School, weather and hospital trips 

I feel like so much happens on these placements that one or two blog posts just don’t do it justice. 
Last week we started our projects, going into schools and teaching English and Six Bricks (a Lego development program), visiting local crèches, and facilitating a youth homework club. At the moment it’s a weird mix of having so much to do, and moments where we have nothing. Trying to keep everyone motivated is proving difficult, but I know how frustrating it is to leave somewhere believing you haven’t done enough. It’s also a hard balance because I don’t want to overwork everyone, this program can be really tough and I don’t want to add to the stress. I’m really proud of how my team are dealing with it so far. It’s hard to adjust to a new culture (even for the SA volunteers), new work, and new people all at the same time, but they’re thriving and I firmly believe they’re going achieve some great things.
The weather here has been a bit insane, it went from one day at 40 degrees to the next at 17. One moment the sun will be beating down on us, the next it will be chucking it down with rain. It’s honestly as temperamental as in England, though perhaps a little more extreme. Unfortunately, it has meant there were a few schools we couldn’t get to last week due to the rain. This was frustrating but provided us with some good downtime and a chance for team bonding.

The community continues to be great support to us, particularly the team at Wellspring and Abbie, I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. I’m discovering that being a team leader can be a very isolating position to be in and so the support I receive is invaluable. As a team leader I’m often the messenger, yet the phrase ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ doesn’t seem to apply. However, I think that the team often need someone to shoot their arrows at, so for the moment at least, I’m happy to be that person, I just might need to prepare some better armour.

Complete chaos struck on Friday as one of our team members, Amy, became extremely ill and I had to accompany her to the hospital. Her fever was raging and she was in a lot of pain. We travelled to Pietermaritzburg (1 ½ hours away) where she was admitted (after waiting 7 hours!) for observation. We were relieved to discover that she didn’t need surgery but the diagnosis still wasn’t great. She was supposed be discharged today but the doctor is still concerned about a number of things and so we’re still without our beloved Amy. It most definitely is not the same without her here and we’re desperate for her return.

Prayer requests:

For Amy, that she recovers quickly and can return to us, and in the meantime not be too bored or isolated in hospital; that she knows she is loved and missed.

For motivation – to continue in our work even when it’s tempting to give up.

For friendships in the team, that we’ll all be able to support each other, particularly on the hard days.

For energy and peace of mind –this weekend has been particularly difficult and stressful and I think we could all do with boost.



Imbeleko Blog Post No. 2

Sorry that such a long time has passed since our last update. Over the past few weeks have been very busy here at the Imbeleko Foundation. There is so much to share with you all!

An update on our home visits

I am pleased to say that in just 2 weeks we were able to complete all of our 80 primary school home visits along with our database capturing all of the information on each child. The home visits were the final step in completing the Imbeleko enrolment process. Even though it was at times an exhausting task walking to each of the homes, it was a unique opportunity to explore the community of KwaNyuswa with the beautiful backdrop of the Valley of 1000 Hills. Meeting the kids, hearing their stories and walking the distance that they travel to school every day (often uphill and sometimes very far) showed us how motivated they are to learn and to get a good education. All of that has inspired us as a team to try and create the best after school programme possible.

After school education programme

The after school sessions last for 1½ hours each and take place in 4 of the primary schools in the area. Every session includes 45 minutes of Life Skills and 45 minutes of English. We are implementing 4 sessions of this new programme and the next ICS team will then take over. Our decided topic for each of the life skills sessions is Identity, covering themes such as values, healthy relationships and peer pressure. We have also spent some time carrying out community mapping exercises with the pupils. This aims to give both the ICS team and the Peace Corps volunteers a clearer idea of the way in which the children view their community; i.e. the layout of their community, what they like/ don’t like about it, what they find challenging, what they would like to see etc. This research can then be used to help inform future community development projects in the area.

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The English Programme we have been recently trained on and will be using is called “Gateway into Reading” by the Neema Foundation. Neema Foundation aims to “bring hope through education”. English is a key factor in succeeding within higher education and securing jobs in South Africa and this is why Imbeleko have picked it as a main focus in the primary school programme. We are excited to be using the Neema Foundation programme as they have had great results improving English skills in pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. At the moment we are completing the first 2 weeks of the programme. This consists of phonics, reading and spelling assessments to find out the English level of each learner, and from there we will then be able to tailor the programme to best suit them.

