Introducing Ishrene Davids as General Manager

We are thrilled to welcome Ishrene Davids back to the Ikamva Labantu family, as she joins us as the new General Manager.

Ishrene has more than 30 years’ experience in the social development sector.

She grew up in a time when careers were limited and ambition was a swear word. As a young child, living in a two-bedroom house that groaned under the weight of 12 boisterous, uncontrollable siblings, she discovered the solitude that books offered. She understood the power of the English language and started to read dictionaries, voraciously. After completing matric she registered at the University of the Western Cape to study Social Work.

Ishrene has worked in three large and well-respected NGOs, since completing a three-year stint as a probation officer at the Department of Social Development in 1988. Her work as a mental health professional at Cape Mental Health Society laid the foundation for a committed career of advancing social justice and the care and support of individuals and communities. She worked there for 10 years.

She joined Ikamva Labantu in 2000 as a field manager when the organisation was undergoing one of its first big transformations. Her first big (and daunting) task was to work alongside external consultant, Fedde Renkema, managing the communication and feed back to staff. Later she helped to develop the Human Resource Department and was the HR manager for a number of years. She went on to become the Chief Operations Officer and later, the Director. It was a time of tremendous growth for her. She left Ikamva Labantu in 2011 to complete her honours in Social Policy and Management at the University of Cape Town.

During 2012 she was approached by the Community Chest to assist in the grant-making department. When the new CEO started in 2013, Ishrene led the transformation process and became the lead communications person for the staff. Her various roles included HR, strategy, compliance, grant-making and policy. When she left the Community Chest she was interim Chief Operations Officer.

Ishrene enjoys reading, writing, poetry, and travelling. She has two adult children who are both still living at home. She has run out of ways to get rid of them.

Ishrene says that “Returning to Ikamva Labantu is like coming home.”

We are thrilled to have Ishrene back with us and look forward to further growth and development of the organisation, with Ishrene at the helm.

Ride the CT Cycle Tour with us on March 11th

How to join our team

  • A team entry costs R800 per person, to be paid by 31 January 2018.
  • Make a pledge to raise R2,000 for our cause by 20 March 2018. Our expert team of fundraisers will give you all the tips you need. (This part is a donation that is fully tax deductable.)

Only 8 spots left! Apply below today.

What you’ll get:

  • Guaranteed entry into the biggest timed cycle race in the world!
  • Group start times (often better than individual start times)
  • A branded cycling shirt
  • A goodie bag
  • A chance to meet the men, women and children that Ikamva Labantu supports every day.

Your entry will help to support over 20,000 vulnerable children & adults in Cape Town’s townships.

Apply to join our Cape Town Cycle Tour team today!

Kholeka’s Story

Donate to support seniors in need.

“I grew up taking care of people. I worked throughout my high school years so that I could help my parents with money. When my father died, my mother became very sick. I had to look after her and I became a mother-figure to my siblings.

So when a friend suggested I volunteer at Ikamva Labantu, I went the next day to see how I could help. I did odd jobs for a while; I was shy and scared that I wasn’t doing the right thing. But I never gave up – when I do something, I do it properly.

Soon they asked me to bring in my CV. I didn’t know anything about being an Umelwane – but I told myself I must try. I had a feeling that the job was mine. Even when I got the job, I was still nervous as I had only worked with children before, not seniors.

As an Umelwane, I searched door-to-door for seniors who needed help. It can be scary, because you never know what you will face behind that closed door. Some of the seniors can be stubborn and don’t want to come to a place that they don’t know. Still, I have recruited about 35 elderly citizens to our senior club, which now has over 50 members. It is just one of Ikamva Labantu’s 19 senior clubs.

I always felt that there was someone inside of me who wanted to come out and do amazing things. I have now been promoted to Club Assistant and I make sure that all the needs of our club members are met. It was difficult for me to come out of my shell, but now I can’t be stopped!

At the club, the seniors know that someone has their back, that someone is there when they need a shoulder to cry on – they know they will be treated with dignity and respect. And the seniors are a great support for each other when they face difficult things in their lives.

We had one senior who was raped by a man in her neighourhood. She did not come to the club for months, and when she did return she was quiet and withdrawn. On the day of her attacker’s court case, all of the seniors from the club stood outside the court with placards. They were a huge support to her. Now, she has started to smile again at the club. When I see that smile, I know that there is hope.

That is why we do this work. Not for recognition – but to bring hope to people.

I asked one senior what Ikamva Labantu has done for her. She told me ‘I have never had a bank account before. Now, because of Ikamva Labantu I have a bank account and I know how to save my money.’

When I applied for this job, I didn’t realise that I would fall in love with it. But when I see that I helped to make just a small change with one senior – that is very big to me.

