Community support during a global pandemic
COVID-19 has had a catastrophic impact on employment and livelihoods throughout South African communities, resulting in widespread hunger, malnutrition and health issues. When the country went into lockdown, Ikamva Labantu’s programmes were forced to close. Thousands of its participants, including older persons and children, were not able to receive the regular care and support that they normally access through its services.
Determined to continue essential work in a safe way, Ikamva Labantu reached out to its longstanding connections throughout Cape Town’s townships to see how best to support them. Community volunteers were already rallying together to provide care and relief for their neighbours. Following their lead, the Ikamva Labantu team sprung into action to support those at the forefront of these community initiatives.
Since the beginning of South Africa’s lockdown, donors have enabled Ikamva Labantu to provide nutritious meals, face masks and vital social services to those in dire circumstances. Ikamva Labantu has worked with over 100 community volunteers to launch a massive project of emergency food relief and provide over 856,000 meals to South Africans in need every month, in addition to its regular participants. The organisation’s network of volunteers became the third largest provider of food in the Western Cape.
As the pandemic persists, so too does the need for ongoing and urgent support in these communities. But in order to foster sustainability within communities, we need to look beyond mere survival. In addition to meeting basic needs, we know that with the right investments, these communities can produce successful entrepreneurs and changemakers who can build financial resilience and prosperity for their families. People have the capability to forge a path out of poverty and to contribute towards thriving communities that are more prepared and self-sufficient in the face of crisis.
Watch Ikamva Labantu’s field workers at work below, and partner with Ikamva Labantu to keep supporting South African families during this global crisis and to reduce vulnerability among township communities.
Early Childhood Development
The first years of a child’s life form the foundation upon which they build their future. But millions of children in Cape Town’s township communities do not have access to quality early education. These preschools often struggle to create safe and conducive learning environments for children, due to a lack of access to funds and support. Problems can include unsafe structures, poor sanitation and untrained staff. Despite this, the need for preschools in these communities is immense, with some centres caring for hundreds of children every day.
Ikamva Labantu’s ECD programme works with established community preschools to train principals and practitioners in best-practice techniques and to support them with educational resources so that they can improve their offering. The training equips principals to better manage their preschool and become financially self-sufficient, while providing quality and age-appropriate education to the children in their care. Ikamva Labantu’s model preschool in Khayelitsha, Kwakhanya Educare, serves as a training facility where practitioners can gain practical experience and mentorship in the classroom.
Preschools are able to access a government grant by registering with The Department of Social Development (DSD). This grant is a critical stream of income for under resourced preschools, but it can be hard to access. Preschools have to comply with strict norms and standards set by the government in order to successfully register and receive their subsidy. Navigating this path towards registration, and maintaining a registered status, can be long, complex and financially demanding. Ikamva Labantu’s Registration Helpdesk was established in 2015 to assist principals and guide them through this process.
Children have a right to be safe and supported throughout their school years. Sadly, life in Cape Town’s townships doesn’t always allow for this. Most schools lack extracurricular activities and aftercare facilities, and many parents only return from work late. As a result, when the school day is over, children are often left to roam and play in the streets unsupervised. This time on the streets increases exposure to the dangers of violence, crime, gangsterism and drugs.
Many children fall victim to physical and sexual abuse in their communities, often by a family member or neighbour. This is exacerbated by high rates of alcoholism and substance abuse among parents and other adults. Growing up amid these circumstances can stifle a child’s ability to grow and thrive. Places of safety are essential in protecting children from the surrounding dangers and giving them a space to feel cared for and loved.
The Afternoon Angels programme was started by a group of 53 women from Cape Town’s townships as a response to this issue. These women have opened their homes to local children to provide a place of safety where they can receive a nutritious meal, emotional support, and a space to play in the afternoons. This is a preventative measure that keeps children away from the dangers of the streets and provides a warm, nurturing environment for them to feel safe, supported and free. The Afternoon Angels programme is a community initiative that Ikamva Labantu is proud to support.
Millions of senior citizens in Cape Town’s townships are living in abject poverty and regularly experience isolation, abuse and neglect. This is exacerbated by weakened family ties, financial insecurity, limited mobility, and a lack of access to quality healthcare. Dire living conditions are the norm for many older persons who live in neighbourhoods rife with crime and with limited access to basic services such as water, electricity and emergency services. Many are also unaware of their rights and lack the resources or information to seek help when they need it. Despite this, many older persons still support large families on their pension of just R1,780 per month and are often the sole breadwinner in the household.
Together with community leaders, Ikamva Labantu has developed two community-based interventions that promote active ageing and allow older persons to live with dignity.
Five days a week, hundreds of senior citizens are provided transport to and from Ikamva Labantu’s senior clubs where they access a range of activities addressing health, nutrition, and cognitive stimulation. Importantly, they are able to be among their peers in a social environment, away from the stress and isolation of their homes. Ikamva Labantu senior members also have access to health and psychosocial support that the field workers provide.
The Umelwane Project
For an older person who is bedridden and alone, accessing help can be nearly impossible.
Ikamva Labantu’s home-based model provides an essential safety net to support both frail older persons and their caregivers. The fieldworkers walk door-to-door throughout Cape Town’s townships, searching for senior citizens in need of support. These fieldworkers are called Umelwanes, which means ‘neighbourhood friend’ in isiXhosa.
The Umelwane team, made up of fieldworkers, nurses and social workers, provides seniors with regular health check-ups, delivery of chronic medication, and assistance in getting to and from the clinic. In addition, Ikamva Labantu assists older persons in accessing government grants that they are entitled to.
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.
Ikamva Design is an exciting new social enterprise endeavour that seeks to increase job opportunities for artisans in Cape Town’s township communities. For as long as Ikamva Labantu has been working with older persons, we have been witness to their creativity, talent and resourcefulness. From traditional beaded jewellery to handbags made from bottle caps, participants at Ikamva Labantu’s senior clubs continuously find original ways to pay tribute to their heritage and craft whilst supplementing their monthly pensions through selling handmade goods.
Ikamva Design’s online shop brings this talent to a wider market and showcases a range of handmade, original creations designed and crafted by older women living in township communities. Your purchase directly supports these women, many of whom raise large families on a monthly pension of just R1,780. From homeware to decorative pins, intricate accessories and even Christmas decorations, our team of local artisans can create bespoke handcrafted items to suit your needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on the South African economy. For residents in the township who are financially vulnerable, the pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on livelihoods, leading to widespread hunger and malnutrition.
Thus, our new programme, Ikamva Ventures was born from the expressed need of community members to build initiatives that will allow them to thrive beyond the devastating effects of COVID-19.
Over the years Ikamva has had the privilege of knowing many passionate and innovative micro-businesses and social development projects.
Ikamva Ventures has now been created to support these community change-makers by offering mentorship and resource provision while maintaining their community ownership.
It is hoped that through this targeted community-driven project, thriving small businesses and social upliftment organizations operating already, will flourish and new ones will be created in the first year.
Stay tuned to the Ikamva Labantu website and social media channels for news and updates on this exciting new venture.