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 She did not come to the club for months, and when she did return she was quiet and withdrawn.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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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.

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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.

Nursing Surgery in Khayelitsha

Need medical attention? Feeling sick? Visit our new Nursing Surgery in H Section Khayelitsha.

  • Family planning
  • Women’s health
  • Treatment of sick children and adults
  • Treatment of STIs
  • Dressings
  • Removal of sutures
  • Blood pressure and glucose checks
  • HIV tests
  • Check-ups
  • More

R20-R200 including medication. Walk-ins & bookings welcome.

No long queues.

Monday-Friday: 8:30am-4:30pm

Call: 084 036 2596

Enkululekweni Wellness Centre
Corner Lubelwana St and Mateta St

Khayelitsha couple turn dream preschool into reality

In a tiny kitchen, in the middle of a sprawling informal settlement in Khayelitsha, Ntomboxolo Bikitsha is preparing lunch for 60 preschool children.

As a mother of seven, Ntomboxolo is only too familiar with the demands of childcare and the struggles of raising a family in one of Cape Town’s largest townships. In her own neighbourhood, she has seen children left at home alone without food during the day. She knows teenage mothers who have struggled between caring for their babies and staying in school, and she has seen young children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Established in 2009, Njongo Yethu Educare cares for 60 children. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

Nine years ago, Ntomboxolo decided that she had seen enough. ‘I wanted to provide a place of safety for vulnerable children in my community,’ she says.

Still working her day job, she asked her church for assistance in setting up the project – but with little support from others, Ntomboxolo eventually resigned from her job in 2008 to work on her vision for establishing her own preschool.

In January the following year, she opened the doors of Njongo Yethu Educare to 60 children.

Mama Bikitsha resigned from her job in 2008 to focus on establishing Njongo Yethu Educare. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

Preschoolers at Njongo Yethu play in a makeshift playground during a break. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

Housed in an informal shack structure, the preschool cares for children up to the age of 6, each paying a monthly fee to attend.

Today, Ntomboxolo has four practitioners working with her at Njongo Yethu. In one corner, a practitioner leads a group of children in song; in another, a crying girl is consoled after she pokes herself in the eye. Down a narrow passageway, the smallest children take their midday nap.

One of the four practitioners at Njongo Yethu sings a song with a group of children. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

A preschool girl proudly wears her uniform. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

One of the four practitioners is Wiseman Bikitsha, Ntomboxolo’s husband. ‘There’s nothing I love more than children,’ he says, grinning. Despite mocking comments from other men in his community, Wiseman has always shared childcare responsibilities with his wife – a rarity in South Africa where gender norms are still deeply entrenched and almost 46% of black African children live only with their mothers.

Wiseman Bikitsha feeds a young child during lunch time at Njongo Yethu. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

A practitioner consoles a young girl. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

At 45 and 68 years old respectively, Ntomboxolo and Wiseman don’t hesitate to kneel beside the youngest babies at the preschool to keep them entertained between activities. And even past his retirement age, Wiseman’s energy is contagious – as he helps the children wash their hands before lunch, they clearly compete for his attention and beaming smile.

Wiseman Bikitsha helps children to wash their hands before a meal. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

The couple has always wanted to work with children and although there have been challenges along the way, Wiseman says his Christian faith has helped him persevere and support his wife in making her dream a reality.

There are challenges for the future, too. Ntomboxolo has hopes for a brick structure, flushing toilets and higher salaries for her staff.

Wiseman Bikitsha hands out plastic spoons to each child before they say a prayer together and eat their lunch. ©Sydelle Willow Smith

But as the children take their seats for lunch, it is evident that the couple is proud to be able to provide a space for these children to learn, grow and play, safe from the troubles of the outside world.

Ntomboxolo and Wiseman Bikitsha have enrolled in the ten-month Ikamva Labantu Persona Doll training programme this year.

Ntomboxolo is taking part in the Principals’ training which focuses on leadership and business skills; Wiseman is taking part in the Practitioners’ training for 0-18-month-olds in order to develop practical skills for dealing with children and parents on a daily basis.