Introducing the Team: Nokwanda Mkhize


Nokwanda Mkhize

Tell me about yourself and your family?
We are a family of 6 people and I feel very blessed. I have two sons and 2 daughters. My eldest is 13 years and my baby is only 5 months old.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about helping others. I have always been this way. I want to help people before helping myself. And I am especially passionate about working with youth.
What three words describe you when you are not at work?
Adaptable, Friendly and Helpful
What are you looking forward to in your new role at dlalanathi?
I am looking forward in working with different people that I get to connect with in the community. I am most excited about working with youth and children who have been affected by trauma and loss.
What motivated you to go into youth work?
I am motivated by knowing that I am empowering youth with knowledge that I have. That I am making a change in their lives and that what I do is done with love. When I see someone making good decisions and healthy choices with little help from me, this motivates me even more.
What keeps you going?
My Family!! I don’t think I can do anything without them. They are the reason for my existence and their love and affection for me is what makes me keep going.

Introducing the Team: Lungelo Maphalala


Lungelo Maphalala

Tell me about yourself and your family?

I am Lungelo Maphalala born and raised in Newcastle, Madadeni. Graduated at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with an Honours Degree in Psychology. I come from a family of 6 members me being the last born of the family. We were raised by our loving and caring grandmother who was a bit strict and I am very close with her. She’s my human diary.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about mental health and providing emotional support to individuals who are faced with past/current traumas and finding healing and ways to deal with daily challenges. I am also passionate about working with children and adolescents who have learning challenges, helping them find a safe space to be themselves and know there is someone out there who understands and is willing to listen to them.

What three words describe you when you are not at work?

Loud, friendly and caring

What are you looking forward to in your new role at dlalanathi?

In my new role as a Youth worker I’m looking forward to working with different people, learning and expanding my knowledge, and sharing creative ideas. Working closely with the youth in helping them discover their strengths and capabilities and finding various ways to deal with the social ills they are currently faced with in their communities.

What motivated you to go into youth work?

My love for working in the communities started when I was an adolescent. Having lost my mother at the age of 7 years motivated me in wanting to help communities. So basically my story motivates me towards community work. People are vulnerable, people are hurting, and people are broken. There are a lot of emotions one goes through in just a day. Being part of an individual’s healing journey is very much fulfilling.

What keeps you going?

Taking walks, going out with friends and family for lunch or picnics at the park as well as just being in my own space at home in my room. Practicing mindfulness and being in sync with the inner spiritual being and recharging. Also having to make an impact in someone’s life.


The Child Participation process in action

“Hustlers in Action”, one of our out of school youth groups, asked us to support them to facilitate a Child Participation Process with children in their community. We were so excited that this request came from them. Nontobeko Mpungose, our Child Protection Officer trained and supported this group to run a 9 session process with 50 children that ended in a community based event run by the children in the group.
Our Child Participation process is based on that developed by ChildtoChild (, and has been adapted to our South African context. To date, dlalanathi has run x number of child participation processes in 3 communities around Pietermaritzburg. One of the first activities is mapping the issues that children feel most affect them in the community.
This poster shows rape and abuse as the most prevalent issues for them in their community.
Over the 9 weeks children got to discuss these issues. They were invited to do research on the topic and then come up with an event that would enable them to voice their concerns and what they need from their families and the community to protect them.
The day of the Child Participation Event children made banners that communicated key messages that express what they are asking of their parents and their community to do in response to Rape and Child Abuse and they walked them through the street for everyone to see.
These children were very clear with their message. “When we tell you that we are being abused we want you to listen, we want you to believe us, we want you to take action”. One child’s message was “Dads stop abusing us, Uncles stop abusing us. We want protection from you".
This was a deeply sobering event.
One parent got up and spoke at the close of the event. She said that she did not understand what the group was about that her child was going to every Saturday morning. Normally her child would go to the soccer field in the morning but now they wanted to attend this group. She said that she has observed changes in her child over these week and that this makes her happy. She expressed that she is in full support of the group and that the work they have done to raise these issues has opened her eyes and she will take these messages seriously.

We are incredibly proud of the bravery shown by these children as they ask for what they need, what they have a right to from their parents and their community. There is no child protection without child participation.

The Power of Playdough!

Power of play doughA Professional Practice Workshop by the RDT team.
At dlalanathi we have had a practice of hosting fellow professionals working with children and families for professional practice workshops in which we focus on learning new play skills. Each workshop has a theme and there are usually two or three play skills which are taught for participants to use in practice.
Our first professional practice workshop of 2021 happened in August and it was a delight to be face to face with social workers, social auxiliary workers and community workers from different organisations.
In August we focused on play dough and taught three different ways of using play dough with children and families. Each participant made their own playdough, many commented that this was their first time making playdough. At dlalanathi we love playdough so much we were very happy to be part of their first exposure to it!
We then asked participants to make an object out of their dough, and as they did, the silence that permeated the room was peaceful and serene. Participants invested their time and energy into making all manner of objects. As one participant said “No one knows if there are flaws or mistakes in my object. I can’t be judged for what I am making.”
When we asked participants if this workshop met their expectations one participant said “Yes, it made me realise that there is a lot for me to do within me so that I can be there for others.”
This is the power of playdough. It is not that we wanted people to make an object in order to complete a task or even to “get it right,” there is no such thing, the play dough object is about the sensory and emotional connection with a beautifully pliable material that requires more imagination than thought, more presence than analysis. Another participant said “Doing my object gave me a sense of self-determination, it was what my mind wanted to do, without any judgement from anyone.”
Whatever emerges from the playdough is simply all about oneself in that present moment and so it could be that one’s needs, sadness, fears and joys arise and that is ok. What is within us needs some safe space to be expressed, and this is what working with something like playdough can do.
“…the past always goes with you if not dealt with and I think I still need closure.”
When we are aware of what is needing attention, hopefully we can access the support to attend to it. This is especially important when one is in the helping professions and giving so much out to others.
At dlalanathi we love play and use play to connect, to heal, to communicate because it is a non-threatening way of slowing down, being present with ourselves, and simply enjoying a moment of play that is healthy and legitimate – even (especially) for adults!

Inspiring confidence to play!

Holiday ProgrammeDuring the school holidays, 12 newly trained women from Willowfontein joined our team to run a holiday programme full of fun, laughter and play. Our goal was to have 100 children participate, we planned for 150 and 203 arrived. Clearly, children want and need this kind of stimulation, that is contained and held safe by adults who care about them. What is the alternative? Beyond the usual good amount of unstructured free play time, there may be boredom, mischief, excess screen time and even exposure to unsafe people/places/activities.
Dlalanathi conducted a child rights situational analysis (CRSA) in Willowfontein in 2019, focused on the child’s right to play. Children themselves identified that play is incredibly valuable to them, but that often safety issues get in the way of play for them. Children said they feel that their parents don’t trust them, don’t give them time to play and keep them at home (due to safety concerns). Having an adult -led holiday club, with adults who are sensitised to the needs of children and who can share joyful experiences, promotes the child’s right to play in a safe environment.
During the recent holiday club, one of the Ward Committee who was there on the day said “Wow our children are so happy! We have never had anything like this in our community before.” Our hope is that this becomes a regular part of the life of Willowfontein.
At dlalanathi, we aim to inspire confidence and impart skills for adults to initiate such programmes, even long after we leave the community. Play should not depend upon dlalanathi being present, but upon responsive, informed adults who wish to provide safe, fun spaces for play and connection. We want to see adults attach the same value to play that children do, and then be inspired them to help make play happen. Thanks to the 12 Willowfontein community members who showed up and played their hearts out with 200+ children, you made a real difference!

Meet Nomvuyo Bhengu

Nomvuyo has participated in our youth process since 2017 as part of a youth group known as Silwela ‘inguquko youth group based in Sweetwaters. Nomvuyo’s drive and passion towards positively influencing young people in her community saw her not only touching and influencing lives in her own community but also in different areas in and around Pietermaritzburg as a whole.
Due to her passion and natural ability to work with youth and children, Nomvuyo was invited to be one of the MTV SHUGA STAY ALIVE FOUNDATION Peer educator; and with no hesitation she accepted the invitation.
The role of the Peer Educators was to share and facilitate SRHR (Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights) based themes in the form of short video clips. These clips were shared via their FACEBOOK pages and they were tasked with facilitating online conversations themes such as RAPE, HIV, ABORTION, TEEN PREGNANCY AND SEXUALITY.
The aim of this process was not only to reach as many youth as possible, but also to provide a safe space for youth to engage about key topics in their lives especially during these COVID-19 times.
Nomvuyo did not just meet the required numbers but she excelled. With her passion, quality facilitation skills and the ability to relate with young people; Nomvuyo was able to create a safe space for her Facebook followers and brought about a positive influence to youth.
In addition, Nomvuyo’s passionate efforts did not only see her being nominated for the MTV SHUGA STAY ALIVE FOUNDATION PEER EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD in South Africa but she won the award. We are immensely proud of Nomvuyo!!
In conclusion, it has been an absolute to have received the opportunity to work with a young person who is not only passionate about her progress but also that of the young people around her.

Team collaboration is magic!

I found myself in the middle of a magic moment recently. It was a meeting between the Research Design Train (RDT) team and the Youth team. We were together to discuss the design of a new leadership component for the youth process. As the youth team described what they see and experience of young people in the community, we listened and were immediately engaged in the world of youth. The passion of the youth team set us off and soon we were sparking off one another, tuning in to the needs, identifying the gaps in our process, and talking about the possibilities.
It feels like there is magic in collaboration because of the acceleration in ideas, creativity and deeper thoughts. Powerful questions and thoughts emerged from our discussion; what makes a good youth process leader? How do we help youth make space for one another? What if leadership is about feeling worthy to make a contribution and then able to step into taking responsibility for self and others? What if leadership is connected to a sense of belonging?
Collaboration is the process or action of working with someone to produce something. I love being part of the dlalanathi team where collaboration is a key ingredient in our work. All of our work out in the community starts with a collaboration process within the organisation. Being the wonderful age of 20 years, dlalanathi has matured to a place where collaboration happens in ways that do indeed feel magical at times! Everyone’s voice is heard, everyone’s opinion is important, everyone gets to play!
This meeting was magical for me because we were embodying our dlalanathi values through working in collaboration with one another in deep respect and love. These values have been cultivated over time and it’s exciting to see the way they emerge and enrich the ordinary and day to day with a bit of magic!
Team Collaboration is Magic

Introducing the Team: Mpumelelo Hadebe


Mpumelelo Hadebe: Training Manager

We welcome her wealth of experience and learning.
Mpume is confident, warm, open hearted and has a contagious growth mindset! We know she will add immense value to the dlalanathi team. Here are some questions we put to her to get to know her a little bit.
What was your favourite childhood game?
My favourite childhood games were the indigenous games such as ushumpu, skipping rope, and 3-tins.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about providing emotionally supportive and stimulating guidance for women and children who have experienced any type of abuse or trauma, as well as organising and running workshops that help to prevent social ills.
Three words that describe me when I am not at work, are loud, bubbly, and kind.
What are you looking forward to in your new role at dlalanathi?
I am looking forward to working with different people in various projects, coordinating training and development for caregivers, community members, and different organisations that work with children and people affected by loss, trauma or abuse.

