"Where is my father today?" the boy at Life Group asked Thulani, the iThemba mentor and group leader. Thulani didn't understand at first. Most children in Sweetwaters do not live with their parents. In South Africa as a whole, less than 50% of the children live with a mother and a father. This number is even higher in Sweetwaters, due to high unemployment, high teenage pregnancies, a broken family structure (a legacy of apartheid), and the highest HIV/AIDS prevelance rate in the world. Thulani wondered if he had met the child's father when he visited the Life Group children's homes. Was the child's father missing? The boy kept asking, and eventually Thulani realized the child was not referring to his biological father, but was asking where Sizwe, an iThemba staff member, was this week.
The reason Thulani was confused was because the boy was using the word "Baba", which means "father" in isiZulu. Usually a child wishing to be respectful would use the term "uncle" (malume) for someone Sizwe's age. The fact that he referred to Sizwe as "my Baba" shows this little boy was desperate for someone in his life to call Father. The iThemba staff who work as mentors in the community strive to be role-models to children who often don't have positive father-figures in their lives. They walk along life's road with these children and teenagers, encouraging them, giving them support to make wise choices, and bringing them hope.
iThemba Projects partners with the people of Sweetwaters (Mpumuza), to transform a generation of kids and teens through education and mentoring so that they may bring hope to their community, and be a light throughout South Africa.
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