Home From Home – An African Impact Partnership

African Impact & Home from Home Children, Khayelitsha

Thuleni Dyushu, Project Coordinator in Cape Town was an essential part of establishing this partnership with Home from Home. Over the years, Thuleni’s dedication to this incredible initiative has been nothing short of admirable. Here is the story of how this partnership was formed and how it has developed, told by Thuleni himself. 

after-school programme for children in South Africa

How it all began

African Impact and Home from Home formed a partnership in 2014. The partnership was for African Impact to facilitate an after-school programme that would focus on numeracy and literacy, working with children from Home from Home. African Impact volunteers would facilitate the programme twice a week with an African Impact staff member who would assist in co-ordinating the sessions. Home from Home identified that most of their children were behind with their numeracy and literacy for their respective ages at the time. The first barrier in the programme was language, as the children’s first language is isiXhosa, therefore could not communicate in English and had little understanding of the language. Small steps were included in the programme to build confidence and an understanding of working with people from around the world weekly. Since then, the journey has been nothing but progress, fun and life changing.

The first day I met the children was in April 2014, I had no certain expectations but excited about meeting them. Some were loud, energetic, funny, and others were shy. They were still between the ages of 7-13 years old, therefore everyone wanted to receive attention in every after school session. They started calling me by the name “Bhuti” which means older brother in isiXhosa within the first month of working with them. In the Xhosa culture calling an elder person “bhuti” is a sign of respect, so I knew we were on the right track. I was starting to notice all the different personalities and potential amongst the children on a weekly basis. The volunteers enjoyed the work they were doing with the children and were astonished by their curiosity, flamboyance on small achievements during our sessions, and positivity. We played educational games, danced to music, laughed at each other, and created friendships beyond borders. Volunteers wrote motivational farewell letters and so did the children. Smiles, tears of joy, energy, and more energy were the order of the day.

volunteer playing educational games with children in South Africa

Language barrier? No problem!

Later in the year 2014, we introduced art as a form of expression because language was still a barrier. We would have an end of the year Home from Home Oscar awards Ceremony, awards would be handed out and the children would perform. We invited their foster mothers, social worker and other Home from Home staff members. We had one child who we never knew went to the school of magic, he turned water into juice and the crowd went wild excitement. He pulled more tricks under his sleeve I almost fell off my sit, I was shocked at the fact that he kept this a secret all along. The volunteers worked on ideas with the children months before the ceremony and did rehearsals with them. When it was time for action, they never disappointed. We had actors, dancers, singers, comedians and a magician. We gave each child a medal as an award for their participation in the programme throughout the year. We ended the year in a celebration mood, with smiles, laughter and togetherness.

Making a meaningful impact

In 2015, we received great feedback from Home from Home about the improvement of some of the children at school, which was testimony of impactful contribution to their development by volunteers. In 2015, African Impact was blessed with staff members and volunteers who were teachers back home therefore new activities and assessments were introduced. The after school programme become more educational and quarterly assessments were taken to monitor progress of each child. Home from Home also introduced private tutors for their children on a weekly basis. The after school programme and the tutors would help the academic development of the children. We still had to have fun though, so we introduced spelling bees, hangman, scrabble, and more games that they would enjoy but improve their literacy or numeracy. In order to have a great balance of the week, we agreed with Home from Home to volunteer an extra day weekly, which was a sports day.

sports-coaching-community-development-zambia

Sport day was popular, the children and volunteers were so competitive in a friendly manner. I do not want to call out names, you know who you are, I see you volunteers. Anyway, cricket, football, athletics, softball, volleyball, and touch rugby were some of the sports we all enjoyed. Children and volunteers developed team work, positive mentality, and improved physical health. This was also the first time we witnessed the athletic talent some of the children had for their age, which would be fruitful in years to come. I must admit, I got out ran, lost games, and fell a couple of times. Don’t judge me, I was the project coordinator, I had to lose but not willingly most of the time. We have many volunteers and African Impact staff members to be thankful too because all of this would have been impossible without them. Sport day brought the children closer to the volunteers, they were a team and through this day communication improved.