Introducing the Team: Sandy Meyer

sandySandy Meyer: Development Manager
What was your favourite childhood game?
I spent hours drawing and creating imaginary roads, towns and shops, out of chalk on the driveway. My brother and I would then ride our bikes through them, living out our pretend lives. I remember we even created a drive in to watch movies, which was staring out over our view from the garden, and a police station, should the need arise for any arrests. The best part was getting to create it all over again when the rain washed it away.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about people, families and communities finding joy, health and wholeness and growing into a place of thriving. I am passionate about the power of play, and how we can engage in play at all life stages. I love cooking, baking and having people around my kitchen table for tea and a deep chat, and maybe a quick game of Bananagrams.
What three words describe you when you are not at work?
Adventurous, joyful, inquisitive, my family might add messy (at times!). I call it “creative chaos” which is sometimes on my desk!
What are you looking forward to in your new role at dlalanathi?
In my new role as development manager, I am looking forward to working with other people as a team, as previously I have been working solely in a private practice and it can become quite isolating. I look forward to sharing ideas and thoughts and perhaps cups of coffees when Covid-19 regulations are less restrictive. I am excited about being able to offer a perspective on play, development and well-being throughout the age span, as an occupational therapist. It excites me to play a part in producing excellent quality work, that is reliable, relevant and up to date. I look forward to learning and having my passions fanned to flame.

Playing through a crisis

PlayingThroughCrisisPlay is incredibly important for children and also incredibly important to them. We think this bears repeating. We all need to know this.
Play is supercalafragilistically, colossally important to children. And mega-enormously and undeniably-scientifically-proven to be important for them too.
We’re having fun playing with words because play is important for us and to us too! Thanks for playing along! Please feel free to share your own descriptive words in the comments about how significant play is in your life!
Right now, South Africa and the world is in crisis brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. But, this does not change the fact, scientifically proven, that play is important for children. Especially in a crisis.
In the coming weeks, we will be unpacking the benefits of play for children and their families, using data from children and adolescents themselves who participated in a situational analysis dlalanathi conducted recently. We will also give some ideas for play activities at home. Keep watching our Facebook and Instagram for more! We have been using play in all of our processes for 20 years. We believe that play has many facets, like a diamond. Play is;
for communication
for healing
for fun!
for learning
for protection.
In these times when there is much anxiety, uncertainty, and loss, it is imperative that children be given opportunities to keep on playing. At times, adults are so stressed out that play may be the last thing on our minds. This is completely understandable. But the mental health and well-being of our children depends upon their access to play.
We need to be intentional about making time and space for play, even when it is hard. Play today is a short as well as long term emotional, social and cognitive investment in your child’s future. Play most definitely also benefits adults, so as you make the time to play with your child you are investing in your own well-being too.
#asidlalanje! (just play!)

We Play We Connect We are Brave

During these times of Covid-19, dlalanathi remains committed to encouraging play and close connections in families, even more than ever before. We are excited to announce that we have collaborated with some awesome organisations to produce a booklet for children and families, "We Play, We Connect, We are Brave" is a fun, colourful resource for the whole family to enjoy! Thank you to Cindi, Singakwenza, Jelly Beanz, and Family for Every Child for your passionate care for children and families along with the Department of Social Development for your support.
The english booklet can be downloaded here and zulu version here. Editable versions are available on request via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Introducing the Team: Linda Smallbones

lindaLinda Smallbones: Development Manager
What is a “typical” working day for you?
I spend most of my days in the office, reading, researching, thinking, talking to people and attempting to be creative. Some days I go into the field and I love those opportunities.
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month?
Gugu and I travelled to Joburg to present some of our work at the Couch and Country conference for the South African Psychoanalytic Confederation. A great time of learning from professionals in the mental health field who are passionate about holistic wellness. A big takeaway for me was realising, again, that we as NGOs and community workers have so much to offer our country in terms of strengthening mental health. This was incredibly affirming.
What is one challenge you have to contend with in your role?
The gap between the office and the field is sometimes big! By this I mean that what I (and the team), dream, create and design in the office doesn’t always necessarily work well in the community. And sometimes the feedback loop around different aspects doesn’t get closed and therefore I am not always aware of what’s not working, or what is working fantastically well! (Which I love to celebrate!)
What motivated you to go into this work?
I am a social worker by training, with 13 years’ experience “in the field” - a mix of community, family and group work. My role at dlalanathi pulls together my years of experience in diverse settings and allows me to use creativity that I find stimulating and fun. dlalanathi’s approach is beautifully unique and incredibly respectful of indigenous knowledge and strengths, and is grounded in relationships. When you read or hear people’s stories of what has changed for them, you realise that this works. I love being part of this philosophy and practice because it’s authentic and exciting to me personally and professionally.
What keeps you going?
Passion for people.
What three words describe you when you’re not at work?
Outdoorsy, family-orientated, introvert.

Introducing the Team: Nomagugu “Gugu” Mpembe

guguNomagugu “Gugu” Mpembe: Parenting Programmes Coordinator
What is a “typical” working day for you? A lot of organising and scheduling and calling and setting up meetings and groups, awareness and trainings. And then the actual work in the community.
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month? It’s been with the Play Mat* refresher process. We started the process in order to increase play and learning in the home, but it’s been very significant for me to realise that the impact has gone beyond play in the home, to be able to impact emotional and physical stuff that is happening in homes. I don’t think I was expecting cases of abuse and physical punishment of children (to come to light). I think it shows how powerful play is, through play, children are expressing more. Children are talking about what’s happening to them in a space where before, they wouldn’t have gotten the chance to. They’re trusting their caregivers in that environment to be able to help them, it just shows the type of relationships the facilitators are building with the caregivers and then the relationships that caregivers are building with their children.
What are challenges you have to contend with in your role? There is a challenge in the community of people’s participation, and of keeping the momentum of our work going in the community. We put a lot of work in and put in so much effort into building relationships, to providing training, and at the end of the day, the responses can be much lower than what you expected them to be. I understand that there’s a lot that people are preoccupied with, there are a lot of challenges that they’re facing, and it also just reflects how difficult life is for everybody.
Another challenge is sometimes you expect a lot from yourself, you think you’re not doing enough.
It’s challenging to work with people’s emotions. Every day you need to be present and find a way to let the stories that come up affect you. It feels like you’ve got to be a bit of a Superwoman, wake up every day to take it all in again.
Sometimes it’s hard to live with people’s stories. You realise that you might be more privileged in certain ways than others, how you balance that can be challenging at times.
What motivated you to go into community/youth work? I don’t know! Lots of people wouldn’t have expected me to be in this work, as an extremely introverted person. But this is starting to change. I am an introverted extrovert now! At the same time, I don’t see myself doing anything else but community work. I’m an introvert but I’m very different when I work with people. They bring out a different side of me.
I manage by “switching off” when I go home. I don’t want to talk, I want to be alone in my own space. I’m a personal space person, I’m a hibernator. It just clicks in after work. I like it like that, it works for me. This is what re-energizers me.
What keeps you going? Breaks. I enjoy time out. Going on holiday refreshes my mind and gets me ready to get back into the work again. Not dwelling on a lot of stuff that comes as a part of my work, and just accepting that it’s not mine. I’m just a tool. Which is hard sometimes, but I’m always trying to find that balance of “this is not mine”.
What three words describe you when you’re not at work? Hibernator, couch potato, social time (Play!) with friends.
*For further details about our Play Mat process please have a look at our Website under the tab ‘Our Programmes’ and ‘Research and Development’.
Gugu, second from left, in planning with the team over a ME Power weekend.

Interview with Basadi @ Work

Interview with Basadi @ Work – “Basadi” means women so these are women @ work and as one member describes it, “We’re missioning!”


Zama (19), Thando (25) and Nokubonga (23) are all young moms. They each have a daughter, 4 years, 4 years and 3 ½ years respectively. Each has dealt with the challenges of being a young mom in a community where many young moms are rejected by the father of the child “Often there is no support from the father’s side of the family, so many young women raise their child alone.”

In March 2017, Basadi @ Work was launched. And there has been no slouching since then! This group sees a need and a fit with who they are, and they just go for it. Their passion and care are woven through all their responses as we talk.

Around the middle of 2017, Thando and Thembeka (not present at the interview), attended a Teen Moms process run by dlalanathi Community Facilitator, Gugu. In Thando’s words: “we fell in love with it (the Teen Moms process)!”

Thando and Thembeka then went on to run a Teen Mom’s process of their own, Zama and Nokubonga both attended this and were also impacted by it. When I asked what they have received from these processes, these were their responses:

“We were learning about how to raise our children, how to play with them, because sometimes as a mom you don’t have time to play with our children… but we learnt how important it is. We learnt not to shout at them or to call them names.

“I learned how to grow my child and how to talk to her and how to respect her and how to see when something is not right. We talk to one another more now.

“Every time I’m with my child, I get closer to her, I let her be friends with me and let her be free when she’s around me. Most of us grew up with our mothers swearing at us, calling us names so what we learned is that if we swear at our children, they will grow up not having a close relationship with us. I can communicate to my daughter that what she is doing is wrong, but do it in a right way – not shouting and swearing.

Following this process, Nokubonga and Zama joined Basadi @ Work as members and together they decided that they wanted to continue bringing the messages around care, protection and parenting to young moms in their area. They are currently in the middle of a process with 9 local young moms. Here’s why they see it as so important:

“We decided to do Teen Moms so that we could talk and hear the problems of the young girls (some as young as 12 years old) and hear their problems and look for solutions together.

“(We want) to see their lives changing. To take good things from what we’re saying to them and to do something with it.”

Basadi are really concerned about young girls dropping out of school due to pregnancy and passionately believe in education as a way forward.

“They need to go back to school, education is the key.

“My advice would be to stay in school. Youth need to stand up and build their own future. Stay in school and push on. Education is key.”

