Archive for the ‘Good people – Great causes’ Category

I Learn to Live - June 2016 Newsletter (3)


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Not far from here, roughly 30 minutes from the thriving, bustling, cacophony of noise which is Durban’s city centre, lies a community called Tshelimnyama (the black stone). You take an off-ramp, just before Marianhill toll plaza, and suddenly find yourself in a world you had no idea existed, particularly if you are a white, middle class South African. The only reason I am here is because I am going on a home visit with Maud Mbambo, the clinical officer of a community care project run by an organisation called Zoë-Life. Maud trains community care givers (CCGs) who work for the municipality and the Department of Health. Maud trains the CCGs to work within the community setting at a household level, where they transfer the knowledge they have learnt during training, to household members regarding key family health practices. The concept of the project is to build capacity and strengthen comprehensive HIV services at a community level so that the burden, placed on congested clinics, is reduced.

Welcome Home

We are here to visit a family, which a CCG earmarked as being highly vulnerable and in dire need of assistance; we have come to drop off nappies and dried soup mix, and to determine the level of need within the household. To find this house we drive through the community of Tshelimnyama; a hilly region with only one main road, which winds its way into and out of the valley, eventually looping its way back to the main road. The hills are covered in various types of housing; rondavels, square structures made of sheet metal, wattle and daub creations, and newly built homes of brick and cement. Goats and chickens run riot across the road and road humps have long since lost their warning paint. It is a scene one would not expect to see so close to the city, but rather, out in the rural areas. The close proximity of this poverty, to the relative wealth of the city, makes it all the more grim.

Once we are through Tshelimnyama, we enter into Dassenhoek. We drive down into the valley on a particularly steep road; the further we descend, the colder it gets. Our household sits a little way up on a hill and we climb the dirt path to get to it. An elderly man greets us and leads us into the house where a 15 year old girls stands, a baby on her hip, a bawling 3 year old at her feet and a shivering 6 year old washing herself in a plastic basin of filthy, freezing water. The house is made of bare concrete and crumbling plaster work. Its tin roof is supported at the apex by a solitary wooden pole which balances precariously on a brick; one careless kick and the entire structure would probably fall in. It is a depressing scene. The teenager lost her mother to HIV about 3 months ago and has had to leave school to look after her young siblings; her 17 year old sister has a temporary job (she also has not completed her schooling) and her aunt, who supports the family, has a permanent low-income job. The elderly man is the partner of the aunt and he receives a pension.

As Maud chats with the young girl, I notice a number of things which will stay with me for a very long time: the baby, a little over a year, but so tiny she looks about 8 months old, is wearing a diaper fashioned out of an orange municipal recycling bin liner. Her little legs and bum must be freezing inside the shiny, plastic covering. The two youngest children are crying hot, fat tears and are inconsolable. On enquiring, Maud finds that they have yet to eat, and it is already 9.30am. The teenager puts a bottle of formula together for the baby but Maud is not convinced that it is of any nutritional value and the water looks decidedly unclean. She pulls out a loaf of bread and gives it to the girl who has the look of someone experiencing severe shell-shock. I’m not sure that she has processed the situation she now finds herself in: I imagine she is feeling lost and confused, missing her mother and away from her friends at school, her future narrowing to a pin-prick of light in which she becomes mother to three children, uneducated and unemployable.

Maud explaining the soup mix to the 15yr old

The CCG, now trained to think in a more holistic manner, has contacted the local social worker to make plans for the girl to return to school. The child-care grants, which the mother received, had ceased on her death and the family is receiving no assistance at this point. The aunt has applied for foster grants, on behalf on the children, but it will take some time for the money to come through.  There is some concern that the money will not be spent as it should as both the aunt and the partner are known to drink (this is confirmed when I go outside and find a tree with at least 100 empty beer bottles strewn around its trunk). With regular check ups by the CCG this situation will be monitored.

As we drive back up to the main road I am struck by the fact that of course there must be many more households in dire straights all over this community (and in communities all over our province). Many more young girls being pulled out of school to look after siblings, with the unfortunate result that they repeat the cycle of poverty, in which they have grown up. Without education, these girls have no hope. Aside from looking after children, they aren’t occupied during the day and find themselves, out of loneliness, hanging out with unemployed adults and young men far more experienced than them. They aren’t learning about HIV/AIDS during life orientation classes, and they aren’t improving their english language skills through reading and interaction with teachers. For now, the only hope they have, lies in CCGs who have been well-trained and encouraged to think critically.

One of the benefits of properly trained CCGs is that they have the ability to connect the community with the relevant structures and services which are in place. CCGs can speak on behalf of community members and ensure that something gets done, that someone knows what is going on. For this young girl, the opportunity to go back to school lies in the hands of the social worker and school principal – two people she would be unlikely to access – but with the help of the CCG, she now has a chance.