The partnership continued to grow

The after school programme was such a success that we went to Home from Home twice a week, then it was three and then a fourth day was introduced in 2016. The children were getting older therefore we introduced girl club and boy club. These clubs focused on teenage puberty and life skills. The programme was in a transitional stage, the children could communicate better, they were now teenagers and developing their own personalities. This was one of the most impactful year by volunteers, the children felt that they could ask anything during the club days. If I was in the girl club, they would ask me to go out because they want to ask certain questions from volunteers without my presence and I would do so. To give you more context, in the Xhosa culture, parents do not usually find it easy to talk about puberty topics which could lead to other complicated questions. Therefore, the boys and girls found this new space that they were free to ask and share.

boy club for children in South Africa

Introduction of the Duke of Edinburgh Award

In 2017, the after-school programme was adjusted accordingly with their growth in agreement with Home from Home. We changed from numeracy and literacy to sports and teenage life skills education in 2016. In 2017, the President’s Award (Duke of Edinburgh award) was introduced and the children started the bronze level. The bronze level required them to complete community service hours, do an overnight adventure, learn a new sport and learn a new skill. We went hiking, indoor rock climbing, camping, learnt how to play chess, teenagers volunteered at local non- government organisations, and learnt new sports. This all helped eleven of the children achieve the bronze level of the Duke of Edinburg President’s award. This period was one of my favourite times in the programme. The children were persistent, committed, motivated, and embraced the journey. African Impact volunteers were committed to making sure that all requirements were fulfilled. During this journey we hiked 24km over two days, some of the children would help carry luggage for the slower hikers and we all made it. These memories are imbedded in their minds and ours. The process of completing the programme took 18 months and was completed later in 2018.

hiker children and volunteers in Africa

The beginning of School in a Box

In 2018 and 2019, the programme had teenagers and young adults. We introduced digital education into the programme in agreement with Home from Home. The programme was called school in a box. We used tablets that had an educational software that was aligned to the South African education curriculum. This was a huge transition in the programme for the children, volunteers and staff members. It reminded me of the language barrier in 2014, when the programme started. The volunteers had to make weekly plans digitally and the children had to learn how to use the gadgets and complete the activities. One thing, I love when all the children are learning at the same time, are the smiles and excitement of managing to complete an activity. The children who were quicker learners helped the others and volunteers would help children on a one on one basis. The children were making progress on the digital learning platform however everything changed when the Covid pandemic arrived in South Africa, March 2020.

The Covid pandemic & effect on the partnership

Before I even talk about the Covid pandemic, at every stage of the after school programme with Home from Home, their social workers, education specialist, directors, foster mothers, and ECD teachers at their resource centre have been fantastic partners in making sure that the best interests of the children are put first and protected. I really appreciate their commitment over the last 8 years and work ethic in making sure the programme is progressive. The Covid pandemic resulted to a national state of emergency and lockdown regulations. Our partnership had to be paused for the safety of all parties but it will be continued in 2023.

Family volunteering in africa
volunteer teacher in South Africa

Impacts & achievements

In 2021, 5 children who were part of the programme since 2014 graduated from high school. This year, they all started their first year at Universities and colleges in Cape Town, South Africa. They are studying Public Management, Early Childhood Education, Business Administration, Sport Science, and Nursing. I would be lying if I said I saw this coming, however I knew that it was possible. When I consider, my life journey or you consider your life journey, the obstacles these children fought kept me inspired. It was not hard but harder, it was not a bumpy road but one with potholes, and there were not many options for them but they used the only one they had.

We congratulate all of them for their achievement. We are proud to have been part of this inspiring journey and wish them all the best in the years to come with their studies. We are thankful to Home from Home, African Impact volunteers, African Impact Foundation and all the African Impact staff members over these years for their contribution in the after-school programme.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela
We look forward to working with more children from Home from Home in the next coming years. If you are interested in making a meaningful impact to this incredible initiative, check out our Early Childhood Development project in Cape Town here! 
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