“Even though you may be pregnant, don’t give up on life, don’t try to drop school, cos there is no need for that. Carry on, like me, I was pregnant and doing grade 10 but I didn’t give up. I always knew what I would like to become so I didn’t drop school. Don’t lose hope, when you know where you’re going, you become something.”

“For those who don’t see school as a key, they should push themselves and go back to school. If you’re not educated, life outside will be hard for you, so you need to go to school and learn. You need to know where you’re going and a things that you want to have in life. Not all of us are great at the books, we must look for what we’re good at.”

These are their messages of hope for young girls who may be pregnant and scared…

“Everyone is the best! Nothing can conquer you, you need to stand up for yourself and think about what’s best for yourself. Don’t let go of things that you do know means a lot to you – especially school.”

Don’t lose hope, even if the situation looks hectic. Having support groups like this one, like Basadi and Teen Moms, where young people get together and talk about these issues. Form a group where you can debrief and come together when you need support. Invite those who have kids to come and talk about how they managed. Babies are a gift, if you’re pregnant you have been given a gift so you have to take care of and appreciate that gift. That baby didn’t ask to be born so parents need to take responsibility and try to provide to the best of your abilities. We are trying.”

What’s next for Basadi @ Work?

Continue to work with young moms. We also want to engage with the kids of the moms. We want to work with teens to prevent early pregnancies.

With the kids, we want to have sessions with them on how they feel around the community, whether they feel secure. Make them our friends, to tackle all the challenges that they face in their households. A few of them are starting doing drugs, so to help prevent this.

Celebrating Women’s Month August 2018

Speech by Thobeka, Grade 9, given on Women’s Day 2018.
Greetings. My name is Thobeka. I am doing grade 9. In school I am a student leader and also a peer leader in the community. My role as a leader is to lead my peers by example and honestly. I should not lead by authority but should lead by knowledge.
Womens Day collage
However, before I am a leader, I am a girl. And on this day (9 August, Women’s Day, South Africa) I will tell you how it is like to be a woman and also be a leader in this country. For me, being a girl has never made things feel different as of a boy. But some women who I am close to have felt that gender inequality. This is whereby a man’s voice sounds louder than a woman’s voice (In Zulu we say; izenzo zomuntu wesilisa zibukeka zibalulekile futhi kuyizo ezifanele umuntu wesfazane.)
But, gender inequality is not the only problem that we women face. Day by day we are discriminated because of our bodies, on the way we dress. This is what is called “body shaming.” I can relate to this, as I have and still experience body shaming where people are always saying “Thobeka, you getting bigger”, “Thobeka that skirt doesn’t look good on you because usududla (you’re fat)”, “Thobeka, you should start jogging.” And I always ask myself that who said that for me to be beautiful I have to be slender?
As much as body shaming has played a huge role on most women’s lives and destroyed their self-esteem and their confidence. I have not let this get into me. Maybe this is because I have people who always tell me that I am beautiful just the way I am and that my body is precious just the way it is. And I believe that we should get more people who can tell our women that and the little girls that are still growing up.
But sometimes, on some cases we women feel our importance and see our value, on events and days like this. Where everyone can be able to hear our challenges that we face and those make us less human.
I believe we should have more men like the ones that are with us here today. Men who have hope, and also support women in leadership.
So everybody, forget all the reasons why it (equality) won’t work and believe the one reason why it will! All the limits are self-imposed. To all the ladies here today, Happy Women’s Day.

Introducing the Team: Nontobeko Mpungose “Beko”

bekoNontobeko Mpungose “Beko”: Child Protection Officer
What is a ‘typical’ day in your working life? Going to the community where I mostly do trainings and child protection awareness’s. I interact with individuals and caregivers in the community and I get to understand their everyday life and struggles. I also get to understand why they behave the way they do towards their children sometimes, and I find that a lot of it has to do with the way they were brought up, and sometimes when they get stuck and they don’t know what to do, they revert to the way that they were raised. What they’re doing, such as beating their children sometimes, is not really what they want to do, but they do it out of frustration. What I love about this is that you get to interact with them, there is a little bit of change that seems to happen in the interactions and then people go away from the training saying they want to try a new way of disciplining their children.
I train on child protection, but actually it feels like the focus is parenting because people confess that they beat their children out of frustration, and they want that to change. It is important to talk about what is happening in their own homes first, before talking about child protection in the wider community! The goal is for children not to be abused in their own homes. Everything is a process. A learning process.
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month? When we were doing the child participation event, what struck me was the fact that children were able to stand up and talk about their own feelings about abuse. They were able to be vulnerable in front of their parents and other adults. It made me realise the child participation process is very empowering for children. Children are being listened to, they are being heard.
What is one challenge you have had to contend with in this role? People want to report abuse, but they don’t want to get involved. Once you start following it up, they say things like: “No, it’s been sorted” or “No, I got the story incorrect.”
Once a lady in the community reported suspected abuse of her relative’s child. She was very worried about the child. I asked her for her relative’s phone number so that I could follow up. She agreed, but the next day she phoned me and told me not to worry, apparently the story is not true, there is no abuse.
People share stories, but they don’t want the follow up. There is a lot of fear.
Please share a story from the field… When I was running a Child Protection training, there was one participant who was about my age. She appeared so angry. She shared about how her daughter was approached by a much older man who told her that he loved her. Her reaction to this appeared to be harsh, an extremely angry reaction that didn’t seem justified by the behaviour. It turned out that she had married very young when an older man said that he loved her, and she ended up in an abusive marriage. She does not want the same thing to happen to her child. People so often react because of the pain they have been through themselves, and we need to see and understand the deep pain where people are coming from.
What motivated you to go into community work? I’ve always wanted to work with orphans growing up. When I lost my mother (as an adolescent), I realised how much people go through. There’s a lot that happens, there are a lot of changes and there are a lot of expectations of the people you’re living with, and expectations from the community. There were a lot of decisions I had to make myself.
And what keeps you going? Knowing that I have made a contribution in someone’s life. Sometimes you do feel helpless in certain situations, but you also know you’re making a difference every single day. They go home changed people, even though change is a process – in the long run there will be change. If I train 30 people, I know that about 3 of those people will implement what I’ve trained them on and that will make a difference in a child’s life.
What three words describe you when you’re not at work? Happy, loving, and caring.

Keeping your children safe in an “online world”

Recently I, Linda, had the privilege and pleasure of attending the NSPCC conference on the internet and child safety in London, England #howsafe2018. My biggest takeaway from the conference is that parents and caregivers need to be as involved with their children’s online lives as they are in their real lives.
According to research; 91% of children in the UK are active online by the time they’re 8 years old, but generally family conversations around internet safety are starting when children are 9 years old. Research shared showed that only 68% of parents feel confident in managing online safety for their children. That means that just over 30% don’t feel confident and consequently, may be doing little or nothing to ensure their children’s safety online. The research also shows that parent attitudes to safety issues on the internet tend to be overly positive and don’t account for the potential risks. Rather, it was found that parents bury their heads in the sand, have the view that “it won’t happen to my child”, and that they trust their child to “do the right things online”.
The issue with this is, the internet is a vast, open space in which there are innumerable opportunities and also dangers. Your child may well be extremely trustworthy, but this doesn’t mean that you’d send them into the middle of a large, unknown city at night on their own and expect them to find their way home safely. I have come back convinced that the key values we hold at dlalanathi in all our processes are still extremely relevant in a digital world. In our capacity building processes we advocate for Play, Parenting and Protection in order to increase circles of support around children. The area of advocating for children’s safety in a digital context is no different.
More than ever, parents and caregivers need to listen to their children, find out about their favourite apps and play them together, visit their favourite websites together and ask questions to understand what their child is experiencing. Talk about how to keep safe online, why privacy settings are so important and how to use them – and if you don’t know, get them to teach you! Get your children and adolescents’ participation in setting up family guidelines for internet use in your home, have a plan that you all agree to for how and when the internet will be used. has a wealth of resources, as does for this as well as starting conversations with children about their online worlds. There are also a number of videos on for specific age groups that help kids (and parents!) understand and manage the risks on the internet.
As a parent myself who is, ironically a bit of a technophobe, I accept that my children will always be a step ahead of me in technology, however, I always want to be a step ahead of them in protecting them in both the digital and ‘real’ worlds. The key is that as parents, caregivers and professionals, we are confident in our role as people who protect children.
With huge thanks to the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project for making this trip possible through funding. We look forward to sharing the learning with as many adolescents, children, caregivers and professionals as possible!

Charlize Theron - Africa Outreach Project

The spirit of Ubuntu has always run through CTAOP’s work. Ubuntu speaks to the understanding that we are all interconnected and that we each belong to a greater whole. To lift up others is to lift up all of us. When searching for partners, it is a trait that we seek out and hold in the highest regard.
From the first time we met with dlalanathi, we knew that Ubuntu ran deep in the organization’s mission and within the staff themselves. We have been inspired by their passion and their sincere commitment to truly serve the community. We began working with them as a program partner in 2013. At that time they were just beginning to work with adolescents as a vital part of their overall work to strengthen communities. Since then, we have been fortunate to bear witness to and support the evolution of their Youth Process. Dlalanathi’s youth program today is incredibly strong, and it is a testament to the organization’s commitment to include youth in the process of program design, implementation, and evaluation. They have always prioritized listening to what the young people want and need, and as a result they have not only built a program that truly serves those young people, but also have been a catalyst for young people to develop and emerge as the community leaders they strive to be.
It has been a wonderful journey working together, and one that has seen some amazing outcomes. We remember being blown away when speaking with some of the youth leaders who participated in the Youth Process and presented their own ideas of how to initiate change in their community. They drove positive activism, which led to many community leaders changing their views on young people. They no longer saw them as difficult to work with, but as agents for positive change. It moved us. Real and lasting change will always come from the inside, and that’s exactly what we see happening thanks to dlalanathi’s work.
CTAOP is very proud to have walked this path with dlalanathi and, in the spirit of Ubuntu, we are excited to see what we can continue to accomplish together.