Creating a holiday club resource

We are currently working on our Holiday Club Resource that we can hand over to the next team, who will then implement it during the July school break. 150 High School pupils will take part in the week long educational and fun programme. There will be workshops each morning in Media, Drama, Arts and Craft, Sports and Dance. Then in the afternoons there will be talks based around some issues that may affect the young people; drug and alcohol abuse, internet safety and sexual and reproductive health. Plans are also in progress for a team challenge day and also a community action day (including a litter clear up, gardening and possibly painting a mural in the community). This is the first Holiday Programme that Imbeleko is running on such a large scale and we have enjoyed being a part of the planning even though we will not be there when it takes place.

Raising awareness and funding for the Imbeleko Foundation

Sbu the CEO of Imbeleko has taken on the challenge of walking and cycling 1000 kms over a period of 12 weeks. This has the aim of making the dreams of a 1000 children from the Valley of 1000 Hills a reality. On the 16th of May we joined Sbu along with 150 other people (both High School students and other guests) on a 5k walk through the community to raise awareness and funds for Imbeleko. Our team played a role in helping to coordinate the walk and Steph designed a banner and invitations. As it was also Sbu’s 40th birthday there was a big celebration afterwards with food, music and speeches. The day was a massive success! It was crazy how it all came together with only 1 ½ weeks of planning.

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Thanks for taking time to read about what we’ve been getting up to. There has been a lot of hard work but also laughter and joy on our ICS journey so far! Please continue to pray for us as we go into the final weeks of our placement.

Why not add a comment or share.

Catherine (and the rest of the Imbeleko Foundation team) 🙂


Week 5 at Khayelisha and Mid Term Review

This week has been such a highlight for us. We started off working at Khayelisha and the school, managing to gain momentum on our various projects, which was really encouraging, and then on Wednesday we headed back to Durban for our Midterm Review. As our team is so far away from the city we were given the opportunity to arrive a day earlier than everyone else. So at 4am we all piled into the car, fuelled with excitement for the days ahead. A few hours later we found ourselves back in civilisation and on our way to Ushaka Marine – the local waterpark and aquarium. Patrick, Matt, and I were all keen to fit in as much as possible and headed to the waterslides as Katlego and Nonto chilled in the aquarium. As it was a school day in their winter (at 26 degrees) we had the place to ourselves, meaning we could run from slide to slide without delay. We all rediscovered our inner child as we span down each tube, full of delight as we hit the pools below. At 11.30 we met up as a team to watch the dolphin show, having never seen anything like it I was amazed at being so close, and was relieved to find out that the dolphins they used were actually rescues rather than captives. The creatures were so beautiful and graceful, it wasn’t difficult to see why the shows are a constant success.

After we dried off and had a quick mooch around the shops, we were greeted by Debbie to take us to where we’d be staying for the next few nights. The place was truly beautiful, it was in a location called Valley of a Thousand Hills, and we sat right at the top. Words cannot explain the views we were surrounded by.

The next day was equally exciting as we saw the arrival of all of the other volunteers; after being separated for a month it was so good to catch up and the site was filled with everyone hugging and laughing. We spent the day discussing what each team had been up to and the different ways in which we could improve ourselves and each other for the coming weeks. In the evening I brought out some henna which I had bought the day before, and by bedtime most people had some form of design on their arm or ankle.

On Friday we had the opportunity to take part in some team building activities at a game reserve called Spirit of Adventure. Despite having worked with each other for four weeks we still had a lot to learn from one another and it was a real insight into how we all operated. We were lucky enough to have the afternoon off and were all thrilled to have time to bond as a big team once again. Saturday was an early start as we headed back to Tugela Ferry, re-energised and ready to get stuck back into the work.

Prayer Requests

Nonto has an interview for a job on Sunday so we pray this goes well.

There are a lot of solar ovens to be made, Katlego is doing a fantastic job so we pray his motivation keeps us going.

We have started an idea for a business competition, we will start having meetings next week so we hope that this goes well.

Braai’s and Birthdays!

They-wa! What kind? How’s it?

So I basically said Hi, How are you? In “Coloured” slang.

Don’t worry, I know it’s not politically correct to us but the community we are staying in is called a “Coloured” community which is what we would call Mixed Race or Bi-racial. There are a few other ethnic groups such as Zulu and Indian but it is predominantly Coloured. So even though the language they speak is English, they also speak Deep slang, making it difficult for others to really understand what they are saying. But we are beginning to pick some things up.

We have also found ourselves very integrated into a local Church called Joy Chapel . Although it is one of 11 churches in Mariannridge, our South African Team leader, Tebogo lives with the Pastors’ family so we got a lift with them in the morning. The church is held for 2 hours from 9am to 11am, similar to most of the churches although it sometimes goes over, but it is hard to notice as so much is going on. The service is very loud from the worship team to the very energetic and youthful – spirited congregation. Even the grandma’s are up on their feet dancing.


