Practitioner Training

Our ECD programme aims to build the capacity of those who work with preschool children,  and to promote long-term sustainability for community preschools. Due to systemic inequality and a lack of services, millions of South African children are denied their right to a quality early education. In response, ordinary citizens all over the country have set up informal preschools on their own.

Often, the quality of these preschools – from the infrastructure to the education – is a concern, and many principals and practitioners have little to no formal training. One aspect of our ECD programme focuses on providing training to preschool practitioners, so that they can better provide quality early education to the children they care for.

Practitioner sings with the children at Njongo Yethu Educare in Khayelitsha © Sydelle Willow Smith

Practitioner Training

Our preschool in Khayelitsha, Kwakhanya Educare, serves as a training facility where practitioners can gain practical experience and mentorship in the classroom. Training topics include learning through play, working with parents, using books and educational toys, and how to best make use of the classroom space.

Through experiential learning, mentoring and support, practitioners are able to vastly improve the quality of the care and education that they provide the children in their care, ensuring that they are school-ready by the time they reach Grade R. Our field workers regularly visit our trainee practitioners at their preschools to aid with the implementation of their training and to offer practical support.

This training has improved the layout of preschool classrooms, in turn maximising the resources available to the children and providing appropriate spaces for learning. It had also led to an increase in the variety of activities offered to the children to better stimulate the physical, cognitive and emotional development of the child.



practitioners enrolled in 2019, impacting over


preschool children


Training in developmental stages for babies

A unique aspect of this programme is the inclusion of a training module that focuses on the development of babies, aged 0-18 months. There is a dire lack of resources available to practitioners who care for babies, despite it being widely recognised that the first two years of a child’s life are crucial for social, educational and emotional development.

Practitioners are trained in simple activities that foster the development of communication skills for babies. The introduction of ‘lap-time’ ensures that appropriate learning techniques are used to help the babies develop language and communication skills, such as eye contact,  anticipation (learnt through games such a peek-a-boo), and listening and engaging with others.

Zanele Manyoko, Practitioner for the baby class at Kwakhanya Educare, with two of the children she cares for. © Sacha Voeffray Samson

Read more about our ECD programme here.


Donor hosts Fundraiser for Senior Citizens

On Wednesday 29 May, our friend and supporter, Bibie, hosted a wonderful fundraising event in support of Ikamva Labantu to highlight the challenges faced by many senior citizens in Cape Town’s townships.

The staff from Ikamva Labantu and eight senior citizens from Khayelitsha were thrilled to have been invited to join the event and delighted to talk about all of our current programmes and initiatives. The event opened with a wonderful and rousing welcome from the PATA (Parents and Teachers Association) choir at the International American school, which was followed by an emotive speech from Bibie, who spoke about the great joy that she has experienced from supporting Ikamva Labantu and meeting members of the senior clubs. She recounted how she could arrive at a senior club feeling full of stress and leave full of smiles.

The talks were followed by a delicious brunch, lively conversation and the sale of beadwork made by the senior citizens of Khayelitsha, and jewellery supplied by Bibie. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of the guests at the event and are delighted to have made so many new friends who we look forward to welcoming into the Ikamva Labantu family.

Thank you Bibie for hosting this fundraiser and for your invaluable support of our work.

A fundraiser can be a great way to get friends together for a good cause. If you are interested in hosting your own fundraising event for Ikamva Labantu, please get in touch with our fundraising team at:

See photos from the event below.

Renovation projects

Senior Clubs

Renovations are well underway at several of our senior clubs as part of an upgrade project with Truworths Fashion. In October 2018, Truworths donated R1.5m to Ikamva Labantu to help us upgrade and refurbish 11 of our senior clubs, where older persons in need can access support and services.

These upgrades will create brighter, safer and more functional spaces for our club members to enjoy. Importantly, they will also bring the clubs into compliance with the minimum norms and standards required by the Department of Social Development (DSD). This will allow each club to maintain their monthly subsidy from DSD – a critical source of income.

Below are some progress photos from the Masithandane and Nolukholo clubs in Khayelitsha.

Ikhaya Labantu

Ikhaya Labantu is a frail care facility in Langa that cares for people with severe disabilities and older persons in need. We have worked closely with staff at the facility for many years and have recently come on board to assist them with renovations. In order to continue providing vital services to their residents, numerous upgrades to the facility are needed. This includes electrical and plumbing work, as well as upgrades to dormitories and structural elements. With these building upgrades, Ikhaya Labantu can achieve registration with DSD and access a government subsidy. In addition to the renovations, we are also assisting with upskilling and capacity building. This involves training and educating staff in best practice caregiving and providing administrative support to management.

View some photos from Ikhaya Labantu below.

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The Umelwane Project

When it comes to older persons in need, the greatest challenge can be finding them.

