Exploring Southern KwaZulu Natal
In August DGMT’s Trustees made their annual series of site visits, this year to projects across southern KZN, and the Wild Coast. These site visits are an opportunity for the Trustees to see first-hand the work of our partners, engage in critical discussion on key topics of interest, and learn from those working to tackle the big issues that we invest in.
Our trip began with a visit to the Wild Coast village of Sigidi, where a group of young leaders are being supported by Sustaining the Wild Coast to transform the livelihoods of their communities, and leading the advocacy against companies mining of the Wild Coast sand dunes for titanium. The day started bright and early as we prepared ourselves for a rigorous hike through the gorge (pictured on the left) to get to the village.
We even had a bout of impromptu team-building as we helped each other cross the freezing river at the bottom of the gorge! Hiking through the gorge put into perspective the isolation faced by rural communities and the massive challenge to access resources.
After hiking back through the gorge, we spent the afternoon with Give a Child a Family where we engaged on the critical issues emerging around family reunification, and the process of advocating for kinship foster families to access foster care grants, rather than the much smaller child grant. This conversation continued later in the week as we engaged with multiple organisations around what is working and not working in the implementation of the Children’s Act. We ended the day with a trip to eSayidi FET College where we explored the challenges and opportunities emerging at this rural FET college and their work to link work-seekers to employment opportunities.
A major highlight of the trip was our visit to the NACCW Isibindi Safe Park in Harding where we heard from a group of extraordinary child and youth care workers who are working with the children of the area to support their development and provide a safe space for them. One of the fascinating innovations at the safe park, were the disability-friendly swing-sets (pictured below) and playground equipment.
We spent quite a large portion of our visit grappling with the issues facing young people, and exploring how to connect young people to opportunities. At Project Empower we learned about a programme connecting and supporting young people from Ndumo (rural northern KZN) to tertiary education at UKZN. The Umthombo Youth Development Foundation spoke to us about their extraordinary model of re-staffing rural hospitals through identifying and supporting young people to qualify as medical staff (from professional nurses, to dentists, psychiatrists and doctors). 70% of the graduates who have completed their work-back period continue to work at rural hospitals in KZN. We also saw the work of the KwaDukuza Resource Centre that provides tutoring for high school learners, and is a hub of information for young people looking to connect to employment or tertiary education opportunities.
In Port Shepstone we met with the Network Action Group, who are improving the quality of services being provided by community-based organisations through a group of 25 young “Future Leaders” who work with around 180 CBOs across the Ugu District. In Durban, we also met with the exceptional group of young people that lead the KZN Youth Empowerment Project, whose dedication (including getting up every day at 5am to cook breakfast for 170 small children!) and insightful analysis of the cycles of poverty was inspiring.
Our visits to projects in early childhood development (ECD) included the Unlimited Child – an innovative programme to roll-out educational toys and capacitate ECD workers to ensure the cognitive ability of young children is developed. We also visited the Kheth’Impilo project, which layers ECD support to care-givers on top of a home-visiting programme expertise that was developed through their patient advocate programmes. The Kheth’Impilo project is a critical mechanism to scale quality ECD through supporting the majority of children who are outside of traditional crèches and ECD sites.
The visit concluded with a dinner conversation with KZN Premier, Dr Zweli Mkhize and his wife Dr May Mashego who engaged with us about the critical challenges facing the KZN province, as well as some of the new mechanisms being introduced to tackle these, such as the Sukuma Sakhe programme. Sukuma Sakhe aims to return service delivery to a local level by creating local forums – called “war-rooms” – where representatives of government departments and community members meet regularly to resolve easily solved issues (such as individuals without ID documents or not able to access the Child Care Grant) as well as raise broader service delivery issues that can then be tackled.
The site visits this year gave us a glimpse of the extraordinary work being done by NGOs and CBOs across southern KZN and particularly, how many are crafting innovative solutions to critical challenges. We are grateful to all the organisations that hosted us and who gave us such important insight into their work and their communities.
For more information on these organisations, please follow the above links, or you can read more about them and their projects on our Community of Partners portal.