Services are held in English but often they sing a mixture of Zulu and Afrikaans songs as many tribes are represented in the church. One word I can use to best describe the ethos of the church is “free” in all senses of the word. From the way they worship to the way they embrace each and everybody. The members made us feel so welcome that we also attend cell group on Tuesdays and Youth on Fridays. Our first week in the church, we were asked to lead the Friday Youth session. The ages range from 15 to 25 years. As nervous as we were and without having an understanding of how the youth program is usually run, we accepted and we realised that South African kids are excited over the same things as any other kids. The famous game of “30 seconds” seemed to already be a big hit among them and their competitive edge meant that creativity was at its highest.

One thing that South Africans love to do is have a Braai. This is pretty much a Bbq but it is very popular and brings everyone together all year round. They normally eat every type of meat including ‘wors’ which is similar to sausage but bigger and is indigenous to the people of South Africa. We were invited to Kaylen’s birthday, one of the girls from the church, who had a “Bring and Braai” which meant that we literally had to bring our own meat. We also got to try Chakalaka, which was like a very sweet salsa sauce that went very well with the Braai meat and Puthu, a Zulu delicacy, similar to potato mixed with sweetcorn, butter and salt.

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One of the South African volunteers, Jabu came across an outdoor Braai on his morning jogs and we decided to check it out also. It was pretty much an outdoor restaurant where you are able to purchase your own meat at the counter, pick your seasoning and then go outside to cook it to your liking on the grills provided. The restaurant itself was situated on the side of the road, meaning that it was very open with music blasting, while people came in big groups to cook their meat, drink and dance. Our initial plan was to walk there, but one of the church members from Joy Chapel, Basil, was driving passed and gave us a lift. We also invited him to join us. Thank God we did as we would not have managed the walk back because of the amount we ate!

Last weekend, we joined forces with City Celebration which are a dance network that visit many different communities, sharing the art of dance with young girls in particular and encouraging them to express themselves in many different ways. We expected 100 girls, however only 20 turned up. The numbers were disappointing but when we asked the local people, they informed us that it was very common of the Mariannridge community to promise that they will come but never show up. Despite the turn out, we didn’t want to give up so we invited girls who we saw on the street playing or were walking passed and encouraged them to come in and take part. We also found a lot of young boys on the streets that seemed to be very bored and were causing a nuisance, so we invited them in also. After all the efforts, there were around 35 kids. The second dilemma we faced was that we were providing lunch and therefore had a lot of food left over. But God had a much better plan. Luckily, we had only decided to make a few of the sandwiches until we knew how many people were coming. The rest of the bread was still sealed so we donated the rest to Uncle Ralph for him to distribute to the local houses. This was such a blessing in the end and we were really happy that things all worked out so well. We were also asked to lead a few games for the kids including the Okey Kokey!  And of course, face painting was involved! By the end of the day, we were exhausted but not tired enough to say no to yet another Braai! This time we were invited by the YLT (Youth Leadership Team) who were another group of students implementing a spirit of active citizenship in the community. We intend to collaborate with them in a few upcoming projects so stay tuned for this.

We still need prayer in regards to our upcoming projects which involve planning for a sports day in the primary school and a big litter campaign to clean up the streets of Mariannridge.

We are all still doing very well in terms of health and team bonding so we thank God for that.

So I am just rushing off to a meeting but will post another blog next week. Thank you very much for all the prayers and support, we are so grateful and we pray that God continues to bless us and that we trust for God’s hand to be in everything that we do.

Thanks again and God bless


Hello from Focus on iThemba

Hi everyone!

After travelling for over 32 hours the UK volunteers finally arrived here on the 11th of April! We stayed at a pastoral centre/ hostel which just fit all 47 members of our team (we’ve been split up into eight smaller teams who are located across KwaZulu Natal within this). We had a pretty chilled day on the Sunday, we went to a church in Durban centre and then had the afternoon to relax, do lots of chatting, played some games and got to know each other better. Orientation started at eight on Monday morning- we had to be up for breakfast by seven- which was a bit of a shock to everyone from England! We’ve discovered over the five weeks we’ve been here that everyone will be awake by six and have started going about their day- half seven is a lie in! However, we’ve also discovered that South African ‘midnight’ is nine o clock, and we’ve have got used to being in bed and ready to go to sleep by eight- sometimes earlier if load shedding happens! So our days at orientation were long, we’d start at eight am, and then we’d finish by nine pm (seven pm one day which was fab!), with the odd toilet break, and then dinner and lunch thrown in, it’s safe to say we were all shattered by the time we’d finished the week! Our evenings tended to be filled with lots of cups of tea, singing various songs with the girls and a guitar! And also enjoying the hot showers whilst we had some! After our week of orientation finished, groups started going to their host homes on the Friday afternoon. Some of us weren’t leaving until late Friday evening, or until Saturday morning (as we did) and so we had an afternoon at the beach and had a chance to buy some ice-cream which was a brilliant day- the beach is beautiful and the sea wasn’t freezing which is always a bonus! Our team consists of five people, three of us from England (Me, Jo and Constance our team leader) and two from South Africa (Nokwe who is my South African counterpart and Nonku who’s Jo’s counterpart).

