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.

A letter to Isibani


Miriam and Lisa 2011 during their Volunteers year at Isibani with Sindy and Sbo

Lisa was a Volunteer at Isibani from August 2010 till August 2011. Now after three and a half years she came back for three weeks to visit us and our Community Centre. Sadly she left again, but today we received a letter from her to tell us about her time and impressions she had while being here with us:

Three and a half years. That’s about 1300 days. 30660 hours. Countless moments…
One thing I did learn during my time as a volunteer in South Africa is that life never stops, not even for a second. Even if we don’t want things to change, they do with every breath, every step we take. So when I planned my trip to visit South Africa after all this time, I tried very hard to keep that in mind. To remind myself, prepare myself that things and people are going to be different, changed. I am certainly not the same person who left SA in 2011 after one year of volunteering with Isibani. And all the people who left their mark in my character and my heart during this time are neither. Too many defining moments and changes have occurred since then in our lives that we missed out on or shared with other people in completely different worlds.

When it comes to Winterton and Isibani quite a lot of defining changes have happened. First and foremost the Place of Safety comes to my mind. It was a mere idea when Miriam and I left. Seeing that it is now up and running, giving shelter to endangered children who have nowhere else to go, is pretty amazing.
But also the everyday routine of Isibani has changed. The work has shifted towards being more community-based instead of center-based – sometimes leaving the Isibani site strangely quiet. Of course there has been a change of staff too. Even though it was awesome to see that some of the people I got to work with remained with Isibani throughout the years, it was a great pleasure to meet all the new staff members and to learn about the work they do within the community. I guess in a way the challenges are still the same and so is the way Isibani tries to face them – with immense love for the people, patience, hard work and trust in god.

For me coming back to SA was as much about catching up with everyone who made my year as beautiful as it was as to see if I could contribute something to this work by using the skills I had to offer.
Visiting the different crèches with Julia and Terry that are now operating in Khethani was just so very nice and fulfilling. It made me think of my days in the Baby Day Care – even though it was at different places filled with new care takers and children. I so enjoyed to support the care giving when some of the care takers were sick and delighted to watch the lessons and to see how quickly children pick up things.

The greatest Isibani-experience of my stay though was the basic first aid course that I conducted for community workers. When I first started planning I was not even sure if there was any interest or demand for it. Therefore I was quite overwhelmed finding out that 22 community workers were participating. In Germany I am part of a group that organizes first aid courses for med students. Doing it alone for „normal“ people was quite a challenge as I find that breaking things down to the basic and most important things is always hard. It was also difficult to adapt the course to South African circumstances. When an emergency occurs in Germany you call an ambulance and you can be sure that it will show within about 10 minutes – there is even a law that demands it. In SA on the contrary you might also have to consider organizing a lift to hospital yourself. This might interfere even with the best first aid. So what to tell people? That there is no point in starting CPR when you already know that the ambulance will only get there in 2 hours?
To me first aid is not only important for the person in need for aid but also for the first aider himself. The worst thing within a crisis is to feel like not being able to do anything. Enabling people to give sufficient help is important. Even if it turns out to be not successful. Besides there is always that percentage of people that can be saved by sufficient first aid. And this percentage (even though it might be lower in SA than it is in Germany) represents real people with a real life, real dreams and real loved ones – people who deserve that every first aider tries his or her best.
This theory was met by the participants by one hundred percent. They were more than keen on learning and practicing the different techniques, which focused on recovery position, cardiopulmonary reanimation, first aid in case of burns, heavy bleeding, choking and shock. In a course especially held for the Place of Safety mums we also dealt with special techniques for children.
It was such a pleasure to see all participants get more and more confident with their actions throughout the course. And to witness how they would correct and support each others during the practices. Teamwork – a very important part of first aid – came quite natural to everybody.
Of course you cannot learn first aid in one course. Even for me it is a challenge to remember everything correctly in case of emergency. It will not stick unless you practice. But what a course like this can do is to give people the confidence to approach a person in need and to at least try to help. To do something, even if it is just calling for help or comforting the person.
I just hope that the participants learned as much from me as I learned from them for all my future work in first aid courses.

Not only this first aid course but every moment that I got to share with an Isibani-member or a member of the community they work for and with made me feel very thankful and blessed. For being able to experiencing it, being part of the Isibani team again, feeling welcomed and accepted and just right where I was. All the changes set aside the „Isibani-spirit“has remained pretty much the same throughout the last three and a half years.

The Dutch philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said: Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards. And now that I’ve returned to Germany looking back at three and a half weeks in South Africa I understand one thing very well: Some bonds with people or even with certain places act like bridges stretching over all the steps of change that we take in between two encounters. And in these rare, lucky cases you do not have to fear the change, the differences between now and then. You can easily meet them with an open and interested mind, look at them curiously, and even appreciate them. And you can bring your own without feeling the need to conceal them or being afraid of not fitting in. Then you can just start again where you have left it.



New Team member

TerryIn February Terry moved to Winterton to work in our Community to work in our early childhood development department! Have a look what is happening around her since she started at Isibani -> Here

Terry is working very close with our Volunteer Julia together, and whenever we are looking for them we either find them in their office where they create new ideas what to craft and play with the children or even more often in the creche rolling around the grass, covered with lots of children and surrounded by laughter =)

note: Terry is very shy of a photo, but we promise to bring it soon! The same as Julia 😉

What’s happening in the ECD Department?

My family and I have been here in Winterton for three weeks and every day is an adventure that I look forward to with great anticipation.  I work in Khethani with the community and my goal is to identify their needs with regard to Early Childhood Development.  I assist, mentor, teach and uplift those with a calling to educate young children.  When I arrived the community had already started a creche from a building in Khethani and we had quite a few challenges to face.  After much appreciated assistance the grass was cut (it was up to my thighs when I arrived), the long drop made a tiny bit more sanitary; long drop!!!!!  Yes, there was a family living in the toilets!!!!!!  This little hurdle was crossed and the building was scrubbed clean.  Any day now the toilets themselves will be repaired and or replaced.  Water was another challenge.  The only tap was not working and the Jojo tank had long since met its fate.  Once again with much appreciated assistance the pipe was repaired, tap replaced and running water restored.
So where do we go from here?  Basins need to be put into the toilets so that proper hygiene can be taught.  There are repairs and maintenance to the building that urgently need to be done.  The children need a jungle gym. Currently we have the babies, toddlers and preschoolers in the same area, separated by a curtain.  Not ideal at all.  Another classroom for the babies would be wonderful.  A small kitchen is on the list.  The sand pit is ready and waiting for sand, kindly donated to us.  We need an awning to cover it as well as a cover for the sand pit itself.  The fence around the property needs to be repaired to keep the marauding goats out.  A vegetable garden has been made – once again my sincere gratitude to the people who made this possible.  Once the fence is repaired we, the teachers, volunteer, children and I will plant vegetables which the children will get to enjoy as part of their daily diet.
Over and above Khethani Creche I have identified other wonderful people taking care of young children in their homes.  Each one has children she looks after every day.  What are their needs:
  • Toys – puzzles, cars, building blocks etc.
  • Balls
  • Jungle Gym
  • Swing
  • Sand Pit
  • Blankets and small mattresses
  • Books aimed at very young children
  • Paints
  • Crayons
  • Paper – recycled is great (we only need one side)
  • Old magazines for practicing cutting
So this is my story and I would love it if you would follow it regularly and travel the road with me.  Should you at any time feel you would like to be more involved there is plenty of room.  I promise it will be an adventure well worth your time!
Hamba kahle