Social Case Reports from Xoli

Aside from our residential facility, Isiphephelo place of safety, we also have an outreach programme which we call Isiphephelo Outreach.  We work with our local community in their own homes and on the streets coming across many wide ranging social issues.
Here is an update on a few cases that our auxiliary social workers have been dealing with recently:

Absenteeism from School
Three girls staying in our local township, Khethani, were reported to us as they were not attending school  (2 siblings and their friend). They were counselled about the importance of school and the advantages of attending school and they eventually agreed to return.
It was identified that the friend had run from her foster mother in Bergville -Oliviershoek and had been staying with the 2 girls in Khetani.  In a situation like this where a child has run away it is important that proper procedures are followed so we reported the case to the local social worker who was able to conduct her own investigation.  After meeting with the girl and the foster mum the social worker was able to return the child home and she is now back in Oliviershoek and attending a new school.
One of the siblings decided to leave Khetani and moved to Loskop to attend school there,  she since returned to Khetani but is not attending school,  again the case was referred to the local social worker.

The other sibling is back and school but came to the office to complain about her sister hiding her school uniform and books meaning she had missed 5 days of school,  she told us she wanted to leave school now and go to live with her Aunt.  We counselled her again and she agreed to return to school.  The school principal asked for a meeting which went well and the child is now back in school and we have regular follow up sessions with her to monitor her progress.
Unfortunately absence from school and moving from one home to another is not uncommon.  Children grow up with so little stability in their lives.  We intervene where we can and offer counselling, support and advice.

More challenges with schooling
A family from Lesotho came to our office to explain their children were attending school some distance away and they could no longer afford the taxi money so their children were being forced to drop out of school.
We were able to talk to the principals of both their existing school and the local school in Khetani and it was agreed that the children should be transferred to the school closer to home.  The parents were very happy and thankful.
Often community members don’t feel able to tackle situations like this alone.  A huge part of our work is to advocate for the best interests of our clients.  We are thankful that community members feel they are able to share their problems with us and we are then able to work together to find a solution.

Behavioural Problems
A mother came to us for advice regarding her son,  she had taken new children into her home and her own son had started “behaving strangely”, he was jealous, angry and didn’t want to help out with chores.
We attended the home and met with the family to conduct counselling and suggested a few practical things to help them resolve conflict.
The mother returned to our office to say her son is so amazing, he has drawn a roster and each child takes a share of duties, we were delighted to hear about his progress and the mother was also happy that we could talk with her children.
Staff and volunteers at Isiphephelo come from far and wide, we have local Zulu volunteers as well as volunteers from England, Australia, Germany, Belgium, USA etc, some permanent and some just visiting   We are privileged to be able to attend training courses dealing with child behaviour and often have volunteers running sessions for us in these areas.  It is great when we are able to put some of the theory into practice and to see the amazing changes that can be made in a household.

Visits to ex Place of Safety Children
We visited some children who had previously lived with us at the place of safety, we wanted to check how they were doing and we gave them some clothes, they were very happy to see that they are still being recognised and loved by us.
One child, a girl of 16 years is still receiving counselling, she was the victim of a recent sexual assault by a family member.  A medical report was done and a police case opened.  The family on perpetrator’s side wanted to have negotiations with the victim’s family in order that a settlement could be reached and the case would be withdrawn but the family of the victim refused.
Negotiations and subsequent compensation are a very common way of settling abuse cases in this area so it was very encouraging to us that the victim’s family showed support to the girl and wanted to pursue the proper course of law.

Long term client
It is always good to hear success stories from our long term clients, we have known and assisted one particular lady for around 7 years now, after many years of only getting casual jobs she has secured a full time job as a domestic worker with a family in Emmaus.  For years she has been struggling financially and searching for jobs and she has finally found something.  She moved her two youngest children leaving an older sister with neighbours in Khethani, we will monitor this child to ensure she has sufficient food, is taking her medication correctly and is generally well and cared for.  The client was very happy that every month she will receive the sum of R800-00 and she will be able to save some from this money and make her children happy.
It is not uncommon for guardians to leave their children to go off to find work.  Because this lady is from Lesotho she does not have a South African ID book and getting work is therefore so much more difficult,  as long as we have known her she has worked in the fields doing whatever casual work she could find.  She has survived various health challenges and poverty through sheer determination, the goodwill of neighbours and assistance with food parcels.  We are delighted she has now found work.