So, we’ve been at our host home for over a month now- time has flown by! We arrived at about 9am on Saturday 18th of April and were welcomed with huge smiles, hugs and lots of love! Constance, Nokwe and I are staying with a South African Gogo (grandma) in a house which she moved out of so we could stay which is amazingly generous! Jo and Nonku are living in another house slightly further down the road from us (after a slightly difficult first week in a house with such a kind hearted Gogo but was unfortunately not suitable for Jo and Nonku to live in and so they were moved to be closer to us, and are now with an amazing family in a beautiful house). For our first week we (Jeni, Constance and Nokwe) were cooked for, had our washing done and were pretty much spoilt rotten- however this was due to a slight lack in communication about the money which was provided for our food so we’re now cooking, cleaning and washing for ourselves which in some ways has been quite a blessing as it means we’re able to eat what we want, and at the times we’d like so no more evening meals at 3.30! Nonku helps with the cooking and cleaning in her host home. We all have a working toilet inside which is a luxury here but we have to fill up the tank every time we want to flush it as there is no running water in the house as something to do with some tap somewhere is broken and the house will apparently get flooded, so we have to fetch it from outside to wash up, have baths (using a bowl full of cold water mixed with boiling water and a jug- we’re all so excited to have a real shower when we get home!) cook, and everything else. Gogo also has two women working for her as she is too old (she’s said this herself!) to look after her house on her own, and they’re both lovely, one speaks fluent English which is fab, and the other doesn’t speak much other than basic hello’s and stuff.

We’ve mainly been working at a crèche called Siyajabula in the Embo Valley (a rural area) alongside an organisation called Focus on iThemba. The children are all hilarious- one of them told Nokwe she thought Jeni was an angel because she’s so white which made us all laugh! We’re getting used to being fed a lot of plastic food by the children at the crèche who love coming up to us and hearing us go ‘nomnomnom’! A typical day at Siyajabula would be to get up and have breakfast at about seven/ half seven, walk down to the crèche for eight/half eight and then help the teachers out with breakfast- we give out bowls of porridge and then feed the younger children who can’t yet feed themselves, then its lesson time (at this point we usually go and work in the garden for a bit, or do some admin in the office as we’re more of a distraction than a help! Nokwe sometimes helps run the lesson for the 3-5 year olds which she’s brilliant at), then it’s outside play time for the children. After this its lunchtime where we again dish out food to all the children and help those who can’t feed themselves, then the children go to sleep while we clean, and sometimes give Gogo Elizabeth a computer lesson before the ‘official’ end of the day. However- as some of you may have guessed- people here are very chilled and so some children are picked up 2-3 hours after the end of the day. We normally come home between half 1 and 3 as the crèche shuts at this point for aftercare of the children who haven’t been picked up yet. We tend to go back to Nonku’s house to do admin/paperwork, make resources for the creches and prepare for the next day, and then we’ll separate and have dinner before going to sleep for the next day.

Every Tuesday we go to Siyabaphephisa crèche where we get to paint one of the two classrooms. We have also been doing the ECD assessment report (a report of which the goal is to help them become registered with the government to allow the crèches to receive funding and support-however this can take years to achieve!) with the owner Bright. Hopefully we can help her crèche to get closer to be registered by the Department of Social Development. This Thursday Khanya is driving us to Sizakancane crèche. We haven’t been to this crèche since week 2! So as you can imagine there is a lot of work to be done.

In the next few weeks, we hope to deliver First Aid, Child Protection, and Hygiene training at all three crèches as well as completing all the ECD reports, and delivering some of the teaching resources we’ve been making!

