December 2012 – Vukuzakhe Update

To our funders, well-wishers and friends,

This will be our last Newsletter for 2012. We at Vukuzakhe Projects wish you all a blessed and joyful Christmas and a New Year in which a measure of prosperity will return.

The tiny girl sitting in the bright red igloo is Xolisiwe Mbedlana and she is seven years old. She was born very prematurely and her mother, a teenager, abandoned her. Sister Abigail Nhleko took her under her wing. At the time, doctors said that Xolisiwe would never talk and would be little more than a burden all her life.

Next year Xolisiwe will be in Grade ‘R’ at Noah’s Ark  and learning to write. She can count. She talks. She sings like a nightingale. And she laughs!

Xoli (as she is known) has many friends at Noah’s Ark and is much loved.

Here in South Africa our economy has followed those of most other countries – in the wake of a weakening currency and rising oil prices, we have seen our fuel prices more than double this year. Our economy is further assailed by labour unrest (and events unfolding around Marikana), which spread from mines to transport and then to the Western Cape’s wines and fresh produce. The queue of people at our food distribution points run by the local churches get longer and we see new faces every week – but praise the Lord that we still have food to distribute!

This year Pierre went to the Central Drakensberg by invitation to a conference where he received the Premier’s Award at the Board of Health Funders Conference.  Several organisations were short-listed but Vukuzakhe won because of the scope of its involvement – for which various Funders awarded the Project R45000. More importantly, we have a commitment from a major supplier to conduct Optometric Evaluation at schools we nominate.

VUKUZAKHE’S focus is on EDUCATION, believing as we do that it is the key element in the upliftment of formerly disadvantaged people. These Programmes are:

FARM FAMILY LITERACY which includes the Township groups meeting in the Congregational Church Hall and Jabulani Community Hall twice weekly and regularly reaches 62 adults. Let the facilitators tell their story:

Sbongile Ngcobo writes: “We teach them to write their names, complete bank forms to deposit and withdraw money, complete registration forms for their children. And lately they have been learning to read their children’s school books and can read stories to them.

We teach them a lot about the importance of clean water and the various diseases that affect us in our country – how to protect themselves against such diseases. There is a crisis in our country of child abuse and we teach them how to protect their children, what signs of abuse to look for and what to do if they think their child may be abused.

Our Department of Social Development runs a project called sukuma sakhe and the departments of Education, Home Affairs and Health are a part of it. We encourage our adults to register, obtain their Identity Documents and register for their pensions and social grants. We encourage them to go to the Clinic to check their status so that they can get help before they get sick.”

Nompumulelo Nyati also runs an Adult Literacy Group. She tells us about her group:  “Some of our Group complained that they cannot see well, so Pierre organised tests and spectacles for them.  We are using a book called Advanced English – it teaches them things they need to know in their daily lives with topics like Town, The House, The Kitchen. They have to read an advertisement every week and tell the class about it. My Adult Learners no longer want to read in isiZulu – they want to learn English! And they do not want to be absent from class in case they miss something – even their employers have asked to see their work.”

The Adult Education and Dancing Pencils programme includes a SEWING GROUP, run by Mompumelelo and Zinhle Mbanjwa (an Intern starting studies to be a teacher).One hundred of the rosettes pictured here were made for the Board of Health Funders Conference and were sold for R4500. Nompumelelo tells us: “We sold many rosettes and bookmarks, including some to Generation Joy. The sewing ladies have learnt that they must give 5% of their sales to buy something for needy people to share. They are taught to not waste money but to save for future needs.”

DANCING PENCILS  GROUPS  are run by teachers and facilitators sponsored by Vukuzakhe, currently reaching 401 school children from poorer communities twice weekly. Many of these children come from child-headed households or households where the sole parent is only semi-literate or is a grandmother upon whom the burden of raising young children has fallen after the death of the parent/s through HIV/AIDS-related illness. Invariably, these children are traumatised by the events they have seen in their young lives and the insecurities under which they live. DANCING PENCILS assists them with the homework their guardians cannot, provides them with an outlet for their emotions and a willing ear for their problems. Dancing Pencils includes  DRAMA GROUPs with 110 members. It also provides Trauma Counselling.

Nompumelelo Nyathi writes: “We help children with their homework and we help them to understand what they are being taught at school. We make sure that the things we do with them relate to the theme they are doing at school – for instance, they are now learning about people who help us. They read a story that tells them that people like firemen and nurses and policemen are important to us as a community. They read together with the facilitator and they read individually and then they dramatise the story – the teacher needs to be creative to help the children become the people they are dramatising. For example, for the nurses we do white caps with red crosses. Children impersonate firemen, policemen and so on.

For the seasons of the year they make butterflies and flowers (Spring), see the birds returning and the many different insects – we are very fortunate to be surrounded by trees so they can observe the seasons.

Of course, the big day will come next year when the bicycles and shoes and pencils arrive – stuff that is very helpful to them.”

The FOOTBALL CLUB is run by Xolani Mofokeng, and has both Boys’ and Girls’ teams. He also runs the Dancing Pencils DRAMA GROUP. He tells his own story: “Since I started soccer I have seen many changes in kids’ lives. I keep them busy on Saturdays and Sundays to stop them getting involved in crimes and drugs.  Even the girls have something to do – I keep them fit and healthy and the rate of teenage pregnancies is lower than among the Township girls.  There were girls who were on Kubber drugs and sniffing glue but I asked them to join my teams and they have stopped.

They are doing well and they don’t want anyone to know about the drugs they were doing before – they confide in me and promise not to do it again.”

He goes on to discuss his Dancing Pencils DRAMA GROUP: “they are open to talk about their lives and everything that happens in the Township like drugs and prostitution. We put it into drama so that people who watch our drama will recognise themselves and stop destroying our kids’ future – like old people dating young kids because they’ve got the money.  All the kids who work with me like books and they make me proud.”

Vukuzakhe also assists the youth of our District with BURSARIES for further education. One of these recipients is ZINHLE MBANJWA who is serving an internship at Underberg Primary School. The idea is that all beneficiaries of assistance should repay Vukuzakhe by committing time to community projects. Zinhle reports: “I am an Assistant in Grade 1at Underberg Primary School and also teach in the Mastery unit. I thank Vukuzakhe for giving me this opportunity and I think this experience is going to make me the best teacher I can be. I live in the hostel with the children, some of whom are sponsored by Vukuzakhe because of their home environments. Tor, Nosipho and Bongeka say Hostel is the best home they have ever had.

I work with children who are grieving. With Bonga, we do Play Therapy at Underberg, Camanga and Noah’s Ark.  We have had to get children through emotional and physical abuse at home.

Vukuzakhe has sent me on the Nal’bali Course which taught me to be a good reader and story teller, and a course in Pietermaritzburg about being a Reflective Practitioner.”

Another Bursary Student, Phumla Ngcobo, is studying Journalism at Grahamstown University and recently visited us to report on her progress, where she has been accepted for her Third Year studies.