The children in Sweetwaters have amazing gifts, talents, and potential. But the obstacles they face are great. Sweetwaters has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. Most children in Sweetwaters do not live with their parents. Every child needs the support and encouragement of someone older and wiser to walk life's road with them, but especially children in Sweetwaters, where abuse, poverty, and poor education are the norm. Research shows that a link to one caring person can be enough to help children succeed in an adverse environment.* Research also shows that for lasting community transformation to occur, 60-70% of the target population needs to be reached*. This "tipping-point" creates an environment where the majority of young people are well-educated and making wise decisions--establishing a new norm and making hopeful dreams a living reality. Right now, through iThemba education and Christian mentoring programmes, 11% of the young people in the community are being reached.
Camp is a chance for kids and teens to step out of the pressure of their daily lives and spend an intense 3-day period being shown love and support by our mentors. On camp, kids and teens have fun playing crazy games, eating delicious food, and enjoying time on the beach. The whole focus is to create a safe and fun environment where campers can open up about what's really going on in their lives. Mentors eat, sleep, and play with the campers for the entire 3 days in order to build strong relationships and have opportunities to share about Jesus with them. Every year we take 50 kids and 50 teens on camp. Visit this page to find out how you can be involved!
Life Groups are small groups of kids that are walking through life together with a mentor. These groups meet after school in 13 different homes in the community. Life groups are a chance for mentors to build relationships with kids, have fun together, and have an intentional time focused around learning what life looks like when you're following Jesus. We have a team of 46 dedicated teens from Sweetwaters who help us lead these Life Groups as well as our Saturday Kids Clubs.
Home visits are at the heart of our mentoring work. iThemba mentors meet one-on-one each week with children and teens from Life Group, Life Skills, and Running Club in their homes. This is part of our long-term mentorship strategy of building intentional relationships with kids and teens. Through these relationships, mentors are able to provide the personal support that kids and teens need to live a life making wise choices and following Jesus. Watch a sneak peak of Mashinini arriving at a home visit here.
Our Saturday kids clubs (Jabulani Kids Clubs) impact over 200 kids each week. These clubs provide a safe weekend activity for kids, and also provide a platform to introduce them to iThemba mentors and get them plugged in to Life Groups. At club (which is co-lead by our mentors and our "Kids Crew" teen volunteers from Sweetwaters) kids have fun with games, songs, and crafts, and are introduced to what it means to follow Jesus.
Khula Teens Club is an afternoon club where teens gather to hang out, talk about life and God, and connect with iThemba mentors. Once a month, iThemba mentors hold small groups for the Khula teens, which is a chance for the teens and mentors to build stronger relationships and go deeper together.
In Mpumuza, holidays are often a time when children are left unsupervised, and the 3 day holiday clubs run by iThemba give kids and teens something fun to look forward to and provide a safe, protected place for them. Even more important, these clubs are yet another way mentors can interact with kids and teens, build relationships, and get young people connected to smaller groups (like Life Groups). The clubs run during April and September holidays, reaching about 600 kids and teens. This has only been possible because of local and international volunteers. Learn more about volunteering here!
Our fieldworkers lead assemblies at various schools in the community, as well as plan extra-mural activities. This gives children who are not involved in the other mentoring programmes the opportunity to interact with our staff. We also have the opportunity to partner with the SCA (Student Christian Association) groups at several local schools. These groups meet during lunch time, and iThemba mentors are able to connect with teens and build relationships.
The Year of Your Life Volunteer programme is our "gap year" programme for recent high school graduates from Sweetwaters. Our goal is to help them bridge the uncertain time post-matric by helping them develop the skills they'll need to thrive in life.YOYL volunteers are also paired with a full-time iThemba mentor, who meets with them one-on-one, and assists them with their personal and professional development. In return, volunteers assist us with our weekly mentoring programmes. Our dream is not for every single YOYL volunteer to eventually come on staff with iThemba, but rather, that no matter what their career or calling, they would be equipped to be the leaders and role models for the community of Sweetwaters. DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE & HAVE A HEART FOR DEVELOPING FUTURE LEADERS IN SOUTH AFRICA? We would like to greatly expand this programme to include more young people in the community, but this would require a full-time staff member to design the educational and developmental aspects of the programme, and assist in running the programme. Contact us if you are interested in being a full-time self-funded staff member in this position.
Bring more mentors to the fatherless children in Sweetwaters and help them reach their dreams.
Right now, through iThemba education and Christian mentoring programmes, 11% of the young people in the community are being reached. Your monthly partnership would allow us to multiply the successes we've already experienced, playing a role in ending cycles of poverty, abuse, poor education and limited role models. We invite you to join us in this work of bringing hope to every child in Sweetwaters.
BECOME A MONTHLY PARTNER
Your monthly donation through the Plotting Hope Campaign goes directly to fund mentoring work in Sweetwaters. The money is used to hire staff who are mentoring children and youth in the community on a daily basis. It may also be used for mentoring project expenses such as running camps and training workshops, equipment for educational classes and clubs, and creating fun events for the children being mentored. At iThemba Projects we honor the trust you have placed in us by donating to our organization. If the purpose of these funds ever changes, we will let you know.
*Dr. Jennifer Crocker, University of Michigan
*Geoffery Canada, "Whatever it Takes: Geoffery Canada's Quest to Change Harlem."