In honour of Father’s Day

fday2Wisdom from a young dad: Part 2
10. So, where did you learn to have this kind of relationship with your daughter?
I cannot really say I was taught. It came with excitement and passion and I tried, because I always give my best to every aspect of my life. Growing up, we didn’t stay with my dad so we didn’t have time with him. He only provided through my mother. I grew up with my sisters not with my brothers, so no one really taught me how to be a dad. I don’t think it’s something you can learn but it’s something that you can create for yourself. And that’s the problem with young dads is that we think that having a child is more about providing financially. Of course, they need this provision but it’s not the only thing. If someone is unemployed they tend to run away because they cannot provide financially for their child, but there are other ways to give – emotionally and physically just by being there. Acknowledging the gift that you’ve been entrusted with. It’s a very special gift to have someone to carry your bloodline and to have your own creation.
11. You said that this is not something one can learn – could you clarify that?
It’s not about learning it. It’s there in us naturally. It’s all about unearthing it. You cannot learn to love because love comes naturally to a human heart. It’s just that people don’t take care of it and it can fall away and be buried under emotion and fear. Fear of not being good enough, fear of failing to provide, fear of taking responsibility. The capacity to be a good dad is there, it just needs to be nourished and watered like a plant. I’ve seen it with many guys who are fathers. They hardly see their children but when you sit and talk they say with pride, “Ah, this is my son, this is my daughter.” Which means that it’s there, but they haven’t found ways to nourish it or they don’t have that support structure to help them realise their potential as fathers.
12. What relationships in your life have supported you as a dad?
My partner’s mom and her dad before he died in 2016. They were very supportive because my partner and I were in our final year at University when she fell pregnant. My partner’s mom looked after the baby during the day so that made our lives so much easier. My partner also has encouraged and supported me in my relationship with our child. Emotionally and physically, my sisters have been there supporting us. But the person that stands out the most in my partner’s mom. She did so much for our daughter.
13. What has been your biggest dad mistake?
I am not perfect. There are times when I get into a fight with my partner and I am so emotional that I shut down and then maybe I won’t call her. But by not calling her I won’t speak to my daughter. If I don’t see my partner, I don’t see my daughter. Not that she’s punishing me, but it’s a choice that I make because I am angry. In the beginning I would only spend time with her when her mother was present but my partner said to me that I need to spend time with my daughter without her being present. Now we hang out more alone together and then we have time together as a family. What happens is if you break up with your partner and the relationship with your child is relying on your relationship with her, then you run the risk of your relationship with your child to be broken.
14. As a father, what does it mean to you to protect your daughter?
My partner and I allow her space to be open and talk about anything. Knowledge is power, so we teach her about her body and private parts and who can touch her where. We have a rule that only her mom can touch her private parts when necessary. We have taught her that if anyone comes to the gate, even if it is me, she always has to run inside to tell her mom or granny first so that they are aware there is a visitor.
15. What do you enjoy most about your daughter?
What I enjoy most is seeing myself in her. Seeing how she has copied me almost completely, even the way she sits. I really enjoy that she is confident, active and fearless. She’s a fast learner…she’s amazing!
16. What has she taught you?
A lot! She’s taught me that love between a child and their parents is one of the most fundamental things that there is in life. And I get her love in return. You learn to appreciate life more. Recently, she’s been able to differentiate when my partner and I talking and when we are disagreeing about something. I’ve learnt to be careful around her because sometimes you overlook that as parents. We get lost in our own emotions and forget that someone is watching. She has taught me to be patient because when I’m trying to teach her something, it just doesn’t happen overnight. But eventually she gets it. And when she does, that’s the most amazing feeling. You need to step down to their level and be playful!
17. What message would you have to other fathers, especially younger fathers?
I would say, at first it is scary, I won’t lie. You will ask yourself, will I be able to do this? It can be challenging. Sometimes you can feel like you’re not sure and I think that’s only natural. I would say to them, if you are willing commit yourself to love first. Don’t think about the other stuff, think about love and what love means to you. Because if we put ourselves in a situation of love you will begin to think differently. And once you look in their eyes and see the look of trust and innocence, once you hold them and start to bond you will see that you have been entrusted with something special. I really believe we all have it in us and it’s not impossible to love. You can get married and get divorced. You can have friends and then the friendship might end, but parenthood is for life. Every day counts. What we do today will determine our relationship with our child tomorrow.

In honour of Father’s Day

fathers day 1Wisdom from a young dad: Part 1
Siya Mnguni has been a member of our team for the past 2 years and works as a dynamic youth worker. In the time that he has worked here we have had the pleasure of watching him parent his daughter and we see in him all the qualities of a great father.
Please join me in celebrating this special dad as we enter into the week before Father’s Day. Siya is father to 4 and a half year old Ntonkozenhle, meaning “Beautiful Joy”. We gave Siya the fun challenge of answering 17 questions for the 17th of June about his experience of fatherhood – enjoy!!
1. What does the word father mean to you?
That’s an interesting question!! It means to have someone to protect you. To be entrusted with that role of being a hero for your child. To be given that privilege to take care of someone.
2. When did you become a father?
Back in 2013, I was 23 years old.
3. What was it like when you found out?
I was overwhelmed with joy more than fear. I remember that I just couldn’t contain myself.
4. What were your hopes or expectations?
I have always wished for a daughter as my firstborn so that was my first hope, that “it” was a she. I even named her 2 – 3 weeks after finding out about the pregnancy. I named her Ntokozenhle which means ‘Beautiful Joy’. I was excited and I couldn’t wait to meet her and look into her eyes. Of course, there was that fear. Would I be able to do this? Would I be good enough? Would I have enough to take care of her and attend to her every need? But the excitement was greater than the fear. I was so excited about being a dad!
I always refer to myself as a dad rather than a father. They say it takes a father to make a baby, but I say it takes a dad to provide and to protect. And when I talk about provision, it’s not only about money. It’s about spending time, providing the space to bond, being there physically. For me, that’s how you become a dad.
5. What has this experience meant to you, 4 and a half years down the line?
Yesterday, her mom was saying “She’s growing up now, God is good.” Time flies and passes by so quickly. It has been amazing seeing her grow over this time and seeing her portray some of my traits. She is like me. We’re birds of the same feather; in our attitudes, in the way we behave…it has been a wonderful time for me. Of course there have been challenges, but never too much for me to say I can’t do this.
6. What have been some of the challenges to being a good dad?
You sometimes wonder if you are doing enough and you don’t always have what she needs at the right time. Small stuff catches you off guard, like when she needs new shoes and you just bought new ones a short while ago. That feeling you get when she’s not well. And it’s challenging because we do not live together, she stays with her mom and so weekends when I have to work and I cannot see her are the hardest for me.
7. What do you see as your role as a dad in your daughter’s life?
My role as a dad is being there, being present and providing to the best of my abilities. Letting her know that she is loved. I feel like we as men have a resistance to showing our feelings to our children. We assume they know we love them but I believe that my role is being there and really making sure that she knows she is loved.
8. What is your favourite thing to do together, the two of you?
Oh! We go crazy! She likes card games, taking selfies and reading stories. She loves stories, I read to her and become animated with sounds because she loves that. If you’re reading about a lion you have to roar. We enjoy driving together. And now we’ve added a new activity because she wants her hair cut like mine, so now we go to the barber together because she wants to look like me! There’s a lot that we do together.
9. What kind of dad do you want to be?
Obviously one is never perfect. I want to be the greatest dad. I want to use every minute of every day that I get to spend with her to be one that she doesn’t forget. One of the things I say is I want her to remember me long after I am gone. I want her to remember that she had a dad that was irreplaceable and unforgettable. I want to be the kind of dad that provides enough affection and love for her and that she knows “this is dad” and this person I trust.
Because for me when we were growing up our dads were providing, but there was not space for that relationship. We never sat down with our dad and played cards, he never read us stories. That was left to the grandmothers and mothers. I didn’t get to stay with my dad growing up, but I have seen it many times that my dad was not present, even when he lived in the same house as his children. I don’t want to be that kind of a dad.

Word Cloud

Recently, a long-standing international donor of ours asked us to ask youth we’re working with this question: What is the biggest concern in your life right now? 46 youth, both in school and out of school, responded and the result is represented in this word cloud. The larger the word, the more times that particular word appeared in the responses. We think this word cloud speaks volumes for itself.
PS: Coming soon…an interview with an amazing youth group who are working with teen moms in the community. Youth impacting youth on the biggest issues they face, now that is something we’re really excited about!!

Child Protection Week: 27 May – 3 June 2018

The Department of Social Development leads this annual campaign in South Africa, with a focus on children’s rights and an appeal to all sectors of society to undertake protection of children.
The truth is, we all have a responsibility whether we have children of our own or not.
plan to protect
I’d like to suggest that protection of children should not be a spontaneous, ad-hoc affair, but intentional and thought through. Have you thought about what makes a safe space for children? Have you asked a child what makes a space safe for them? And once you know what they need to help them feel safe, what steps can you reasonably take to support that kind of environment for them?
I (Linda) learned a while ago with my own children to ask after a play date, even one at which I was present, “Did you have fun? Did you feel safe?” with a follow up: “What made you feel safe/unsafe?” When we’re able to discuss with our children their experience of their environment, we can help work with them to make plans to keep safe. Ongoing conversations with my kids about what helps them feel and be safe and unsafe helps them to think through for themselves when they are safe and when they are vulnerable. They’re learning how to express what they need for safety to be present – a safety that helps them to thrive and learn and grow as they’re meant to. My daughter tells me she feels safe in her classroom with her teacher “Because she’s kind.” My daughter is recognising the quality of kindness as a safe container for her to learn in, and hopefully she herself is also growing in her kindness to other kids as her social interactions grow. Emotional safety is every bit as important as physical safety.
At dlalanathi, each time we start a process with children or adults, we ask them to define a safe space that they are happy to work in with us. We want to create parameters that optimise participation, relationship building, risk and growth. For me, this epitomises what child protection is all about. A large part of our capacity building with caregivers is helping them to grow in communication skills, such that they are able to open up safe spaces of intentional communication with their own children and others in the community. There is a vulnerability and risk in stepping into relationship in this way, especially when this kind of relationship has not been present before.
Time and again caregivers have come back to us and reported that simply by listening to their child and making time for them, their relationship has improved and their child has shared something more about their experiences in their own lives. Participation, relationship building, risk and growth have been woven together to create a safe space for children to communicate.
Protection and safety of children is about providing them space for participation and yes, risk. My (somewhat timid) son, decided he wanted to participate in a downhill mountain bike race recently. My husband went with him the day before the race and they did the course together; four times (at my son’s request)!! The day of the race, my son was one of 40 kids participating in that particular race. He was, naturally, nervous as it was the first time he had ever done anything like this before. He wasn’t completely comfortable at the start, but because his dad had taken him through the course, this provided him with a sense of confidence that enabled him to risk participating in the “unknown” and enjoy the race. My husband provided all the preparation he could, but ultimately he had to step back and let our son do the race entirely on his own, and he did. My son wouldn’t have learned about what goes into participation in a mountain bike race by sitting on the couch watching the pros do it – although it would surely have been safer!
When we think about safety with our children and help to co-create safe spaces for them, we give them a place to grow from, to take good risks, to try new things.
Consider your relationships with children; your own or nieces, nephews, friend’s kids, or your neighbour’s, or children you work with. What conversations could you have with them about what a safe space means to them? Because even that one conversation provides a child with a safe space to participate and contributes to child protection!