To learn more about Zoe-Life, visit their site (which is in the process of being updated).

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Every year IOP manages to pull off the Christmas party of Christmas parties, and this year was no exception – with three days of partying for 3000 children and caregivers! We had more presents and food than we knew what to do with so everyone was incredibly blessed with armfuls of gifts and food to take home. We had a host of young face painters who ensured that every child was covered from head to toe in South African – and other nations – flags, birds, hearts, snakes and all forms of flora and fauna.

I’ll let the photos tell the story:


Thanks to all the volunteers who came out to support us and put together 6000 hotdogs, party packs and sort the thousands of presents so that each kid got an age appropriate gift. Looking forward to seeing you all next year!

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I only truly know that my year is coming to a close when I volunteer at the Izulu Orphan Projects annual Christmas party. It’s a weekend filled with over 2000 kids and caregivers who are treated to a day of celebration and gift giving; probably the only one they will experience this festive season.

Each year Kate sends out an email asking for donations and assistance from volunteers and each year we are overwhelmed by the generosity of South Africans. Donations of 3600 hot dog rolls and viennas, 1900 cool drinks and party packs, and presents for children of every age group as well as their caregivers; most of whom are elderly women who should be enjoying their twilight years.

The volunteers come from churches and companies, are families and individuals who come from Zululand, Durban, and Johannesburg and there are always the regulars who have pitched in for the past six years religiously. These experienced volunteers make the day as smooth and disaster free as possible. They put together 3600 hot dogs, sorted and handed out presents, kept the peace, picked up litter, monitored toilets, and put together party packs. Probably the biggest thank you from me goes to Joyce, Kate’s wonderful and self-less domestic worker (house executive would be more apt a label!), who looked after us all; ensure we were fed and watered and cared for.

This year we were donated R500s worth of face painting kits from Pilates House (thanks Nikki!) in Durban. What a fantastic activity to get the kids (and adults) involved in; it broke the ice and we saw beautiful interaction between volunteers and kids. Flowers, hearts, moustaches and beards, tribal war paint, Masaai inspired dots and designs; the kids looked amazing and we are definitely brining back face painting to next years party.

The caregivers gifts this year went down incredibly well – each lady received a crockery set or a glass pitcher with matching glasses set; the ululating (wish I had a sound clip for it) was phenomenal and we had smiling faces all round.

Each year I notice a trend which seems to sweep the Zululand area; last year it was intricate and bizarre hair braiding (which carried on into this year but it was the boys sporting the serious do’s). The year before it was phenomenal shoes; fake croc skin cowboy boots with silver toe caps, and nyala skin sandals. This year it was flowers in the girls hair; alice bands and clips adorned with giant flowers. For more photos – click here.

Thanks to everyone who contributed and got involved; we really appreciate it and we’ll hopefully see you all again next year!

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Hello everyone

I have decided today is the day for what has become my annual newsletter. I can tell you all that at the moment, it really feels like every day gets harder and harder but God is so good in the fact that He keeps showing me how incredible all this work is and how much He is doing around me. Many have asked if I have thought about returning back to Durban but how could I even consider it when I know that thousands of lives rely upon that decision, it is not even an option!

For those that do not know, Chadd, my husband, passed away on Monday, 7 December 2009. He made the full front page spread of the Zululand Observer Newspaper on Thursday, 10 Dec. That night, one of the children we have been trying to help, but who we had caught stealing from us previously, read that Chadd had died. He broke into our property and into my charity office. He stole my 3 laptops and burnt my office to the ground, 8 years of work along with it. That was the day before our Annual Orphan Christmas Party for 1500 at my house. I’m so grateful to say that my laptops were recovered within a couple of hours and my priceless database was saved. The Christmas party was a hugest success with hundreds of volunteers to help.

Christmas was very tender so I decided to put my 4 children on an aeroplane and we had a wonderful week in Cape Town for New Year. Sandile and Mbali had never flown before. Many times I would wake in a panic as to how I would carry on this work alone but there was never a doubt that I knew I had to. God assured me many times that He was holding me and urging me forward. In January we took on another 59 families and then another 2 since. We are now supporting 998 children in 391 families.

After my office got burnt down, we were working out of my dining room again where Chadd and I started Izulu Orphan Projects. From March to July, we built new offices down at our Support Centre with a clinic room, clothing and donations store room and a food store room, thanks to all the donations that came in with Chadd passing and with the help of Built It – Spar Group and Mzisi Africa. It was good for me to have many people around my house after Chadd died but it was even better to move into our new offices! At the same time, we also built our first house for the poorest family I have ever met!