Home Visits
We have continued to conduct home visits in and around Khetani meeting with clients who needed help with their health, family unification and also for counselling sessions to the victims of rape. We were happy to have a LifeLine facilitator visiting for the second time and offering monitoring and coaching for us specific to the cases we are dealing with.  She helps with any challenges we have and will visit us again soon.
We are blessed to be able to work with and partner with other organisations such as LifeLine to work together to serve the community.  LifeLine focus on counselling around sexual abuse and we have learnt a lot from them.

Counselling Sessions
Last week we were called in a nearby school to offer counselling to three girls children who are the victims of rape and sexual abuse.  The children talked freely during our counselling sessions and the counselling will be conducted weekly with these children for as long as they want or need it.
Whilst we are grateful that schools contact us to deal with situations such as this it is always heartbreaking to discover more cases of abuse.    We are thankful for our team of staff and volunteers who give their time and love so freely to reach out to others.
Isiphephelo outreach is an important part of our work and these are just a few stories and updates from our recent cases.
Please keep the people mentioned here and our community at large in your prayers.

From Xoli

Isiphephelo place of safety journey

A reflection on the journey so far.
Last month we held an open house at our place of safety in Winterton and were delighted to welcome around 40 community members to share our story so far,  for those of you not able to join us read on to share in our story ..

The Isiphephelo project was originally born out of Isibani.  As a community drop in centre, Isibani became very aware of the need for more services to care for abused, abandoned and vulnerable children.  Time and time again we were told that children could not be removed from abusive and unsuitable conditions because there was nowhere to take them.  It was then that the seed was planted and the journey began.

Our first steps were to visit existing child care facilities all over KZN to learn, it was a great start to our journey as we met some amazing people and learnt so much about not only the passion of the staff running the facilities but about the daily challenges they face.
We located what we believed to be a suitable site in Emmaus, we met with the owners and after much discussion it was agreed that we could lease the site and we started with some minor renovations.  It was at that point that we felt God telling us we must stop.  Despite our natural instinct to just keep going, we chose to stop and wait for God to reveal his new plan ..

Within a week God showed us an almost derelict house, within Winterton itself, we phoned the municipality and found out that the house would be going for auction the following week.  We looked around the house and saw it needed a lot of work, had no idea what it would all cost but just knew that it would be perfect for our needs, we saw from our first visit (amid the falling ceiling boards and trailing wires) where the bedrooms would be, where the house mum would sleep, where we would have the playroom etc.
And now the miracles really started.  We had no money to buy a house so we approached the funders of Isibani and asked if we could use our budget for operating costs to buy the house and they said YES.

On the day of the auction we arrived at the house just in time, only to find the auction was taking place in Bergville!  We really wanted this house so were very nervous.  We prayed and asked for God’s will to be done.  On our way to Bergville we received a call from someone we had met when viewing the house who told us they felt it was meant to be ours.  At the auction we met other members of the Winterton community who later told us they chose not to bid because felt the house should go to us and it did.  We had bought a house !!

And now the renovation .. we still had no idea what it would cost or how we would pay for it but the Winterton and surrounding community blessed us beyond our greatest expectations, the house was re-wired at no cost,  half of the cost of the renovation was covered, furniture was provided, the kitchen was ripped out and replaced at no cost, shelving was made, bedrooms were furnished, the garden was landscaped and on and on and on.

This project would simply have not been possible without this community so thank you, thank you, thank you.

We moved in with our first children in April 2013 and since then have cared for 66 children who have been removed from vulnerable or dangerous situations.  Of those children the majority have been girls and a large proportion have suffered some form of sexual abuse.  Our youngest admission so far was just a few weeks old and our oldest child so far was 14.