Introducing the Team: Thandeka Zuma

thandeka1Thandeka Zuma: Youth Worker
We have the pleasure of introducing Thandeka Zuma is a Youth Worker and has been with dlalanathi for 5 years.
What is a ‘typical’ day in your working life?
In the office it is preparing for youth meetings, and looking at what we’re discussing with the groups. In the community I attend youth meetings and support youth development. I do whatever I have to do with the youth to support them to run community events. We talk about what they want to do as a group and how to plan and prepare to achieve these goals. For instance, there’s a group that works with a group of 40 kids and they’re currently fundraising for that group to have proper traditional attire so that when they perform they are all in the same uniform. They’re collecting donations and they’re also selling things to raise this money.
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month?
In the time that I have worked with one of the youth groups in Mpumuza I work with most of them are now working and some of them have found internships. One of the girls in the group is working on a forestry internship at the moment. She is from a family that is struggling financially and the internship came just at the right time to provide support.
What is one challenge you have had to contend with in this role?
When we began working in Mpumuza we struggled to find youth to work with. I guess this is one of the challenges in working with communities. We were new and people didn’t know us or what we were about. They didn’t want us invading their space. They had a strong sense of protecting yourself. I think it was a lack of trust. People have been taken advantage of a lot in the past and they don’t know who to trust really and it takes time to start building relationship and actually getting people’s trust.
Please share a story from the field
My story is about a young girl who has two children and had dropped out of school. Through the youth group she was participating in she felt that she should go back to school. At the beginning of the year she went to register and she is currently doing grade 10 at a local high school in the area. Although she is a bit old for her class she is happy that she’s getting time to complete her studies.
What mothandeka1ativated you to go into youth work?
I was part of a club in High School and we used to visit orphanages and hospitals and I think from there I realised how much I enjoyed working with people and I was always happy going to different places to do this. This is what motivated me to go into youth based community work.
And what keeps you going?
The results at the end of the day. Even if it’s one person, I did something. I was part of the joy of that change and it feels really good. And knowing that even when you have leave (our organisation exits a community after 4 years of work) you have imparted something that will last.
What three words describe you when you’re not at work?
I am a mom, a sister, and I’m just calm.


professional practice
Recently, our whole organisation had the pleasure of participating in a coaching training process. Learning how to hold “thinking conversations” with others, both an art and a skill. We worked together for 3 days and it was a delightful learning experience!
The content and the concepts were clear and were exciting, but what really truly made the difference for me was the facilitator of the training. She was completely present. She was completely there in mind, body and heart, committed to our learning process.
Her presence was communicated in the following ways;
  • She did not once in all the 3 days look at her cell phone. Every tea and lunch break she interacted with us. That communicates something very strongly to me in this day and age where we are all (I include myself) glued to our communication devices whenever we see a gap!
  • She listened really, really well.
  • She was in no rush at all. We had a lot of ground to cover, but she had all the time in the world for us, walking at our pace so we focused on the area’s most important to us.
  • She was completely committed to our learning. Her language was such that she was always gently encouraging; “You can do this, you can do this. It just takes practice, give it a go.”
  • She believed in the potential of every single person present and communicated that over and over again.
  • She brought who she was, she was authentic and real.
When was the last time you were listened to in a way that made you feel like you were the only person in the room? When was the last time someone gave you their full and absolute attention and was in no rush whatsoever to interrupt you? We practised a lot of that kind of deep listening during the week. It was marvellous! It was wonderful to be listened to by my colleagues and it was wonderful to simply listen. To be present. And something happened in the staff body over these 3 days. We were a more cohesive bunch than we have ever been before. We all became more and more present to each other. And we ended the training with a time of acknowledging one another. Speaking affirmations of what we had noticed and experienced over the 3 days, deepening our relationships with one another and our commitment to having deeper conversations as we integrate this practice into our work. I found this really very beautiful.
professional practice1Presence unlocks something. When you are slow to talk and quick to listen, the powerful questions that lead to insight come! However, when you are so busy formulating the perfect question or response or defence in your head, you are actually no longer listening at all. Being present takes some intentionality on the individual’s part. We need to decide to be present; mind, body and heart, in order to truly listen to another. Your presence is a gift, whether you are in a professional or personal space.
What could the benefits be for us if we decided to be present in our conversations? How much more effective could we be if we decided to lay aside all distractions and focus on the other person?
So here’s the challenge! For one whole day, choose to be completely present. Choose to lay aside all distractions when you have another person in front of you, and pay attention to only them.
Let us know how it goes! With huge thanks to dlalanathi for the opportunity to be on this course. And to Dr. Nicola Graham of Thoughtsmiths ( who facilitated with such excellence and presence!

In the field Sexting Module

In the field: Testing, testing…

I (Linda) am an office-based member of staff at dlalanathi. I see my chief role as supporting the work done in the field by my colleagues, working with them to offer processes that are relevant and timely in responding to psycho-social needs they encounter daily. Over the past months it has become more and more apparent that we need to add online safety to our repertoire of child protection processes. No matter the socio-economic status of a community, larger numbers of children and teens are gaining access to smart phones and the internet.
The internet is beautiful, the internet is terrible. Just like a huge Metropolitan city such as Johannesburg. The City is dazzling in beauty and yet also in parts, terribly dangerous. We would never allow a child unfamiliar with such a large space to wonder around alone and unsupervised, so why let them loose on the internet alone and with no “directions”, boundaries or supervision?
Enter the first phase of design; reading and reading and more reading around the topic of children, teens and online safety, the impact of technology-assisted sexual abuse, and the impact of excessive time online. Reading and research lead me to Emma Sadlier and Lizzie Harrison’s book “Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones: A Teenager’s Online Survival Guide.” I decided to design a module on sexting (sex+texting); when someone shares sexual, naked or semi-naked pictures or videos of themselves with others.
With the module designed, I set out to test it; with a group of women leading a child participation group, with a school LRC (leadership group), and with an all-female out of school youth group. What a joy! To be in the community and meet so many people I usually only hear about via my colleagues. And to first-hand test something that I have designed. I love the insight and experience it gave me. One of the biggest challenges in design and testing is the feedback post-testing – most often fieldwork staff are so much in the non-stop action that there is precious little time to sit and feedback how it went, what worked and what didn’t. The pleasure of being there in person and seeing the participation, and the process unfold for myself was lovely. I really got a feel what didn’t work and an inkling for what would be better.
Besides some of the technical learning that happened for me, here are some key things I took away from my experience:
  • Sexting per se between children and teens in the community we work with is not a common practice at present.
  • Sexting is a made-up English word and is tricky to translate into isiZulu.
  • The passing on of pornographic photos and videos generated by the porn industry via WhatsApp is a far more common practice in this community. (As opposed to nude selfie pictures sent between two people in a relationship with one another). The average age of first exposure to full on porn is 11 years old in South Africa – unfortunately this statistic seems to bear out from all I heard.
  • It is vitally important to start talking to caregivers about the beauty and the dangers of the internet, they need to be on board, placing boundaries and protection around their children.
  • Some schools are telling caregivers that their children need to have smartphones in order to access the internet and enhance learning opportunities. These same schools have not necessarily talked about online safety and safeguarding measures (And this concerns me greatly).
  • It’s a really tricky tightrope when you’re aware you have some children who are extremely sheltered and have never heard about pornography and now you’re bandying the term about, and then some children who have heard, seen and possibly done it all.
  • Re-design needs to happen, with a focus on how one can conduct a healthy relationship with the internet so that one’s reputation and retina are not damaged and the soul not permanently scarred after a few years of internet use.
  • I am delighted to go back to the drawing board and re-think the design of this, it means that the feedback has been real, and hopefully I have ‘heard’ correctly as I have listened and engaged with people.
Most importantly, I learned to get to know your ‘audience’ or end user – after all, they are the reason we are here.

Introducing the Team: Nontobeko Khoza

khozaNontobeko Khoza: Community Capacity Building Facilitator
We have the pleasure of introducing Nontobeko “Nonto” to you! Nonto has been at dlalanathi since 2009. We can’t imagine life without her, she’s strong, reliable and real!
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month?
On a personal level, after the coaching training we had (as an organisation) in February, it really helped me to take action on an issue I had been postponing and postponing for two years now. I have now taken action and it is not easy, it’s uncomfortable, but I see a big difference! I think that the training really pushed me to take action.
At work, running our ME Power process with a group of community members (with whom there have been some group tensions) that I have been working with for over two years now, helped me to see them in a new way and helped me to know them better; where they come from, and their struggles. It helped our relationship, for me to be more understanding of where they come from. I think it helped them to know where they are at in terms of their live’s and goals. I became closer to them after that training and they see their strengths.
What is one challenge you have had to contend with in this role?
It’s when there is no participation. It’s when we go out into the community, do awareness’s**, and then nothing… After awareness, we hope that people are willing to continue participating in our programmes, but when there is nothing, that becomes a challenge for me because it feels like I’m not doing enough. Another challenge is when a conflict arises in the community and I start to wonder what I have done wrong, have I made things clear about our role as an organisation from the beginning?
Please share a story from the field…
One woman in the community who has been a key person right from the beginning of our work here as had some significant personal challenges. During one process in which she was participating, she cried every day due to her personal challenges. She told the group each day how she was feeling and why she was crying. At the end of the process, she told the group that she has never really had someone to talk to about all of this, and that’s why she was crying so much, there is too much pain inside. She felt (during the process) she had the space to just talk and talk and cry. She said what the group helped her to do is resolve within herself how to change her response to her challenging situation. This change in her response, changed her whole life. She saw her need to be with other people, to talk and to play. She loves playing with children, she loves children and children love her! Her home is an open place for children to go to. She has now opened a crèche and is saying it is dlalanathi who has helped her be where she is at now. She feels it is because she had a chance to talk about everything and cry that she has now moved on. The change happened slowly over time, but where she is at now compared to where she was before is a big change.
What motivated you to go into community work/youth work?
When I left school there was no money for me to further my studies and then I joined a youth group in my area and I think I was motivated from there. That youth group was doing some community work, like going to the schools and cleaning the rooms. They were doing different things, there was a choir, a drama group, from there I developed that love of working with people so when I had the opportunity to go to University I decided I wanted to work with people. I studied psychology and sociology and had the chance to work with Bev Killian. I helped her with her community work and research. I helped her with translation and running some children’s focus groups. I started to love working with people and working with children.
Initially when I finished school I wanted to do something with accounting, but when I joined that youth group that changed completely for me. A group helps you to think differently, it’s something that challenges you, but if you’re sitting doing nothing, nothing will happen.
And what keeps you going?
I always think “Things will be better tomorrow”. When I am going through some challenges, I just think that tomorrow will be better than today, there is that hope that there is change. I am an optimist. I don’t dwell on hardships. Once I tell myself that tomorrow will be better, I start to relax, even though I may be going through pain at the current time.
Here is Nonto in the far right of the picture, playing with caregivers and their children in a recent Family Support process.
What three words describe you when you’re not at work?
I’m simple, caring and friendly. I’m just me!!
** Awareness in dlalanathi’s community work process is a key part of building relationships when entering a new community. We present our processes and set up interactive sessions where people can learn more about dlalanathi, and the way in which we work.

