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Strengthening Families


“Just lean right,” says Thandanani facilitator Agnes Mkhize, who is busy directing us to Dambuza township just outside Pietermaritzburg, KZN. We are on the way to visit Ntombizonke Phenduka who is currently receiving support from the Thandanani Children’s Foundation.

Ma’ Phenduka looks after five children and an elderly grandmother with the support of the Thandanani Children’s Foundation.

This particular area of KZN has the highest prevalence of HIV infection in South Africa, and the Thandanani Children’s Foundation was established in the early 80’s in response to the crisis of abandoned babies and children as a result of the HIV/Aids epidemic. Today the organisation has matured into providing extended family support wherever there is a vulnerable or orphaned child involved.

Thandanani MD, Duncan Andrew explains the organisation’s social development model where the first stage is to step in and stabilise a crisis situation with food parcels, blankets and cooking pots. Thorough medical assessments are done and medical treatment is begun, while the vulnerable children and their ‘family care unit’ get into the social system with ID registrations to kickstart social grants. Once their living situation is stabilised, the focus shifts to improved emotional health, counselling, life skills and group-support systems. Lastly, once the family unit is functioning well and has the know-how to access resources, Thandanani starts to slowly exit with fewer counselling visits. Each stage is approximately one year, with the entire process taking up to three years.

Ma’ Phenduka outside her house, Dambuza township, Pietermaritzburg, KZN.

However, the reason we’re visiting today is because Thandanani is one of the major beneficiaries of the Old Mutual Staff Payroll Giving programme receiving almost R1 million annually. This programme invites Old Mutual employees to support various social portfolios through voluntary contributions from their monthly salary. The Old Mutual Foundation undertakes to match all staff donations rand-for-rand, thereby doubling the impact of their giving. In the case of Thandanani, the Foundation further undertakes to cover all administration costs, so that 100% of staff funding reaches the end beneficiary.

Thandanani Homecare fieldworker, Zama Ziqubu shares a whisper with Ma’ Phenduka’s daughter.

After talking with Ma’ Phenduka (and admiring the food garden established for her by Thandanani Food security facilitator, Thabani Ndlovu), we jump into the car ‘leaning left’ and ‘leaning right’ with Agnes to visit a second beneficiary family. In the car, Zama Ziqubu explains that she knows almost everyone in the community and can easily assess who is genuinely desperate and who needs assistance. “I know all their stories and who the cheaters are,” she says nodding her head firmly.

Nobuhle Cele and disabled younger brother, holding the family’s memory box.

We arrive at Nobuhle Cele’s (26) house where she is caring for seven other people, including an aged grandmother and a disabled younger brother. This family unit is in Stage 3 and is receiving mostly pyscho-social care. Nobuhle shows us the family’s memory box which “talks to people who’ve lost their loved ones and talks to children who’ve lost parents and have no photos or knowledge of their family history.” Nobuhle also speaks of the help of the support groups she attends and shares, “Now we all sit and eat together as a family, instead of me going off to eat by myself in my room as if I’m angry with everyone.”

Thandanani Homecare fieldworker, Zama Ziqubu offers support to Nobuhle’s grandmother and disabled younger brother.

2 Responses to Strengthening Families

  1. debi says:

    impressive and inspiring!!! Sounds so well organised and well run …

  2. debi says:

    Sounds so well organised and well run …altogether impressive!

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