The children stay with us for up to 6 months, although it can be longer, the aim is that we provide temporary safe care until a more permanent placement can be found.   Based on our children so far, around 1/3 have left us to children’s homes with 2/3 been returned to family / extended family members.
We keep in touch with our children once they have left and some leavers have been returned to us when their home situation didn’t work out.  We are only offering temporary safe care but we hope that whilst with us the children can begin their process of healing both physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The children have regular counselling, they attend school were possible, their basic needs are met and they receive and give lots and lots of love.
Often when I talk about the place of safety I talk about love, how we give love to the children in our care and how our house is a place of love.  Reflecting on this last month I heard God reminding me of a verse from Matthew 5:43-5:45 43

“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44″But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…

It was then that I realised how much I have to learn about love from our children.  They have unconditional love for those who have mistreated them.  After many counselling sessions they may finally reveal the horrific things they witnessed or endured and yet they still continue to love ..

God places these children in our care for a season and we are thankful for this amazing gift and for all that we learn from them.  We are privileged to walk with them as they start their journey of healing.

Isiphephelo is a place of miracles, in closing I would like to share just a few
The miracle of the house purchase and renovation:

Isiphephelo employs 9 amazing people including 1 social worker, 2 auxiliary workers, 3 full time house mums and so on and not one job has ever been advertised; the right people just walked through our door on the right day.

Of the 66 children in our care the most serious incident was a little girl getting a plumbing ring stuck on her finger and having it cut off at Emmaus

The miracle of healing that takes place within the children
The miracle of provision,   there is always enough, more than enough.  We now have funding from Government so have been able to re-direct other donor funds to outreach programmes
I hope you have enjoyed reading and sharing the journey of Isiphephelo so far.


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A lot is happening:

Exciting times are afoot at Isibani … No, we are not closing and we are not moving overseas. Read on to find out what is actually happening with Isibani and in particular with the current site.

Isibani opened the doors to the community centre in 2008 and since then we have served many hundreds of people with varying needs. Our aim has always been to help to bridge the gap between the services needed by the community and the services the government is able to offer. In order to serve our community effectively we have to respond to changing community needs and avoid duplication of effort. We also have to work alongside and partner with Government as we ultimately serve the same people.

We were blessed in 2007 to be allowed the use of the Old Celimfundo school site and since that time the site has been used for many different projects and events. The role of Isibani has grown and evolved since 2008 and as a team we feel it is time for the next season to begin … we are planning to move our core operations to a site located in Khetani. We want to be more accessible to the people we serve and to offer more door to door holistic care and forming better relationships with our clients is our main focus.

This move has been on our hearts for at least 12 months and now in God’s timing we have not only identified a suitable site in Khetani to operate from but are able to offer many buildings making up our current site back to Celimfundo Primary School who are massively overcrowded with 1100 children attending school there.

Our plan is that the school will take over the buildings at the rear of the site and that the front buildings will be used as clinic by Isibani in conjunction with the Department of Health. The mobile clinic visits Isibani once each week and once we have restructured we hope to be able to extend the clinic hours and subject to funding, pray that one day we can have a full time nurse and permanent clinic on site saving people lengthy and expensive trips to Emmaus.

As part of our “shake up” we have also looked again at how we provide food support and together with the Matthew 25 committee are transitioning this service into the next level. We have conducted many home visits and identified who we believe to be the poorest of the poor, we are able to visit these families regularly and provide pre cooked meals and basic supplies as and when they are needed rather than handing out generic food parcels each month.

The next stage in our feeding programme is to open a soup kitchen, we hope that this will operate from the newly built and equipped kitchen at Celimfundo Primary School (this was funded by a generous donation from US donors). Children at the primary school receive one cooked meal per day and we would aim to provide a subsequent nutritional filled meal for those in need as well as home work support, counselling, spiritual support and an opportunity for us to address other social problems.

We are working closely with the Department of Health and taking more responsibility for malnourished children in Khetani and will have access to dietary supplements as needed. In our experience a malnourished child will lead to us to a family with many other problems and as part of our holistic approach we hope to identify these families and offer support as needed.

We have also been working closely with the Department of Social Development and intend to employ a dedicated social worker to assist with the many social problems in the area. This person together with our auxiliary workers will be accessible to the community and will also work alongside our feeding programme running from the school.