Ibhayi Lengane: "The Child’s Blanket"

blanketIbhayi Lengane: "The Child’s Blanket"

In our blog on the 9 March, we wrote about a more recently developed process; Ibhayi Lengane. Julie Stone, Paedeatric Psychiatrist, long-time friend of dlalanathi and founder of uThando Dolls, visited our partners, Ethembeni, who helped us to field test the Ibhayi Lengane program. We love how Julie captured many aspects we love best about our friends at Ethembeni and the positive impact the process can have on relationships. Please enjoy this blog written from Julie’s perspective.
The day began with Rachel, Robyn, Peter and I travelling to Mpophomeni to meet with members of the Ethembeni team and three young mothers and their babies whom the Ethembeni primary health team worked with during the testing and refining of the Ibhayi Lengane Program material. The Ibhayi Lengane Program offers a conceptual framework/program with resource material, in isiZulu and English, for home visitors to use with pregnant women, supporting them in their journey over the 1st 1000 days of their baby’s life. The central and organising metaphor is a baby blanket – a warm, safe and containing space for the baby. The program embraces the mother’s need to take care of her own health and wellbeing, so that she can care for her baby’s. All the material promotes the Community Health Visitor (some paid, some volunteers) building a relationship with the mother, and supporting and encouraging her to build a relationship with her baby. The material offers activities and guidance to encourage participation from all members of the household, in the hope that they will all work together to support mother and baby.
The Ethembeni health workers were very enthusiastic about the program and grateful for the practical and relevant knowledge and skills they had gained. Tutu, an experienced isiZulu health worker, said the materials had helped her gain confidence allowing her to deepen her conversation with pregnant women, and to be better able to understand the challenges she faced and the concerns she had.
The three young mothers shared their experience of being part of the 1st 1000 days program. Two spoke in isiZulu with Tutu translating, the third in Sotho. Terese, a bilingual team member, translated the Sotho into isiZulu for Tutu to then translate into English. Both of the isiZulu women spoke of their despair when they found out they were pregnant, one with twins. They both already had a child and knew their families would be angry with them. One worried she would be turned out of the home. Both said they considered abortion and one said she contemplated suicide.
The women said the support of the home visitor and the conversations about the 1st 1000 days (the English words threaded throughout their discourse) brought hope to each of them. They were so relieved to learn that she would walk with them until their baby was two years old. She helped them tell their families, and helped the families talk about some of their disappointment and their fears. Before delivery two of the women said they felt ready to welcome their baby and it was clear by their handling and breast feeding of their babies that the new relationships have begun well enough. The children were well nourished, and content. One, a little girl of six or seven months, whose twin died in utero, was lively and engaging. The other, a little boy, only six weeks old, slept for most of the time and fed quietly before resettling to sleep in his mother’s arms.
The young mother from Lesotho came to KZN with her boyfriend to find work. They live as part of a large informal settlement on the outskirts of Howick, near to Mpophomeni. Shelley, a midwife who has worked in close partnership with Tutu for the last seven years, said employing Terese, an isiZulu and Sotho speaker, has been so important for Ethembeni’s work with the many very disadvantaged families who come from Lesotho in search of a better future for themselves and their children.
This young mother, isolated from her family, said how very important Terese has become for her, her boyfriend and their son. She said it has made the world of difference to know that someone is looking out for her, and said she has learned so much from Terese about “being a mother” and looking after her boy.
To hear the primary care team’s enthusiasm for the 1st 1000 days program and the Ibhayi Lengane resource material, which includes a blanket and some A3 posters with important messages and information for the mothers, meeting the mothers and their children, hearing the women’s stories, and observing them breastfeeding and talking to their babies, was a wonderful endorsement of the potential and power of this program to set a positive developmental trajectory for the parent-child relationship and the future positive developmental course for the baby.
For more info on uThando dolls visit:
For more info on Ethembeni visit:


Recently, Thabile and Linda co-facilitated a workshop for Social Service professionals on the topic of dealing with resistance. We had 17 lovely people in attendance including social workers, social auxiliary workers, and community workers. As social service practitioners, we all related to the narrative of the “resistant” client. We discussed the in-your-face direct resistance that sometimes happens and then the polite, passive resistance that often happens. With direct resistance, you know where you stand as the client will say something along the lines of “I have had 22 social workers, you are my 23rd. I am not interested” (Linda’s client of 15 years old, unfortunately a very true story).
Passive resistance is a little trickier; the outwardly friendly, polite acquiescent client who agrees with all but does absolutely nothing as agreed.
And then obviously there are a whole lot of shades of resistance in between.
We reflected a little while on our personal experiences, feelings and frustrations as professionals in the face of resistance. Most importantly, we got to exploring in more detail the very good reasons our clients display resistant behaviour.
Here are some of the reasons:
  • fear of rejection,
  • fear of the unknown,
  • lack of trust of practitioner, language barriers,
  • denial of the current situation,
  • the client is not ready to talk or open up,
  • afraid of being a failure,
  • afraid of being judged,
  • low self-esteem,
  • protecting someone,
  • pride,
  • when the client has lost hope and
  • emotional and physical pain…
Significant and substantial reasons exist for clients to be resistant. Resistance needs to be expected and respected. We explored sensitive and gentle ways to deal with this. We agreed that resistance is like a wall of protection the client builds around themselves and that our skill as practitioners is to find ways to move around or over the wall, being careful to never bash through it. The only time we would bash through a wall is when a life is at risk.
The best tool that we have at our disposal to work around resistance is ourselves. Relationship building, being present, listening, being consistent, and proving ourselves trustworthy are all ways we can gently and sensitively navigate resistance. And hopefully, when we do it well and with patience, the client will remove the walls themselves and step out to meet us!
With huge thanks to our professional practitioners who came to this workshop and shared of themselves with us and one another. We salute your work out there in the field!
You are all pièce de résistance!****pjɛs də reɪˈzɪstɒ̃s,French pjɛs də ʀezistɑ̃ noun
1. (especially with reference to creative work) the most important or remarkable feature.

Introducing the Team: Robyn Hemmens

IMG 20170714 162924 646
Robyn Hemmens: Operations Director
What has been a significant learning from your years of working with children?
To answer this questions I need to share a story. Before working for dlalanathi I worked for an organisation that served girl children who lived on the streets of Durban. When driving to work in the mornings I would slip off the highway and get caught at the robot before turning onto the road that would take me to the shelter. I was always glad to get stopped. This meant that I got to spend some time with a few boys who lived across the road in an informal settlement. They spent their early mornings begging before going to school and we got to know each other over time. We learnt each other’s names, I got to asked them about school, we spoke about their families, I sometimes shared my lunch with them, and we often laughed together. They finally stopped asking me for money. In that brief moment each morning there was an experience of shared joy for us. This was an important part of my day.
On one such morning only Sipho was at the robot. When seeing my car he left what he was doing and came to say hello. While hanging on the window of my car door he said “Robyn, if I look carefully I can see me in your eyes”. I looked at him and realised this was true. When I looked at him I could see me in his eyes and I told him so. We smiled, the robot turned green and we said goodbye.
As I drove on to work the truth of his observation hit me. Getting to know Sipho, hearing his stories, observing the struggles of his life, watching him play with his friends amongst the cars, watching how he would open up to people who treated him with care and shut down when he was glibly dismissed, I recognised how often my being with children opened a widow for me to see something of myself. Sipho’s vulnerability helps me recognise my own vulnerability. His playfulness my own need to play. His need to be loved and protected my needs too. On a deep human level we were not different at all.
I have learnt that if I can see myself in the other I will respond with greater compassion, show deeper empathy, hold greater faith is one’s ability to both grow and transform, be quicker to forgive, and be more ready to communicate value and worth. I want to see myself in the other and I want to trust that they will see something of themselves when with me.
As John Powell said “It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being”.
And most importantly, I have learnt that children are my very best teachers. For them I am most thankful.
What motivated you to join the dlalanathi team?
My years of working with children on the street gave me a clearer understanding as to why children run away from home. Children run because of poverty, they run because of trauma and loss, they run when there has been abuse. What I did not realise was that all children on the streets had one thing in common in their story and that is that back home there is no adult that they feel safe with that will protect and advocate on their behalf when things go wrong and when life is difficult. Back home there was no emotional connection to keep them from running.
When leaving work with street children after 15 years I needed to find a place where the focus was preventative. Where energy was directed towards building the emotional connection between adults and children so that children had safe spaces and safe people to go to for help, and dlalanathi has offered me just this kind of space. I am motivated by working with a creative team, by the adaptive nature of the way that we work which means that things are always fresh and new, by the amazing partnership around the work that give generously enabling the work to happen and I am motivated by my deep love for children.
What keeps you going?
Hope keeps me going. The belief that what we do in dlalanathi is really important. And a great community of friends that love and support me, a lovely home, my yoga mat, and the time I find to do creative things.
What is a ‘typical’ day look in your working life?
My days always start early. I am normally the first person in the office at 7am and I generally brew our first pot of coffee. I like being early. I like being in the office alone. These early hours are often very productive. My role requires me both to lead and to serve. I am part of the management team that deals with all of the operational issues affecting the organisation. I am responsible for translating our strategy into a plan that is feasible and achievable for our field team and provide support that enables them to do the work that they do. I have a close relationship with my computer, I spend a lot of time in meetings, and time with individual staff. I maintain relationships with our international donors, write proposals and reports to local donors, and build and maintain supportive relationship with different partner organisations. I plan, schedule, rearrange, sort, create order, organise and try to make things as simple as possible for others. I try to remember the small things. I support Rachel our CEO who does an incredible job of leading us as an organisation. And I make salad most days for Rachel and I which we share together over continued conversation about work.