I realise now that I have always had a passion to help people. Today, it’s the seniors who are my responsibility, so I must be there for them.”

Kholeka in the home of 73-year-old Alice Tshumsila, one of the seniors she cared for as an Umelwane. Alice was bedridden after suffering from a stroke. Alice said of Kholeka: “She is a friend who even cleans my house, makes my bed and makes coffee for me. Kholeka gives me hope.”

Kholeka started out volunteering for Ikamva Labantu and was soon offered the position of an Umelwane (Neighbourhood Friend). Umelwanes provide home-based care for frail seniors, and recruit mobile seniors to our clubs. Today, Kholeka is a Club Assistant at Masincediswe Senior Club in Khayelitsha. She is a shining example of someone who is committed to uplifting their community.


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Give back with #GivingTuesday

Instead of splashing out on #BlackFriday, we are encouraging the public to use their money to make a difference with #GivingTuesday on 28 November.


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How will my donation help?

We have 19 senior clubs across the Cape Metropole, supporting 2,000 elderly citizens on a daily basis. At the clubs, 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 our 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 wish 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 R50 towards a food hamper.

Visit our Facebook page to dedicate your hamper to a grandparent or elderly person who has influenced your life and nominate a friend to do the same.

Donate today

Sixty + Counts event puts treatment of the elderly in the spotlight

On Thursday, 12 October, in partnership with Embassy of France in South Africa, we hosted a panel discussion and silent auction at the Alliance Française du Cap.

The Sixty + Counts exhibition is on display for the month of October in celebration of International Day of Older Persons, marked annually on 1 October.

“It is assumed that the elderly in communities are the most respected but they are often the forgotten, neglected and even abused,” says Lulama Sigasana, Head of our Seniors Programme.

The panel discussion focussed on the challenging realities for the elderly in South Africa, whilst also highlighting the work that is being done and what can still be done through collaboration between government and non-governmental organisations.

Panellists included Owen Kleinhans from the Department of Justice; Dr Leon Geffen, Executive Director, Samson Institute for Ageing Research; Gavin Weir, Director of Sector Task Team for Older Persons and Lulama Sigasana, Head of the Seniors Programme at Ikamva Labantu.

Says Weir: “We have one of the best constitutions in the world, we have the Older Person’s Act, but without the resources to implement the basic rights of the elderly, these are not worth the paper they are written on.”

Weir continued to say that through engagement with provincial and local government on housing, it became clear that the social grant receiving pensioner was not a priority. He says: “we have to start understanding that there is not necessarily help available from government, we need to mobilise society to protect and celebrate the ‘living libraries’ in our communities and our nation.”

Owen Kleinhans – who is responsible for all outreach activities at the Western Cape Regional Office at the Department of Justice (relating to Vulnerable Groups) made a public contract on the evening stating,  “I am a public servant, contact me to protect the rights of the seniors and to let me serve you. There is a widespread lack of knowledge among seniors of their rights to protect themselves against domestic violence, loan sharks, economic and emotional abuse”. He reiterated the importance of a collective voice from seniors and a better understanding of their rights.

According to Dr Leon Geffen, research is being undertaken to understand older persons’ perception of the healthcare services in South Africa with the intention of building a resilient healthcare service that responds to the needs of a rapidly ageing population. The current research has shown that older people attending healthcare clinics do not feel that their needs are currently being met.

The Moderator for the evening, Professor Brian Williams – who works in the field of mediation, peace-building and labour law, concluded the panel discussion by saying “we’re left with a powerful and profound question of humanity when it comes to our seniors, and it’s up to us as a collective, to answer it and to mobilise and support the rights of our seniors to human dignity”.

We raised an amazing R70,000 through the auction of the exhibition portaits, which will go straight towards our Seniors Programme – helping to provide support and resources to vulnerable seniors.

 “This amount will ensure that at least 185 seniors will be able to make vital appointments to specialised healthcare or grant-making services and contribute to the R9 million annual budget,” says Jovana Djeri, Head of Fundraising at Ikamva Labantu.

“France is committed, with local partners, to the social transformation of South Africa through projects such as this one. On the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, we wanted to highlight and promote the excellent work done by Ikamva Labantu and put the spotlight on the rights of older people in South African society,” says Ambassador of France, Christophe Farnaud.

“We are delighted by the conversations that took place and the new networks that were established. That makes us especially hopeful that seniors are being heard,” says Djeri.

Sigasana concludes; “Our seniors fought for freedom in South Africa. We say now that South Africa is free. Who is free? Our seniors certainly aren’t. There are not enough accessible facilities, there is not enough protection, there is not enough care. This is where government partners with, and relies on, civil society to provide additional assistance and a voice for the voiceless.”

Thank you so much to all who joined us, supported the event and furthered the dialogue around the wellbeing of South Africa’s elderly.

