was helping to advise Mrs.  Sabela, the center’s new director, on the plans, running errands for them, and inspecting their work (while pretending I knew what I was looking at). Most days I visited two or three of the hardware stores in the small town of Mtubatuba. Mtubatuba is the trade center for a densely populated rural area and, though it only has four main streets and no stoplights, it is always crowded with pedestrians and minibus taxis (Kombis) that most locals use for transportation. The lines in the grocery stores and at the banks at the end of the month wrap all the way down the aisles. In addition to the shops, there are many traders on the streets selling all sorts of items—cooked meals, fresh fruit and vegetables, household products, clothing, traditional remedies, and more. Driving and running errands was definitely not like it would have been in Eugene! While I was nervous at first, it was a great adventure and I gained a deeper appreciation of what everyday life is like for people in this area.

Community Committee Appointed

A committee of six people was appointed by members of the local community to oversee the new crèche. The necessary documentation has been submitted to the South African Department of Social Development to register the center as a non-profit organization, and the committee will soon be applying for additional certification as a public benefit organization. The committee is very enthused to be involved in this project and have selected the staff and the children who will be attending. While in South Africa, we had the opportunity to meet committee members who warmly welcomed us. We also got to go with the local counselor to meet the traditional leader of the area (the Induna). He too is very appreciative of the project and has given it his complete support. In this area, all the land is owned by the Chief and so the induna has helped us in getting written permission to occupy the land, the closest thing to a lease you can get in the region.

Support from Holy Cross

Sister Priscilla and the staff at Holy Cross Hospice’s Childcare program have been providing support and advice to the new director and the committee of Siyabonga Crèche. We are very grateful for their assistance. In January, we visited Holy Cross with the new center staff and learned of the governmental requirements for a care facility, as well as the recommended record keeping.

Children at Holy CrossAlthough the children attending the crèche were still on holiday break, it was wonderful to see Sister Priscilla back at Holy Cross and busy providing her expertise and leadership to all of the programs there. She is such an amazing, dedicated, accomplished person, as well as a warm, charming women. It is a privilege to know her. I am so glad some of you got the chance to meet her when she came to Eugene in 2008. There is the possibility I will be able to bring her back to Eugene this summer, as the World AIDS Conference is in Washington D.C. this year and she is trying to arrange to attend.

We did get to visit briefly with the two children who have been living at Holy Cross since shortly before we visited there in 2009. In September 2009, I wrote about a little boy, who was then 3 1/2 years old and his eight-year-old sister. They came to Holy Cross after their mother died. The boy had pneumonia and chicken pox when he arrived, as well as being HIV positive. They are both still living at the hospice, and have been taken under the wing of Sister Priscilla. The young boy is now on anti-retrovirals and, at six, is a spunky and bright child. His sister is sweet and kind, and seems like a very smart young girl.  There also is a new baby leaving at the hospice who mother recently died there. They have been unable to locate any relatives since the mother did not have identification.