We are very excited about all these changes which we believe will uplift the community.

New Volunteer

Since a few weeks Bridie is already part of the Isibani family. At the moment you will find her mostly at the place of safety.
Get to know her here -> Bridie

I decided I wanted to come to South Africa last June. I have always wanted to volunteer with children, to make a difference in another country and to challenge myself. I am here for 6 months before returning back to England. I originally trained as a chef but decided that it wasn’t for me so I went back to college and did a course in childcare. This involved being at college for 1 day a week and 3 days working in a day nursery. Once I qualified as an ECD teacher. I got a job working in a Day nursery where I worked for 1 and a half years. I started working with the 3-5 year olds before being moved to working with the babies. I enjoyed working with the babies much more.

I have known Sofi all my life as she is a family friend and that is how I came to be a volunteer here. I arrived in Winterton in February and live with Sofi and her family and I volunteer at the Place of Safety. I work closely with the house mums and one of the German volunteers (Nora). We got a new member of staff at the place of safety at the beginning of March and I mostly work with her as we both cover the day shift together.

There are currently 14 children at the Place of Safety including 4 young children who don’t go to school or pre-school. I usually work Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4.p.m. I spend my time looking after the babies and I help out as a house mum when needed. We have a 10 month old, two 19 month olds and one who is almost 3. I help with keeping them stimulated throughout the day and encourage them to do activities. They can get very messy! I made gloop using corn flour and water and they loved it, making lots of mess. Another activity I did with them was to fill a plastic bath tub with some water and bubbles, give each of them a cloth and get them to clean a plastic doll. They had a great time. One of the babies just held the doll and spent about half an hour cleaning it. They got rather wet.

When I first started at the POS I went to the old crèche at Isibani and collected all the old bits of card board and plastic and tubes so that we could use them to make things. Junk modelling is a great way to get the kids to make toys and get them creative. We made shakers using seeds and plastic yoghurt pots. I also got them painting egg boxes.

I wrote a feeding chart for the younger children. I wrote what they should be eating, how much they should be eating and when they should be eating up to the age of 18 months. This was to help the house mums and so that everyone is on the same page. It is now a big poster on the wall. I have recently done a poster about road safety. The kids at the Place of Safety have no clue about road safety so I am hoping that I can help to change that. I like to think that in the time they are at the Place of safety we can make a difference in their lives and we can influence them for the better.

I hope I am making a difference in their lives and that I continue to do so.

Thank you


Easter Holiday at the Place of Safety

During the last few days, around the Easter Weekend, all the schools were closed and that meant that all the children at the place of safety were at home all day. We didn’t want the children to have boring holidays and to just sit at home the whole time so we made a plan lots of activities for the children to get involved in.

On the first day of the holidays, Sandra took some of the kids out to the Waffle Hut and they really enjoyed sitting in the restaurant and eating a delicious waffle. On the following Friday everyone went to Church in the morning and after coming back, we painted Easter Eggs and made some Easter Biscuits. The children liked the biscuits that much that they had all been eaten within just a few minutes.

One of the most exciting days was the next Sunday. Everyone went to Sofi’s house where we played games, ate a delicious lunch together and had a good time all round. The best thing about the day was that we rented a Jumping Castle! The children were jumping on it almost the whole day and in the evening everyone fell asleep right away.

After going to the Church on Sunday in the morning, the children went to search for Easter Eggs in the afternoon and everyone of them got a little surprise. The day ended with a little sleepover-Party. We put all the mattresses in the living room and while we were eating popcorn and fruit we were also watching Tom and Jerry. The children were very excited about a night together with all children sleeping in the same room so they stayed awake for a very long time!

Monday the 06th of April was the Sports Day at the Place of Safety. The group got divided in three little groups, which were competing against each other in ten different games. At the end of the competition, the group with the most points got a little prize. But even though there was just one winning group, all the groups really enjoyed playing the games and everyone participated and they were all very motivated and energetic.