Any of the photographs that were not sold through the silent auction are now on sale to the general public and the exhibition will be open to the public until the 29th of October.

For more information on Sixty + Counts or the seniors programme, please contact

Childhood Awareness Day

Ikamva Labantu has hosted our second Childhood Awareness Day in collaboration with Metro Central Health Department.

The objective of the day was to create a space for dialogue between community members working with preschools and to connect parents with the local health services. Forty-two participants attended the event.

We have developed a programme which focuses on how to practically identify, refer and work with children who need to be assessed for developmental delay.

In order to achieve this, the day includes workshops on:

  • expected development in children under six
  • the ‘red flags’ that alert us to problems in early development
  • who, where, when and how to refer children in the Khayelitsha District.

The structure of the day has evolved to allow people to hear general information but also to speak directly to professionals about individual cases.

The day started with the occupational therapists leading a workshop on early development; participants then broke into groups and moved between stations. These stations were led by: social workers, physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and health promoters. Within these small groups, people were able to discuss concerns directly with the professionals.

For more information, please contact our Family Service on 021 361 0909 or

Sixty+ Counts Exhibition

5 – 29 October | Alliance Française du Cap | 155 Loop Street Cape Town.

The 2017 theme for International Day of Older Persons celebrated on 1 October is set by the United Nations as: “Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society.”

In celebration of this day and of Older Persons Week in South Africa, Ikamva Labantu and the Embassy of France in South Africa have partnered to bring you the Sixty+ Counts exhibition.

Sixty + Counts is a portrait exhibition of elderly citizens across Cape Town’s townships.

The assumption that South Africa’s elderly are highly respected within their community, is unfortunately not always accurate. Although these are the men and women that bore the brunt of the struggle for equality in this country, today they are often forgotten, neglected and even abused.

We work to combat these social ills and to provide a support network for seniors that enables them to stay active within their communities as they age.

From 12 October, all funds raised through the sale of the portraits are donated to the Ikamva Labantu Seniors Programme.

For more information on the exhibition or the Seniors Programme, contact Ronell Jordaan on

Health & Safety Training for Preschool Principals

From 24-28 July, Ikamva Labantu held a Health Training Week for the 74 preschool principals currently enrolled in our two-year Early Childhood Development training programme.

The week involved internal and external presentations on health issues relevant to children aged 0-6, with an emphasis on prevention training and safety in classrooms. The week was run in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape, the Environmental Health Department and Childsafe, a child safety and accident prevention organisation based at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

Lizette Oliver, Registered Nurse and Head of Health Services at Ikamva Labantu, said: “The goals of the week were to give a fairly intensive health exposure to the principals over four days, ending off with a personal health screening opportunity.”

Childsafe, an NPO promoting optimal health and development of all children, engaged with the principals for the day of Wednesday 26 July on accident prevention and safety in classrooms.

According to Childsafe, injuries are the major cause of death in South African children between ages of five and 14 years, with thousands of children sustaining injury-related permanent disabilities.

The Director of Childsafe, Phumla Mtambeka, says the most common accidents in preschools are falls and recommended that preschools don’t use bunk beds. “Electrical cords should be kept away from the children’s reach and plugs should be covered with safety covers as children often put their fingers in them,” she says. She also advised preschool owners to have strict medical polices in place to administer medication to the children.

“We want to create a safe space because we lose a lot of children due to accidents that could have been prevented. We also want to create awareness so that children can be protected,” says Phumla.

Childsafe also provided participants with posters and manuals to keep for display and reference. These resources were kindly sponsored by Woolworths SA.

The Environmental Health Department of Khayelitsha worked together with principals to explore obstacles that preschools face in terms of environmental health. Principals were informed of their rights when representing their preschools in this regard. For example, if there is livestock being kept near their preschool, principals are able to request that the livestock be moved in the interests of the children.

On Thursday 27th July, the Department of Oral Hygiene from UWC presented to the principals on oral health; they also offered personal oral hygiene checks as part of the health screenings on the last day of the programme.

Other topics covered throughout the week included immunisations, deworming, developmental milestones and understanding the “Road to Health” card.

Connie Mase from Msobomvu Educare Centre in Khayelitsha says: “I can now identify children with worms and I’ve learnt how to read the Road to Health card.” She also has plans to teach the parents how to practice safety at home.


The Health Week concluded with each participant having their own free wellness offering. Participant were offered:

  • Vision and hearing screenings
  • Pap smears
  • Aromatherapy massages
  • Oral examinations
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation screenings
  • TB and HIV tests.

Through these free health checks, Ikamva Labantu aims to care for those who dedicate their lives to caring for others.