What has been a memorable moment in your work this past month?
A month ago all of our staff participated in 3 days of coaching training. Together we engaged and practiced the art of asking powerful questions. I value working with people who are risk takers, who are vulnerable and authentic, and who know how to have fun.
What is one challenge you have had to contend with in this role?
I spend a lot of my time communicating to people via email. I get work out quickly, like I walk. But things don’t always come back to me as fast. This can be a challenge as a lot of my work depends on what others need. This can be frustrating. But I also understand it. We are different. We work in different spaces, at different paces with different priorities. I need to keep finding new ways of asking, and patience to wait.
What 3 words best describe you when you are not at work?
Creative, faithful friend and companion on any occasion that has good food and good wine.

What Our Partners Say: PACSA

PACSA is the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action |

Written by Skhumbuzo Mpisane (PACSA Process Facilitator)

What happened?
PACSA was running a small business program for our social club members who are interested in starting their own small businesses. These were a group of young people who were not or couldn’t afford to study further and did not have the skills to apply for work. However, some of these young people were just simply not interested in studying further or seeking employment but believed that freedom will come from them starting their own small businesses.
According to the program goals, we did not have enough people to train and we started connecting with other like-minded organizations for recruitment purposes and Dlalanathi was one of those organizations we connected with.
We shared that we had this opportunity for youth and if they, Dlalanathi, had young people who might be interested they should share the opportunity with them, which Dumisa (Dlalanathi Youth Manager) did.
pacsa1dlalanathi logo
How was the partnership valuable?
The partnership was valuable not only in the sense that we got young people from Dlalanathi to attend our program but they were remarkable young people. They were familiar with our practice and they understood our vision of the program, so much so that they were able to explain it to other young people we had in the program. Up to now, we are still in touch with them and we are still assisting in their small businesses.
What did you (and we) learn?
Our processes may be the difference but our goals are similar (we aim to empower each other) in this case young people. Through that common understanding, we are able to share resources and information that will enhance our community partner’s experiences.

Dlalanathi follow up story…

One of these ‘remarkable young people’ to whom PACSA refers is a young man from Sweetwaters. In feedback to Dlalanathi youth workers, he said he joined the youth group (mentored by Dlalanathi) because he was sitting at home, not doing anything. Initially, he didn’t have a goal, or know what he wanted in life. However, things started to change when Dlalanathi introduced the group to PACSA to embark on the small business training, and this young man responded with enthusiasm and passion to all he was being taught. He has stuck with it and his business is starting to pick up and he is now he is a mentor to other young people who are starting businesses.
He said: “Had I not utilised this platform, I don’t know where I would be. I appreciate the fact that I have had focus, I know where I am going and how I am going to get there.”

In the Field Ibhayi Lengane

ib1Ibhayi Lengane: The Child’s Blanket

“When someone loves you, it’s like having a blanket all around your heart.” Helen Fielding (author)
At dlalanathi, when we develop a process that will promote the psychological and social care of individuals and families, we like to have an image on which to frame that process. When you think about a blanket what comes to mind?
A blanket is many things to different people;
  • It is used for Traditional African attire
  • It’s how we warm ourselves on a winter’s evening sitting in front of the fire
  • We sleep with them
  • They are given as a present for a new-born baby
  • Blankets are essential
  • Feel cosy
  • Used for Umembeso (the giving of blankets in the stages of a Zulu wedding)
  • It communicates comfort
  • And many of us can remember carrying or babies blanket around with us though the early years of our childhood
………..and there are as many adjectives to describe a blanket as there are actual uses!
ib2One of our newest and most exciting processes is the First 1000 Days process. This focuses on mother, child and family from pregnancy right through to when the child is 2 years of age. The themes running through this process are “Love, Play and Talk”. What better image to portray the essence of these foundational relationship building concepts than a blanket!
In the Ibhayi Lengane home visiting programme, the home visitor meets a number of times with mom at different stages of pregnancy up until the baby is 2 and in some of these meetings her family is invited to participate. The home visitor says “as you are your unborn baby’s blanket of support, I am your blanket of support”. This introductory message is communicated in word and practice as home visitor begins this journey of support with mom. In the first visit with the whole family, the home visitor brings along a blanket to give them in preparation for the birth of the baby. They are invited to sew something on to the blanket as decoration. Many have chosen to write the name of the imminent arrival. Here is a brief but powerful story on the impact of the blanket on one family.
One of the home visitors said, “If you are gentle the introduction of the blanket opens up conversations with mom and with the family about the coming baby. One mom I visited proposed to the family that she write ‘Xolisile’ meaning I am sorry, for the baby’s name on the blanket. Another family member felt that the family needed to forgive. After the discussion the family decorated the blanket with the word ‘Siyabonga’ – meaning we are thankful, expressing that the child is a gift to the family. Acceptance, healing and love came from this simple and yet profound interaction, as the family navigated this conversation around the decoration of this blanket for the baby.’
What do you think of when you hear the word blanket? What does a blanket mean to you right now at your stage of life? We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories about what the word blanket conjures up for you!
Please see our website for more on Ibhayi Lengane, under the ‘Our Programmes’ tab, or contact Robyn Hemmens at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more info.

Professional Practice: World Social Work Day

Each year in March the International Federation of Social Workers promotes ‘World Social Work Day’.
“It is the key day in the year that social workers worldwide stand together to celebrate the achievements of the profession and take the theme message into their communities, workplaces and to their governments to raise awareness of the social work contributions and need for further action.” (from the Federation website
The theme message for this year is ‘Promoting Community and Environmental Sustainability’, this is the second and final year of the theme set by the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development.
In 2016 and 2017 dlalanathi had the pleasure of facilitating get-togethers for Social Workers and Social Service Practitioners to celebrate Social Work and Community Development across our region. We took the opportunity to have fun, engage in a creative activity and network as Social Workers and Practitioners in the field of Community Development. Each year we have emphasised the importance of self-care and having fun in order to sustain and care for yourself. A highlight of the time has always been a live interview with practitioners in the field, to hear their views, experiences and stories.
In 2016 the response was so positive and the feedback on the need for ongoing creative learning so strong, that we decide to continue offering get-togethers for Social Service Practitioners in the shape of Professional Practice workshops. These now take place every two months at the dlalanathi offices. The next one coming up will be on the 22 March from 9 – 11am and will focus on how to work with resistance in children and young people. If you are in the area and are interested in participating do be in touch with Linda at 033 345 3729.
world sw day 1
Pictured here are participants working on their ‘Me Badge’ at last year’s event.
world sw day 2
world sw day 3
Celebrate a social worker or social service practitioner in your life this March!!

Introducing the Team: Dumisa Zondi

nathi 10Introducing the Team is a monthly post in which we will introduce one member of the Dlalanathi team. Every member of our team is highly skilled with lots of incredible stories to tell, so don’t miss these!
Name: Dumisa Zondi
Job title: Youth Team Manager
What is a ‘typical’ day in your working life? I am responsible for the overall management of the youth team, balancing the administration tasks and community work that needs to be done. I ensure that our team has plans and clarity about what to do on a daily basis.
I ensure the environment is conducive to our work, for example by communicating and building relationship with Indunas (traditional leaders) in the community who are gatekeepers in the community for our work. I work with the Pillars of the Youth Process, namely the Youth Network, and provide support to them. I also keep my eye on the ground in terms of other NGOs and what they’re doing in the youth sector. I also work with local government through structures such as War Rooms to ensure we are engaging with issues that impact youth.
Overall, I give support to the team and to local structures.
I also deal with individual cases where youth are in need of referral, support and follow up for a wide variety of issues.
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month? Leading the two evaluation camps (evaluation of the 2017 youth process) with “out of school youth” this past month. These camps gave us a full picture of how youth have received our inputs; many say they have been discovering who they are and they have been able to take action in their own lives. Many told powerful stories of impact. I loved that they could voice their appreciation of themselves, to themselves. The feedback on where they were compared to where they are right now was encouraging.
For example, hearing a young person say that they did not know what they wanted to do in life, only that that they wanted to be successful, but they didn’t have a plan. Then, attending trainings gave them the focus and now they have a career goal. Through the trainings and process they were able to decide what they wanted to do, it has helped them to take a step and knock at the door, and they now have access, whereas before they didn’t even think it was a possibility.
They have built social connections with others, initially they thought about themselves only, but began to see the importance of connecting with others, including their families and friends. This makes it really feel like our process is completely worthwhile.
We may not feel like we are where we want to be in terms of the whole of society, but we are being a light where we are.
What is one challenge you have had to contend with in this role? We really want to provide a caring environment, but at times we also have to deal with issues of conflict. We have to try to get that balance between being caring and also being firm with young people when they are negatively impacting themselves or others in the process. For example, if somebody becomes overly arrogant and this is starting to affect the rest of the group and brings in conflict in the rest of the group. You want to take a neutral position but you also want to be firm about what is it that needs to be brought into this space so that there is a workable solution.
One comes with such passion to see things change and to transform in a positive way, but it’s not a once-off thing. It has to take certain processes, it’s going to take you to become firm and honest with your own beliefs. And also, to think about how to deal with issues in a way that is developmental rather than top down discipline that will possibly disengage people in the process.
Please share a story from the field… I’ll share just one, there are many!
There is one young guy, very shy, from Sweetwaters community who gave a reflection at the camp. In his feedback he said he joined the group because he was at home and he was not doing anything. He liked attending camps because that was the time when he had a lot of fun with other people. Initially, he didn’t know what his goal was, or what he wanted in life. But when Dlalanathi introduced the group to PACSA* to do the business training, that’s where he became impassioned. He has stuck with it and his business is starting to pick up. But more than that, he’s stuck to it to the point that now he is a mentor to other young people who are starting businesses. He said: “Had I not utilised this platform, I don’t know where I would be. I appreciate the fact that I have had focus, I know where I am going and how I am going to get there.”
The critical part of our work is that people have dreams, but they’re stuck. How do they unlock them? Through the support that we give them and other opportunities they are given. Business skills are not our area of expertise but we know who to refer young people to for those skills. So, in this story, this young man is a very resourceful person and a support for other young people who would like to start businesses.
What motivated you to go into community work/youth work? When I was at school, I was a very naughty guy. I am now a polished diamond but I used to be a very rough one! There are key people in my school life that gave me mentorship and supported me when they realised I have potential but was just going in the wrong direction. I had the chance to become a class rep, I began to take responsibility from then on. It shifted the way that I was thinking about things and gave me a reason to start supporting other people. I started reflecting on my own life and thought “If I can change, and I was supported to change then I can also support other people towards change.” This became my passion in life. I love working with people, even with all its challenges.
Dumisa on CampAnd what keeps you going? If I look at the context of our country, and of our community, I always say the problems are big, or may look big, but the solutions are simple. And that is what keeps me going.
In youth development you don’t have to do a whole big task or programme. What you do is inspire confidence in young people, you stand aside and that is enough to help them do something because the confidence brings energy, the energy transforms into actions that they take, and those actions you support, acknowledge and celebrate with them. And in youth development, that is what we need to do so that people begin to realise their own potential, and become light to others in their own communities.
And that is always what we have done in this youth project. We don’t tell people what to do, but it happens like it’s a miracle!
What three words describe you when you’re not at work? Fun, analytical, relaxed!
*PACSA is Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action. Find more info on