The group got divided in the older and the younger children again on Tuesday. While the younger children went to play games and to have a picnic at the playground at the Lutheran Church, the older girls learnt how to crochet with Sandra as their teacher.
The younger kids went on the next day to the Valley Bakery to have lunch there and all the kids were also making Money Boxes to save their Pocket Money in future.

On the next day, Thursday the big challenge was to work together as a team. The Group faced ten challenges which they could only complete in if they would work together as a group. Because of their great work together, they got a little prize in the afternoon.
The last day of the holidays was Friday the 10th. As a good end of the holiday programme we all went out to Pig n Plough to have a nice time at the playground, to have some slush puppies and to jump on the trampoline.

We want to say thank you to all the helpers who made all these activities for the children possible and who helped us so much. The children really enjoyed these holidays and had an amazing time. We really appreciate your support.

Just a few success stories

Every day we meet people and behind all the people we meet there is a story to find! Here is just a small selection of the stories we have come to know and we are happy to share them with you:

Jacobs* Story: Jacob, who is confined to a wheel chair due to a stroke, was suffering from a urinary tract infection. He and his wife, who is also his daily care giver, received help and ongoing support through home visits made by our Home Based carers.  We were also able to provide transport assistance to the hospital and back again. Now, after one month the infection has cleared and he is doing very well..

Place of safety update:  Even after children leave the Place of Safety we like to do follow up visits and calls to see how their placement is working out and how the children are doing.  This helps us to find out if the placement is still suitable. During follow ups on one particular family of 3 siblings we found that the placement with extended family was not working out and the children were again at risk. For now the children are back in our care until a better place can be found for them.

Report from the social welfare Department:
This month we had 40 walk in clients who have been counseled, 45 Home visits were made. Ncami saw 820 children from Grade 2 to Grade 7 where she delivered an awareness training on rape, sexual abuse, harassment and human trafficking at Celimfundo Primary.

What are the social welfare ladies (Xoli, Ncami, Thandi) doing?

  • Designing Awareness for local schools about sexual abuse, rape and HIV/AIDS
  • One on One Counseling Session days at High Schools
  • Home Visits to clients in the community
  • Participating in Government driven awareness campaigns
  • Maintaining records of all cases, checking and updating client files
  • Assisting with feeding scheme program running from Isibani
  • Play Group with children
  • Follow ups and referrals to Social Workers through phone calls
  • Organizing children’s Camps and articipating in Camps
  • Research

Sbongile’s* story: The mother came to Isibani for advice about a problem she had with her children (4 in total!) who were not doing their duties at home. She came to ask for assistance in this matter. We had a meeting with them and made a few suggestions. A bit later in the following week the mother reported the change that had taken place since the meeting. The family had made a duty roster detailing who will do what and on which day. The mother was very happy about the support she had received and the change she was seeing in her children.

Mthethwa* children: The children from this family last attended school in 2013 and did not attend at all during the 2014 year. The mother came and asked if we could assist her to get the children back to school. We spoke to the children and then we also spoke to the Headmaster of a local school. Through this we managed to get one child back to school.

Expect the unexpected! Last month we had a naked lady running around early in the morning in Khethani. Xoli found her and assisted her to get away from the street. She seemed a bit confused and did not know what she was doing. We met up with her again on the way to another home visit a week or so later and she said THANK YOU for helping her that day. She is now recovered and promised not to run around naked anymore.

Sbo*: One of our “street kids” is accepted for a Rehabilitation Programme. Sbo is 14 years old has not been to school for the last two years. During the day you will normally find him at the local supermarket begging for money or food. The money he gets, he uses to buy glue to sniff or smoke. The government social worker has been informed about this case but has not attended to it so far.  Through love and trust and ongoing invitations to Isibani community centre we managed to create a relationship with him. He often comes to get a breakfast and also brings friends who are also not going to school. The families of children with these sorts of challenges over despair and give up on the children. We recently started facilitating family meetings with Sbo and his mother and we have also been trying to get him back to school. He did attend on some days but often skipped days. He asked us to help him to go to a Rehab because he can not stop the glue sniffing by himself.  We were able to take him for an drug assessment in Pietermaritzburg and they referred his results to a Rehab centre where he been accepted.

*The names of the people in this stories has been changed by us.