We aim to break the cycle of generational poverty that exists in rural areas by equipping people with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make positive contributions to their communities. Founded in 2008, we began working in the rural community of Mtwalume on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal as an after-school programme. Our model for sustainable development and education was developed around the idea of using local resources to provide after-school educational support. 9 years later, we offer a holistic approach to development that encompasses a variety of programmes and services.
The Mtwalume community faces noticeable challenges including high rates of HIV/AIDS, poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment. Children here suffer from anxiety, fear, depression, anger, and lack of trust. Oftentimes, children experience these burdens in isolation, lacking the cognitive and emotional skills to cope with their situation. Nearly half of learners enrolled in Thanda’s After-school Programmes are orphans – due to having lost a parent or guardian to HIV/AIDS – and 39% report not having enough food to eat at home. Local schools offer poor quality education, and are ill-equipped to address children’s developmental needs. As a result, children are passed on to the next grade without strong foundations in literacy, numeracy or science, and few are motivated to learn. The vast majority of youth in the community leave their homes in search of work opportunities in nearby cities (mainly Durban), but find themselves unable to compete with their peers due to inadequate levels of education, training and skills. Consequently, they either become involved in gangs and/or drugs, or are forced to return home jobless.
Our holistic approach to community development is rooted in the idea of involving local resources to build cost-effective, highly sustainable solutions, with core programming centered around:
- Early Childhood Development: Provides all day educational activities to 60 children, ages two through four, that are adapted to their developmental needs.
- After-school Education: Offers interactive, educational after-school programming for 600 orphans and vulnerable children and youth in Grades R-11. It involves an experiential, inter-disciplinary Creative Learning Curriculum that builds strong educational foundations and five essential life skills: self-esteem, critical thinking, rebelliousness, empathy and creativity. All sessions take place in empty classrooms at local schools and members of the community are hired and trained to become After-School Facilitators.
- Feeding Scheme: Provides nutritious meals for ~750 children and youth enrolled in Early Childhood Development and After-school Programmes
- Outreach Programmes: Teach children and youth in the surrounding community a wide range of educational and life skills.
- Organic Farming Training & Small-Business Development: Builds self-confidence, improves food security, and encourages local enterprise development.
- Community Centre: Serves as the hub of all Thanda operations, a safe place for children and youth to spend their free time, and a homestead model for the local community – includes the municipality’s only library, art centre, science lab, playground and skate park, as well as an on-site kitchen, organic vegetable garden, and pig pen.