Cape Town’s townships are volatile spaces. Violence, drugs and gangsterism are rife and are exacerbated by high unemployment, inadequate housing and a lack of access to basic services.

For an elderly person living in these conditions, fear and poverty are the norm. And for someone who is bedridden and alone, accessing help can be nearly impossible.

“I do feel scared at home. On pension days it is easy for us to become victims. One of the old ladies, my neighbour, was killed in her house on pension day.

At the weekend, I find it hard to sleep because I am scared people can break in through the windows. My only wish before I die is to get burglar bars on my windows and doors. I asked the local welders to help me and they told me how much it would cost. It is too much money for me to take from my pension but I will save R200 a month until I have enough.”

Mandisa Velem

Despite this, many older persons are supporting large families on their pension of just R1,780 per month. They face social, health and financial challenges and are often subject to abuse, neglect and isolation. And the ageing population is growing, with WHO estimating that we will reach over 10 million older persons in South Africa by 2050.

Our job is to find those in need.

Our fieldworkers walk door-to-door throughout Cape Town’s townships, searching for senior citizens who need support. We call these fieldworkers Umelwanes, which means ‘neighbourhood friend’ in isiXhosa. The Umelwane initiative is an extension of our Seniors Programme that provides home-based care to frail, ill or bedridden older persons.

By knocking on doors, Umelwanes are able to find those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to help. We have come across seniors struggling to live with their disabilities, stroke survivors, those suffering from abuse and neglect, and many more in need of urgent support, but with no one to turn to.

“It can be scary, because you never know what you will face behind that closed door… But when I see that I helped to make just a small change with one senior – that is very big to me.”

Kholeka Umelwane

Our Umelwanes, all of whom are women, are often at risk when walking through township communities. As a result, we have recently set up a ‘buddy system’, whereby a local community member will accompany our Umelwanes to their client’s home and ensure they are not targeted while they work. This has been an important move that helps our staff feel safe and engages the local communities about our work.

Nomalungelo’s story

In some cases, an Umelwane’s support can improve the health of an older person to the extent that they are able to leave their homes and join their peers at an Ikamva Labantu senior club. Watch Nomalungelo’s story to see how her Umelwane supported her.

Giving seniors the courage to speak up

The Umelwane team, made up of field workers, nurses and social workers, provides seniors with regular health check-ups, delivery of chronic medication, and assistance in getting to and from the clinic. Our Umelwanes also assist older persons in accessing government grants that they are entitled to.


Older persons reached through the Umelwane project since 2015

Crucially, Umelwanes offer emotional support for older persons and educate them about their rights. This has given some seniors the confidence to speak out about any abuse or injustice that they are facing.

“My Umelwane is a friend who even cleans my house, makes my bed and makes coffee for me. She gives me hope.”

Alice Tshumsila, 73

Nandipha’s story

When Nandipha’s* shack burnt down a few years ago, she lost all her belongings and was left homeless; at 64 years old, she had no choice but to move in with her daughter. Sadly, this was not a welcome arrangement. Nandipha’s daughter only had one bed which she shared with her two children – and now with her mother too. Although she had nowhere else to turn, Nandipha felt that she was not truly welcome in her daughter’s home. Every day, she would find her clothes and blankets thrown outside the door – it was made clear that she was taking up too much space.

Continue reading Nandipha’s story here.

Umelwanes at work

View the slideshow below to see some of our staff in action.

*Real names have not been used.

Freedom Day

Every year on April 27, South Africans celebrate Freedom Day. The date marks the first democratic election in 1994, which brought an end to the apartheid regime and marked the start of Nelson Mandela’s Presidency. On May 8, South Africans will once again head to the polls for the country’s sixth general election since the end of apartheid.

In light of Freedom Day and with the general election around the corner, we spoke to some of our Senior Club members to find out what Freedom Day means to them.

Photo credit: Sacha Voeffray Samson

Nandipha’s story

When Nandipha’s* shack burnt down a few years ago, she lost all her belongings and was left homeless; at 64 years old, she had no choice but to move in with her daughter. Sadly, this was not a welcome arrangement. Nandipha’s daughter only had one bed which she shared with her two children – and now with her mother too. Although she had nowhere else to turn, Nandipha felt that she was not truly welcome in her daughter’s home. Every day, she would find her clothes and blankets thrown outside the door – it was made clear that she was taking up too much space.

In addition to this, Nandipha had stopped taking the chronic medication that helped to manage her diabetes, and she was also recovering from a stroke and suffering from arthritis. With no healthcare support, Nandipha didn’t understand how to take her medication or why she needed to. When Ikamva Labantu fieldworker, Asanda*, met Nandipha for the first time, she was very ill and uncared for.