In April, I started a Community Works Programme with the government where I created 495 jobs, employed the people, mostly from my families, and now I set the work and manage everyone. The government pay them R50 per day which is a fortune out our way. I have people fixing my orphans homes, building vegetable gardens, ladies helping the old grandmothers, ‘gogos’, inside their houses with cleaning and washing.  I have health builders who have been trained to do HIV, blood pressure and diabetes testing along with basic first aid who go from hut to hut testing and educating people. This has been such a success as these people getting tested would never have got checked unless they were almost on their death beds. 20% of the people getting tested are HIV positive who would not have found out otherwise! 

Chadd and my vision was always to take the help closer to the people and now it is becoming a reality. Round Table has come on board to help build our first Crisis Support Centre which will cost close to a million rand. These centres will be a place of refuge for orphans in crisis situations. Chadd was always a 24-hour emergency helpline when children were getting abused or the like. It is not safe for me to be driving out into the tribal lands after dark so these centres are so crucial now. They will also be used as homework and feeding centres as well as adult skills training and craft development to try and get our families self-sustaining. We have 5 of these centres to build so this is just the beginning.

For the near future, our Annual Orphan Christmas Party will be held over the weekend of the 11/12 December with 1500 children and 400 caregivers. The basic program is we explain the real meaning of Christmas, we entertain the children with some kind of show and then we like to give every child and caregiver a gift and a meal. This party is the absolute highlight of the year for everyone involved. The most important need is having hands on the days so please come with all your friends. We would like to give gifts  to both the young and old children and we love to spoil the real champions in all this, the caregivers, the grandmothers that have not only lost their children but now have to bring up their grandchildren and neighbouring children. We need hotdogs and juice, party packs, money for busses to collect all our orphans and caregivers, people to be the entertainment and did I mention hands, hands, hands? I have absolutely nothing for the party at the moment so I need everything. We have lots of accommodation for anyone wanting to help both days, everyone is welcome! I know this is going to be a very tender time for me so the more people around the better! I really need the help and I can promise that this weekend is life-changing for everyone!

I have learnt that including our banking details the first time saves me so much time. Now doing both Chadd and my job, and the work load exponentially increasing, my office time is very limited. What I would like to do now is to thank the 100s of people that have helped me since Chadd passed. Sometimes my mind has not been so clear on remembering things, especially in the first half of this year, and if I have not personally thanked you, please forgive me. So much has happened the last 8 months and in a crazy way, I can say that as sore as my heart is and what a loss it is to the world to not have Chadd anymore, I’m truly blessed to be in the middle of all of this, to see God’s hand moving so radically. I have no doubt that in the years to come, because of Chadd dying, I’m going to have so many more mind-blowing stories to tell.

Thank-you for all your powerful prayers and support. Without them, I would not be able to stand here today with such hope and perseverance. I am more committed now than ever and I know that literally hundreds of thousands of lives will be forever changed in years to come because God is so great!

Please do not hesitate to contact me on 083 649 9990 or my office on 084 600 9947. I stay 15kms inland from Empangeni so for anyone closer to Durban, my mother’s numbers are (031) 207 4958 or 082 779 3443. She is my warehouse manager there, even though I haven’t asked her yet J. Thank mom – Heather Ellens.

Wishing you all an amazing end to 2010 and an early happy Christmas. The hugest lesson I have learnt through all of this is that we really only have today, seriously make the most of it.

Banking Details:

First National Bank
8 Smith Street
Izulu Orphan Projects
Cheque Account (Non-Profit)
Acc No: 62094657908
Branch: 220130
BIC/Swift address: FIRNZAJJXXX

Thanks again.

Kate Bain

Chairman of Izulu Orphan Projects

www.izuluorphanprojects.co.za – no time to update this year!

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There’s that old Afrikaans maxim a boer maak a plan and I must admit: South Africans are pretty damn good at coming up with a solution to many a problem.

In true a boer maak a plan style – this poor hound was transformed into a lion because his owner was sick of being robbed.

In Africa there is ALWAYS a market – you just have to look for it. 2010 vuvuzela revolt.

The world can say a big old thank you to a physicist from South Africa, Allan Cormack (and I suppose I should mention his side-kick Godfrey Hounsfield, who does not sound in the least bit South African) for inventing the CAT scan machine. Then there’s old Chris Barnard who performed the first heart transplant in the (known) world in 1967. Then there’s the speed gun and speed ball which have something to do with cricket and recording speed..I’m sure this is appreciated by those people who enjoy the game. And of course, the good old Kreepy Krauly, nemesis of many a child who went swimming on a summers day. In fairness to Ferdinand Chauvier, he hailed from the Belgian Congo but came to South Africa in 1951 and died in SA in 1985, so I regard him as South African. We’ve even invented glue that went to the moon! Yes, Prately’s Putty (I will admit I have NEVER heard of this before) was used to “hold bits of the Apollo XI mission’s Eagle landing craft together”. See, good things do happen in Krugersdorp!

The Kreeeeeepy!

