Providing a safe haven for IY children

The vegetable garden which was started by a group of Australian volunteers.

Ikhaya le themba, which means Home of Hope, is a faith-based NPO located in the heart of Imizamo Yethu.

The NPO serves as an aftercare programme for children affected by HIV/Aids, accommodating 130 children from Grades 1 to 12.

It was established by members of the Kenilworth Vineyard Church in 2004.

Member Liesl Eliastam who wanted to create a facility that the community felt was needed and after 18 months of research, Ikhaya le themba was born.

The NGO helps children with their homework, providing a safe environment for them to go after school. They also aim to develop social skills and talents.

“When we started the programme we realised that a lot of children needed to learn how to read and write their home language. It was the same with English, and many needed help with maths and life skills. So we basically re-teach what they learnt at school because we want them to excel,” said Susan Hill, the director and fundraising committee member.

Children are also taught ballroom dancing, how to sing hymns and be drum majorettes..“We had a volunteer who offered to teach the children knitting. To our surprise both girls and boys took part and made themselves teddy bears. What we came to realise was that the knitting helped to improve their counting and concentration” said Ms Hill.

Ikaya le themba has 10 staff members; a part-time operations manager, cook, taxi driver and Ms Hill as the director of the facility. There are three childcare workers, who among themselves are qualified in social development, social work and are in the process of getting their teaching degrees.

There are two community workers who are employed to make regular home visits, particularly to those children going through a difficult time. “We deal with situations from divorce and illnesses in the family to unemployment and counselling. We look at it in terms of how can we be an extension of help. We cannot help the children without helping their family,”said Ms Hill.

“There are some cases where parents pass away and they were very friendly with their neighbours and then they become their caregivers” said Ms Hill.

“Some of the caregivers are left looking after lots of children with minimal resource. What I mean by resources is not about money, I’m talking about not being educated. There are lots of kids needing to go to school. There are carers not being able to help them with their homework, so that was a real concern” said Ms Hill.

“It’s their sanctuary, you look around the township (and) you know they have no place to play. It’s difficult because we have around 130 children here and we would love to expand more, but we just don’t have the space” said Ms Hill.

Children are divided into classrooms according to their grades and get help with their homework. The NGO relies on the donations from local community members and businesses. Through these donations, everyday children are served a hot meal and snacks. Every month, different children are given food parcels to take home, which are donated by Camps Bay United. “Hout Bay is a lovely place that really wants to help each other out,” said Ms Hill.

Recently a group of Australian volunteers helped create two vegetable gardens, which will be used to help feed the children and for the parents and caregivers of the children. The garden is also used as a therapeutic tool for the children. The Australian volunteers consisted of a group of 20 Grade 11 pupils, who worked odd jobs in order to raise money and come to South Africa to help an underprivileged community. In addition to starting the vegetable garden, the student volunteers donated two parcels of food to each child at Ikhaya le themba

Recently, the organisation expanded their programme to accommodate pupils from Grades 7 until Grade 12. The programme will co-ordinated by Minty Pato, a community worker. The teenagers from Ikhaya le Themba are hoping to publish their own magazine called Ikasi Lifestyle. “It is for teens and about teens living in the township. It’s about their challenges and struggles of living in the township,” said Ms Hill.

Unfortunately, the pupils have not been able to publish it due to lack of funding. “We would love to find someone who will be willing to publish it because they would love to do more of them but I can’t encourage them to do more until we don’t have the first one published yet. I have even sold some advertising in it. I want them to start thinking about careers and think about what they want to be and get some hands-on ability. These are bright kids, these are kids who know how to express themselves and I thought this would be the perfect medium for them to do that, ” said Ms Hill.