Asanda assisted Nandipha in getting to the clinic and accessing the appropriate medication for her conditions. With the right treatment and support, Nandipha soon gained back her strength. But she was still spending her days in her daughter’s cramped home where she felt like a burden.

With her health conditions now stable, Asanda invited Nandipha to join one of the Ikamva Labantu senior clubs in Cape Town, where she could spend her days socialising among her peers. Nandipha showed immediate interest in the club and taking part in all that was on offer. She joined the senior club in February this year.

Members of an Ikamva Labantu senior club help with lunch preparations.

Today, Nandipha is one of many senior citizens that has been recruited to join the senior clubs by fieldworkers who go door-to-door searching for older persons in need. She is provided transport to and from the clubs every day and enjoys daily nutritious meals, health support, and social activities at the club.

“I love to bead,” Nandipha says, ”and the other seniors help me when my hands are shaking. I also love to sing – I wasn’t able to join the choir competition last time, but next time I’ll be there!”

Club members can take part in crafting activities, such as beading, as part of an income-generation project.

For Nandipha, the days at the club provide relief from the stress that she feels at her daughter’s home. Ikamva Labantu has also assisted Nandipha to access an emergency fund that will help her move out of her daughter’s home and back into a home of her own, where she can feel at ease again.

Ikamva Labantu’s fieldworkers walk door-to-door throughout Cape Town’s townships, looking for senior citizens in need. We call these fieldworkers ‘Umelwanes’, which means ‘neighbourhood friend’ in isiXhosa. The Umelwane initiative is an extension of our Seniors Programme that provides home-based care to frail older persons. In some cases, these interventions improve the health of an older person to the extent that they are able to leave their homes and join their peers at an Ikamva Labantu senior club.

*Real names have not been used.

The Afternoon Angels

In 2018, Ikamva Labantu joined forces with a group of 56 women to provide afterschool care to hundreds of children. These women have created a community initiative called Afternoon Angels, which we are proud to support.

Schools in Cape Town’s townships lack extracurricular activities and aftercare facilities. As a result, when school is done for the day, children are often left to roam and play in the streets unsupervised while they wait for their parents to return from work. The Afternoon Angels programme is a community response to this issue and aims to keep schoolchildren safe and off the streets once school has ended.

The women in the group have opened their homes to local children to provide a place of safety where they can receive a nutritious meal, emotional support, and a safe space to play in the afternoons. They often use money from their own pension or foster grants to buy food for the children. This initiative helps to keep children away from the dangers of crime, gangsterism and substance abuse that they may otherwise be exposed to on the streets.

South Africa’s children are dropping out of school at an alarming rate due to these social ills, resulting in a high school graduation rate as low as 40%. This problem is particularly prevalent in the volatile township communities where Ikamva Labantu works.

The Afternoon Angels programme is a preventative measure that gives children the opportunity to complete schooling, progress further in education and create a better future for themselves and their families. Children in the programme are supported and encouraged to do their best and to stay in school.

Phumeza’s story

42-year-old Phumeza is one of the 56 women who make up the Afternoon Angels. When her son developed autism at age 3, Phumeza struggled to find a preschool that would accept and support him. This led to her opening her own preschool that is inclusive of autistic children. Due to the high demand for preschools in the New Crossroads area, Phumeza’s preschool grew from 6 children to 74 children in just one year. More recently, Phumeza has started opening her doors to schoolchildren in the afternoons too, as part of the Afternoon Angels initiative.

Listen to Phumeza describe her work below:

Ikamva Labantu holds hands with the Afternoon Angels

The Afternoon Angels also hold regular meetings to discuss any issues that may arise and to learn from and support one another. Ikamva Labantu currently assists the Afternoon Angels with food, resources and support.

Ikamva Labantu Founder, Helen Lieberman, addresses the women of the Afternoon Angels programme at a meeting to discuss issues and offer support.

Ikamva Labantu always strives to be community-driven. We strive to listen to the needs of the community leaders that we work with and follow their direction. The Afternoon Angels initiative is a wonderful example of community leaders responding to a need on the ground and coming together to enact change. This is the first year that Ikamva Labantu has formally supported the Afternoon Angels and we look forward to working with these remarkable women to create a safer environment for schoolchildren throughout Cape Town’s township communities.

The indignity of ageing in poverty

By Helen Lieberman, Founder and Honorary President of Ikamva Labantu.

Contrary to what many choose to believe, retirement in Cape Town is no breeze – at least for those living in the townships. Hundreds of thousands of frail seniors spend their days alone in small (and often, unsafe) homes, unable to access transport or medication, vulnerable to crime and abuse, and in desperate need of support.

And the problem is only going to get worse. South Africa’s ageing population is growing, with WHO estimating that it will double by 2050, reaching over 10 million older persons. This rise in the ageing population will have implications on the economy, healthcare and social security, adding pressure to already overburdened systems.