More recently we have two serious inventions which I feel should be mentioned because they directly relate to two of South Africa’s, and Africa’s, biggest social problems: HIV/AIDS and poor water quality.

Sex please…HIV/AIDS Protective Gel:

I won’t go into the technicalities of it all but basically this gel, which is given to women to administer, reduced the HIV infection rate in women, who formed part of a study, by 39% . This is not a cure but rather gives women the opportunity to reduce their risk of contracting the disease. And in Africa, where women are generally unable to negotiate condom use and safe sexual practices, an invisible gel has the potential to change their lives for the better. Another benefit to the gel is that it reduces genital herpes by just over 50%.  Local Durbanite, Dr Salim Abdool Karim, who works at the University of KwaZulu Natal, led the study and the results have been extremely positive.

Tea really does cure everything:

I was watching Carte Blanche the other day and this guy was filling his water bottle from what looked like an incredibly manky river, and then he took a big slug. Gaaah. So I turned on the sound and caught the end of the story. Some scientists at Stellenbosch University have created a very simple and cheap device to purify water – a tea bag! Yes, the humble tea bag. The tea bag (the rooibos one) is filled with “ultra-thing nanoscale fibres” which basically act as a filtration system and stop all the gross stuff in the water from entering your body. You stick the tea bag in the neck of a bottle, fill it with water, and the water is completely drinkable! And it is super cheap AND environmentally friendly! They’re still in the development phase but so far it has proved to be most successful.

Pretty impressive ne!

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I spent two days last week with Kate up at Izulu Orphan Projects, just to catch up and see what’s been happening – that place is a hive of activity! They’ve just moved into their brand new office which means Kate can now separate her work time from her home life. Her dad, who is an architect, designed the plans and Kate got some guys from the area to build it – and they did a fantastic job!

I didn’t think to take a photo of Kate’s new office – but this is what was left of her old office when it was burnt down last year by a troubled kid from the community. We spent all night fighting that fire in our pj’s. Never a dull moment!

On my tour of the new facilities we came across a group of women from the area who were being trained by Anita, an American doctor and missionary who has been living in SA for 15 years. Anita is teaching groups of women from the communities to do HIV/AIDS testing – this is so that people no longer have to go into town to a clinic and wait in long queues to be tested, but rather can access testing in their own area. Once the various support centres are built in the communities which Kate’s NGO services, there will be a room set up for testing and counselling. Before people are tested they are asked to watch a DVD which explains to them, in their own language, what it means to be tested and what their future is, if they test positive. If people test positive for HIV, they will be directed to the nearest clinic or hospital which provides ARV treatment. This is a fantastic service which will certainly speed up the process of getting people on ARV medication and ultimately prolong their lives and the time they have with their children. The ladies are also taught to do blood pressure, diabetes and various other tests. Each of the ladies has to write a test and pass it in order to go out into the communities and begin their work. One of the ladies, Khethiwe, passed her diabetes test with 100% – and this is a lady that I met nearly 4 years ago while conducting my honours research. She was unwell, looking after too many children and was not expected to live for very long. Kate and Chadd got her access to ARVs and today she is healthy and contributing to the lives of her own community members. If you have a moment, check out this absolutely beautiful advert which shows the affects of ARV treatment on a woman named Selinah. Click here.

Kate took me out into the communities so I could see what has been happening since my last visit – she recently built a house for a young family who were living in appalling conditions; the older girls were sick and were looking after their young siblings. Kate was so shocked by their living conditions that she decided she had to build them a new house. Msizi Africa, a fantastic non-profit based in London, was donated money for this particular project, which meant that Kate could go ahead with her plans. The family now lives in a two bedroom home which is a far cry from their dilapidated rondavel and are extremely happy.

The rondavel which the young family was living in (Pictures above by Msizi Africa)

The house Kate and her guys built with funds from Msizi Africa

I got to see the site of the first community based support centre, which is modelled on the support centre built on the property where Kate lives. This support centre will have a child crisis centre – somewhere for kids to run to if they need to for temporary care. They centre will have beds and a lady who will look after the kids, she’ll live on site so that if kids come in at night, there is someone to receive them. The support centre will also have a media room where kids can come and do their home work after school – hopefully a few computers will be donated so that they can learn computer skills which are so necessary for job placement today. An small medical facility where people can be tested for HIV/AIDS, diabetes and blood pressure will also form part of the centre. The first centre has been paid for by Rotary and the second centre location has been found, but R30 000 is needed to purchase the land from the community before building can begin.

So exciting times at Izulu Orphan Projects – if there’s something that I’ve mentioned here that you’d like to support, please email me and we can talk about a way forward!

For news on my first student, who will be sponsored by I LEARN TO LIVE, please look under the I LEARN TO LIVE category on the right (I’ll be updating it soon)!

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