If you have time your prayers would be wonderful for the following things:

  • Continued bonding as a team- we’re all getting on really well which is wonderful!
  • Thankfulness that we’ve all arrived safely, are living in safe host homes, and that we’ve not had any major problems.
  • For continued good health- no-one is ill at the moment (fingers crossed!) but there’s a lot of flu/colds going round that we don’t want to catch!
  • Last but not least, that we’ll continue to build positive relationships with the people we’re working with at the three crèches, iThemba, the local community we’re living within, the people that we’re staying with and that through everything we do we’ll shine out the love of Jesus! J

Thank you all for your support, love and prayers!

Hello from the Imbeleko Foundation team!

SANIBONANI from Team Imbeleko!

ICS ‘Team Imbeleko’ with Phindile, one of the staff from The Imbeleko Foundation. From left to right: Sphesihle, Catherine, Phindile, Steph (Team Leader), Innocentia, Leroy.

It’s hard to believe that we have now been in South Africa for over 2 weeks. Time really does fly! Orientation in Week 1 was absolutely jam-packed. We had the opportunity to meet new people and receive training on a number of topics including poverty, HIV/AIDS, child development and sexual and reproductive health.  We also found out what to expect on placement etc. as well as being given the chance to get used to the food (fish fingers for breakfast was very interesting).

It was really amazing to see 46 UK and South African volunteers, from different backgrounds coming together with a common purpose- to make a difference in our world!

Leaving orientation on the 17th April we knew a little more about the Imbeleko Foundation. However, the Imbeleko Foundation has never had an ICS team based there before so we didn’t have any handover notes from previous teams and didn’t quite know what to expect. It was an exciting prospect for our team getting to develop new projects with the NGO but we have to admit, we were nervous going into the unknown. There was no need to be anxious however, as on Saturday night we met the amazing Sbu who is the director of Imbeleko Foundation. Along with having a delicious meal, we had the opportunity to hear how passionate Sbu is about helping the children/young people in KwaNyuswa to fulfil their potential. We also met the Peace Corps volunteers Anna and Matt who are also based at the organisation.

The Imbeleko Foundation was founded by Sbu’s sister, Dr Seni Myeni who grew up in KwaNyuswa. Dr Seni grew up with great support from a community of women which inspired her to give back and mentor young girls. As a physician who lived with brain cancer for 3 years she began to understand the challenges faced by mothers who were diagnosed with terminal illnesses and the fears they faced about leaving their children behind, especially in poor rural communities. She then established the NGO with the purpose of giving hope to orphaned children. ‘Imbeleko’ is a Zulu word for a cloth that is used by African mothers to carry babies on their backs. Imbeleko provides warmth and allows them to hear their mother’s heartbeat when they lay their head against their mothers back. The Imbeleko Foundation aims to do just this – provide warmth, love and care to orphans.

During our 9 week placement we are all living with host families within the community of KwaNyuswa based in the absolutely beautiful, Valley of a Thousand Hills.


The past week has been filled with many firsts for our team.  It has been a challenge for us at times- experiencing water shortages, load shedding, new food and being away from home! We have however, received a very warm welcome from our Host Families, community and Churches which has helped us to settle in.

On the placement so far, we have been making plans for how we are going to fulfil our team vision:

To be a team who seek to empower the people we serve to realise their full potential in God, embracing their individuality. We will be positive role models who will strive to seek justice and teach key life skills in an authentic and loving way.

Over the past week we created a database to capture information on approximately 250 children and young people who will be part of the new Imbeleko Foundation education programme; this will consist of an after school programme for primary school pupils and a Saturday morning programme for secondary school pupils. The education programme will teach topics such as Maths, English, Science, Accounting and Life Skills (topics depend on the age of the pupils). The information is gathered through both school referrals and follow up home visits. Over the next couple of weeks we are taking on the challenging task of visiting over 200 family homes to record information on each child taking part in the programme… we better get our walking shoes ready!

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The home visits take a holistic approach, assessing the socio-economic status of the household as well as, for example, the health of the child/young person, their interests/hobbies and their educational progress. The data gathered in the database may even be used by the organisation in the future to apply for donor funding; having evidenced the need for the education programme.

Over the next 8 week we will also be busy creating a holiday club resource. This will be used by the next team in the summer who will arrive just in time to run the holiday club. We are also looking to set up a Library in KwaNyuswa Primary School, with books donated to Imbeleko Foundation, and will be helping to begin preparations for a community end of year event.

THANK YOU for taking time to read about how we are getting on! Why not keep in touch by adding a comment. It would also be amazing if you could keep us and the project in your prayers over the coming weeks.

Keep an eye out for another update soon.

Catherine (and the rest of the Imbeleko Foundation team)