In his opening remarks at the ANC’s 106th anniversary in January this year, President Ramaphosa recognised elder abuse as a societal problem that needs urgent attention, saying: ‘Gender-based violence and violence against other vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQI community is a scourge that needs to be eradicated.’

But older persons should not only be lumped together with all other vulnerable groups – they need and deserve special attention and focussed support. After all, no one is immune to the effects of ageing.

In my daily work at Ikamva Labantu, where we care for older persons in Cape Town both at day clubs and in their homes, I have come across cases that are a blight on the whole country.

There is the man who suffered a stroke and had nothing to sleep on but a cardboard box in a one-room shack. Unable to walk, he would pull himself across the floor, grazing his skin and bruising his bones as he moved. Nozamile (not her real name) is 95 years old, has arthritis and suffers from incontinence. She is left alone most of the day. Another 60-year-old woman, bedridden and starving, has attempted suicide three times.

Then there are those who do not have IDs and cannot access the social grants that they are entitled to. And those who have had legs amputated due to diabetes, but have no access to a wheelchair or walking aid. And the grandmothers who walk for hours to collect their pension, only to spend it on supporting their family, or worse – only for it to be stolen by their own grandchildren. In some of the most gut-wrenching cases, these grandmothers also suffer sexual abuse and rape at the hands of their own children and grandchildren.

These are not cherry-picked cases – this is the daily reality for thousands of senior citizens. Those who should be living out their later years stress-free and cared for, are instead suffering the indignity that a life in poverty gives rise to. Moreover, those who lived the bulk of their life under apartheid, who bore the brunt of the struggle and sacrificed so much in the fight for freedom, are now living in devastating conditions with no reward or recognition for their contribution to a democratic South Africa.

Tragically, the plight of South Africa’s elderly is largely invisible. How much do our elders need to suffer before we take notice? And more importantly, before we take action? My work in Cape Town’s townships has taught me that community-based problems require community-driven solutions. NGOs, government and the private sector need to work together with communities to facilitate these solutions and to support them in the drive for change.

Through violence, neglect, and isolation, the voice of the elderly in this country has been reduced to a meek whisper. Let’s help to amplify it.

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Ethel’s story

Donate to support seniors in need.

There are some common patterns of ageing that are universal. Many people over 40 begin to need reading glasses, many people over 65 find it harder to hear clearly in noisy environments, and strokes, dementia and heart disease become more prevalent in those over 70.

But Ethel* is an exception to the rule. At 104 years old, she is in good health, has never needed glasses and has almost perfect hearing. But her life has not been smooth sailing.

Ethel was born in the Eastern Cape in 1913. She enjoyed her childhood and believes those early years made her happy and gave her strength for her future. When she was 18 years old, Ethel’s father arranged for her to marry a local priest. Her husband’s job led them to live in many places including King Williams Town and Port Elizabeth.

In 1939, they moved to Elsie’s River and lived there until 1960 when their settlement was destroyed by the Apartheid police and they were relocated to Gugulethu. Finally, in 1990, they moved to a house in Khayelitsha.

Throughout these years, Ethel raised ten children while working as a domestic worker and a factory worker. Sadly, just three of her children are still alive today. One of her sons, now an elderly man himself, has been rendered totally blind through diabetes. He lives close to his mother and they keep each other company. Ethel also has 22 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 8 great-great-grandchildren.
When asked what her secret is to reaching 104 years old, her daughter and granddaughter both chant in unison: “No drinking, no smoking and no liking men!” They laugh. It appears to be a family mantra!

*Not her real name

Ethel lives in Khayelitsha, where she is provided with home-based care from Ikamva Labantu’s field workers, or “Umelwanes”. Our Umelwane programme provides support and companionship to senior citizens who are unable to attend our day clubs due to frailty or poor health. Ethel is one of over 1,000 seniors who has received home-based care through Ikamva Labantu. 

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Giving Tuesday

Instead of splashing out on #BlackFriday, Ikamva Labantu is encouraging the public to use their money to make a difference with #GivingTuesday on 27 November.

Ikamva Labantu provides care, companionship, and support to over 1,000 senior citizens in Cape Town’s townships through senior clubs and home-based care. Our seniors receive health checks and take part in various activities from outdoor exercises to income-generation projects; they also receive two warm meals every day. But these clubs close over the festive season, allowing the club staff to spend Christmas with their families.

Over this time, elderly club members will be at home and will have to provide food for themselves and their families. This can be a huge financial burden for the elderly, who are often breadwinners in their family, feeding children and grandchildren with money from their monthly pension of just R1,600.

To relieve this burden, we want to give these seniors a Christmas food hamper to take home over the festive season. We are calling on the public to brighten up a senior’s Christmas by donating R150 towards a food hamper.

Donate via GivenGain