Principals and practitioners of preschools often don’t get the chance to attend to their own health. This wellness offering provided them a convenient opportunity to have a range of health checks on-site, all in one morning.

Lizette underlined the value of these screenings for the preschool staff: “If we understand the importance of health to us and our own wellbeing, then we understand the importance for a child who is just starting out on their life journey.”

Our Early Childhood Development Programme reaches beyond the preschool principal to an experiential learning programme for their practitioner. Ikamva Labantu offers additional assistance with registration of these preschools and even runs its own award-winning township preschool as a practical model for those in training.

Keep reading:

Early Childhood Development

Health Services

Help Bring the Colour Back to our Rainbow Centre this Mandela Day

Our Rainbow Centre in Gugulethu is a community centre that is home to an afterschool programme, a preschool and a senior club. This vibrant hub of activity is a safe space where over 300 vulnerable children, youth and elderly can access care, food and enrichment every day.

The Rainbow Centre was established in the 80s, during the height of apartheid and at a time when places of refuge in Gugulethu were few and far between. Though much has changed since then, the centre still serves as a light in a community surrounded by poverty and violence.

The centre is helpful because it keeps the children away from the social ills and safe from kidnapping. We also host community meetings and they respect it as they see the value it adds to their children’s lives.”

Pamela PhuphuCommunity-Based Worker

A Mandela Day Makeover

After more than 30 years under the sun, our Rainbow Centre is looking a little weather-beaten. This Mandela Day, we are inviting you to help us give it a face-lift. Together, we can transform the space into a bright, fun environment for our preschool kids, schoolchildren and seniors.

I come to Rainbow because I like being educated and playing games. I also got my school uniform and glasses when my eyesight started deteriorating. I keep coming because I need assistance with homework and I’m part of the dance group.”

Sinazo Mqotyana, 11Junior Phase, Child and Youth Enrichment Programme

Join us!

From 10am on 18 July, we will be picking up paintbrushes and shovels and getting our hands dirty to give the Rainbow Centre in Gugulethu a much-needed makeover.

We’ll supply all the materials – we just need your hands!

Join us for 67 minutes (or more!) and help us bring the colour back to our Rainbow Centre.

To RSVP or for more information,  contact us below or phone us on 021 461 8338.

Can’t make it? Make a Mandela Day Donation instead.

We will also be collecting donations of winter goodies to keep our children and seniors warm through the chilly months ahead. If you have any woolies, warm clothes or canned foods to donate, please drop them off at our Head Office in Woodstock on July 18. You can find us here.

You can also support this cause with an online donation here.

When we arrive in the mornings we play card games, bingo and puzzles. We get to interact with others, unwind, get fed and take leftovers home to our grandchildren. We also share stories and advice.”

Paslina Msindo, 72 Member of Nombasa Senior Club

RSVP Below

Ikamva Labantu Founder awarded highest French distinction

On Wednesday 19 April, our Founder Helen Lieberman, was awarded the highest French distinction: “Officier de la Légion d’Honneur” (National Order of the Legion of Honour). The award is given to recipients as an acknowledgement of their dedication and role they have assumed in their respective fields.

French ambassador Christophe Farnaud presented the award to Helen “in recognition of her lifelong commitment to the eradication of poverty, injustice and human misery”.

Retracing her journey, Ambassador Farnaud acknowledged the roots of Ikamva Labantu, and the role that Helen played in bringing community leaders together.

In 1963, Helen was working as a Speech Therapist at Groote Schuur hospital. After seeing a young patient discharged prematurely, she sought to track him down in Langa township. It was here that she first witnessed the brutality of the Apartheid regime.

“Appalled at this unfair situation, you [Helen] decided to work hand in hand with the residents of the townships… [Helen] never yielded under pressure, under the strain imposed by the Apartheid police forces” and “worked with ever more determination to move towards her vision of a fairer South Africa”.

Ambassador Farnaud also recognised the various projects that Ikamva Labantu has established over the years and commended the many men and women who have worked alongside Helen to make Ikamva Labantu what it is today, 50 of whom stood by her side at the ceremony on Wednesday night.

“By establishing community-based structures, you [Helen] empower those you work with, from skills training to work placements, and from early childhood development to book reading clubs for the elderly.”

On receiving the award, Helen said that she was “overwhelmed and very humbled” and that it was: “an affirmation of the combined activities of community leaders, devoted staff and their staunch supporters… Our people on the ground have been the backbone and builders of our nation – they have built our past and will secure our future. Let’s hear them, listen to them, affirm them and salute them.”

Helen dedicated the award to the community leaders and co-founders of Ikamva Labantu that she has worked with over the past 54 years and continues to work with today.

Ambassador Farnaud also announced a donation of R115,000 to Ikamva Labantu on behalf of the French embassy, which will support two senior clubs.