25 years later, the injustices of apartheid still ripple across South Africa. Many aspects of our constitution are not upheld, and millions of people face an array of human rights violations every day.

Across Cape Town’s townships, ordinary people are organising and mobilizing to create change in their communities. Teachers are turning their homes into preschools, older persons are demanding accessible transport, mothers are feeding whole neighbourhoods, and street committees are standing up to crime. Every day, committed citizens come together to take responsibility for their community’s wellbeing and to strive for a more just and equal South Africa.

For over 55 years, we have been following the lead of those who are driving these changes. Working alongside these changemakers, we provide training, resources and support to empower communities to become self-sufficient.

Our work focuses on capacity building within communities to foster ownership and autonomy.

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. The ECD programme trains community principals and practitioners in best-practice techniques and supports them with educational equipment and learning materials so that they can implement their learnings at their preschools.

More than 387 small businesses (community preschools) are assisted with registering with the Department of Social Development to run successful and effective operations that serve their communities well. This process allows them access to government subsidies.

Training for Practitioners and Principals

Often, the quality of these preschools – from the infrastructure to the education – is a concern. We work with principals and practitioners to offer them training on how to manage their preschool, and how to provide quality early education to the children they care for. Our model preschool in Khayelitsha, Kwakhanya Educare, serves as a training facility where practitioners can gain practical experience and mentorship in the classroom.

Registration of preschools

The Department of Social Development (DSD) has strict norms and standards that preschools must meet in order to register their preschool and access a government grant. Navigating this path towards registration can be long, complex and financially demanding. Our Registration Helpdesk was established in 2015 to offer principals support and guidance 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 we are proud to support.

Despite bearing the brunt of the struggle for freedom in South Africa, many older persons are still subject to widespread violation of their rights.

Millions of senior citizens are living in abject poverty and 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, we have developed two community-based interventions that promote active ageing and allow older persons to live with dignity.

Senior Clubs

Five days a week, hundreds of senior citizens are provided transport to and from our 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. Our senior members also have access to the emotional and physical support that our field workers provide.

The Umelwane Project

For an older person who is bedridden and alone, accessing help can be nearly impossible.

Our home-based model provides an essential safety net to support both frail older persons and their caregivers. Our fieldworkers walk door-to-door throughout Cape Town’s townships, searching for senior citizens in need of support. We call these fieldworkers 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. We also assist 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.