What Our Partners Say: Uthando Dolls

Written by Julie Stone (Paediatric Psychiatrist and long-time friend of dlalanathi)
Playing Blog 3Peter and I recently caught up with Rachel, Robyn and some of the dlalanathi team on a visit to South Africa. We were welcomed with warm affection. It was Peter’s first visit, and a joy for me to be with the dlalanathi team again.
The team had organised a busy three-day program to introduce Peter to their work, and to share with me some of the developments since my last visit. Robyn, Peter and I set off with Beko (Social Worker and Child Protection Officer) to meet with a group of women from the Mpumuza community who had participated in a Family Support Process and their Child Protection Training.
Mpumuza is a peri-urban community “just over the hill” from a wealthy white suburb where we were staying. Once over the hill and very soon after the turn-off from the main road the tarmac surface gives way to a potholed and rugged track. Not many cars travel on these tracks, they mostly serve as walking paths for many of the community who walk over the hill to supply domestic labour to the homes on the other side.
There are very few community buildings in Mpumuza. To engage and work with this community, dlalanathi have had to rely on community members to open their homes for meetings and groups to take place. The Steven Lewis Foundation have just awarded dlalanathi a generous grant to work with the Mpumuza community to build a safe play park to serve children and families, the first of its kind in this community.
We were welcomed into MaMabongi’s home, one of the few homes in this community with a gate and secure fence. The neat and solid home is set in a well-watered patch of green lawn with three almond trees with ripening fruit at the property’s edge. The humble living room has electric lights and a large comfortable brown velveteen covered sofa. The weather was foul – cold, windy and wet but we were dry and warm in the comfort and care of Mabongi’s home.
Mabongi, Mathato, Fikile and Mathusi were waiting to welcome us and talk about their experiences and their hopes for the children in their community. Siyabonga*, a five-year old boy, was also with us. Mabongi was that day taking care of Siyabonga, the son of one of her neighbours. Siyabonga mother works and his usual carer had gone to a funeral.
When we arrived Siyabonga was being carried on Mabongi’s back. Although he does not look to be five, it was clear he is a big boy, and too old for such carriage. He sat on Mabongi’s knee for the first part of the conversation. He did not seek to explore but reached out for Mabongi’s cell ‘phone, not to engage with the ‘phone but to run the hard edge of the ‘phone along his gum, which he did repeatedly for some time. His eyes did not fix well. He has a slight astigmatism and a slow trail of dribble flowed from his mouth. When he was seated on the floor he was able to support himself to sit, but his mobility was otherwise limited.
As he sat Siyabonga repeatedly bent his head back and forward in a rhythmic way until his eyes began to close and he was taken to lie on Mabongi’s bed. Siyabonga was silent throughout the visit, and clearly found comfort from being close to Mabongi. He looked briefly at Peter when he was smiled at and had a briefly glanced at me when I sat on the floor with him.
When I asked what were their hopes for Siyabonga and other children like him in the community Fikile said she hoped that one day he would be able to walk and would learn to talk. She also hoped that they would be able to find a wheelchair for him.
Mabongi told us that she has been concerned about Siyabonga for some time. It seemed that her recent Child Protection training encouraged her to be more proactive in her concern. Although his mother said she had been taking him to the hospital for his treatment, Mabongi thought his development did not show evidence of any or much intervention. She asked permission to take him to the hospital to learn from the doctors how they understood his problems and what the community might do to help him. She learned that although Siyabonga’s health card has been scanned regularly at the hospital – so he did indeed go to the hospital with someone – he had not been seen by any of the staff since he was one, in 2013! It seemed that his card was being scanned in order to secure his disability grant but no time was given to see the doctors.
Mabongi still does not understand the mother’s neglect or reluctance for her son to participate in active treatment, however, she has Siyabonga’s mother’s agreement that she can take him to the hospital for his physiotherapy and other interventions. Mabongi is committed to doing what she can do to ensure that Siyabonga gets the help and support he needs to make what developmental gains are possible.
These women talked about their hopes for the children in their community – that children would feel safe, that they would learn right from wrong, and that they would be able to find their voice to speak with others about what troubles them. They also want children to have a voice to say “no” to adults who ask, demand or expect them to participate or engage in inappropriate ways that worry or upset them and to identify the adults in the community who are safe and trustworthy and who will support them.
*Name changed to protect identity.

In the field: Children in Mpumuza find a voice

At the beginning of 2017, Beko Mpungose, our Child Protection Officer completed training with a group of community members from Mpumuza where dlalanathi are currently working. After the training, 5 women came to Beko and expressed their desire to work directly with children, and specifically to hear children’s views on child safety and protection in their own community. We at dlalanathi were thrilled and delighted to hear these women’s enthusiasm to facilitate child participation in the community as this is the very outcome we desire to see for children! This contributes to the increase of safe spaces and relationships for children in communities, and communicates to children that they are indeed important and their voices need to be heard.
Beko set about working directly with these 5 women named; Bongekile (Mabongi), Mathato, Ntombifikile, Doreen, Zamekile to train and mentor them in running a child participation process. The process used was based on the Child-to-Child* 6 step tool. The women were trained in each step of the process and mentored weekly as they implemented it with the children. We catered for 20 children and 36 showed up! The sessions were held at Mabongi’s house, she has a big heart and a large garden! The facilitators were gracious and flexible and accommodated all 36 children. As the participation process unfolded, the children chose to focus on child abductions, an issue which has been highlighted in the press in South Africa over recent years (linked to child trafficking), and has been a real issue faced in Mpumuza this past year. The children researched and discussed this topic and decided that they wanted to create a drama to perform for their parents and other community members in order to increase awareness of the issue and to communicate the support they need to feel safe.
Once the participation process was complete, the children continued to arrive at Mabongi’s house on Saturdays, week after week. It was clear that her house had become a fun, safe place for the children to play and so, Mabongi and the other facilitators decided to continue to build and develop their relationships with the children and a “Play Days” club started at the house. Play Days are a great alterative to safe play in communities where often there are no parks or safe, adult supervised spaces for children to play in.
In addition to the start of this Play Day, the facilitators had a waiting list of 18 children also wanting to be part of a participation process! They started another participation process concurrent to the Play Days and thus had very busy Saturdays from then on! This second group of children participating in the process decided that they wanted to deal with the issue of sexual abuse and also parents not giving children food**. After this process ended, the facilitators noticed some changes in some of the children, especially an increase in confidence in those who were more reserved and shy at the beginning of the process.
The grand finale of the year was an event in the community to which the children from both participation groups invited their caregivers to come and listen to what they had achieved and watch the presentations they had created. This was well attended and enjoyed by the caregivers. Beko had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a number of caregivers to find out from them what impact they felt the process had on their children. The comments were positive. As Beko notes: “One caregiver said her child enjoys going to school now and her marks have improved.” “The parents see the programme as something that assists their children in not spending too much time on the street.”
We celebrate Bongekile, Mathatho, Ntombifikile, Doreen and Zamekile who gave a lot of their time and care to the children of Mpumuza in 2017 and continue to do so in 2018. They report to becoming much closer as a group of women and provide a significant and joyful community of support for one another. They are true champions of children!
*Child-to-Child is an international child right’s agency specifically focused on ensuring the voice of the child is heard in all matters pertaining to them.
**Children are monitored and assessed as to their well-being and any concerns about neglect and/or abuse are followed up and referred to local social workers for assistance.
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Parents celebrate their children’s voices at the end of the year.

Technical Supervision

IMG 0472Once a month the fieldwork staff get together with the Development Manager, Linda, to engage in technical supervision (TS). The focus of TS alternates between process-related work and a fun creative space to relax and play together as a team.
In process-related supervision the team looks at a particular process they have been implementing in the community to think about revisions needed and/or decide whether there is any upskilling necessary for better implementation of that particular process. We have learnt that every community is unique and what may have worked in one community may require adapting to best serve who we are working with now. For example Me Power (a personal development process that focuses on empowerment), one of dlalanathi’s core processes for over 10 years, was reviewed in a TS session and small, but significant changes were required to ensured that the process continues to be relevant to the context in which it is implemented today.
This has also been an incredibly useful space where new processes get tested out with fieldwork staff. We believe that it is really important to engage with the content and process ourselves first, before facilitating it with others. This allows for direct feedback given to the Development Manager and has allowed us to refine process and prepare for the work in the field. For example, dlalanathi has started engaging with Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights issues with youth in communities in the past two years. The TS sessions have been the ideal place to test out new material, as well as offer the team a place to become comfortable with the content.
In the creative space TS, fieldwork staff have been given the space to have fun, get a little messy, and laugh! In 2017 the team did ‘no bake baking’ to produce some yummy (sweeeet) goods, explored chalk painting and did dot-to-dot drawings with their non-dominant hand. These creative space times are full of laughter and chatter, are a chance for the team to stop and reconnect with each other as well as with their inner-child.
TS is vital; firstly because it helps the team to consistently examine our ongoing processes and reflect on what is working and what needs to change, especially for those processes the team has been implementing for several years. And secondly, because dlalanathi promotes the values of Love and Play in the community, we as a team need to ensure that we are embodying those values for ourselves; making time for self-care, fun and play in our own lives. TS contributes to be some of the “glue” that holds us together as a team.
Some questions you can ask yourselves as an organisation
  • How do you make space to review your processes in your work life as an organisation?
  • How do you make space for fun and laughter together as a team?
  • We’d love to hear your practices and ideas, or your thoughts on how you can build this into your organisation in 2018!
PS: dlalanathi has a ‘Developing Reflective Practice’ training. This programme is based on the understanding that in order to care well for others, caregivers and practitioners (NGO and CBO staff) need to be able to care for themselves. In order to be good leaders, leaders need to know themselves. The training is a series of 3 x 2 day workshops.
This programme offers:
  1. Self-care: creative activities and sustainable techniques for self-care, mindfulness, knowledge about self and work-life balance.
  2. Reflection tools: for reflection on work, developing professional practice, using theory to help understanding – debriefing and creative reflection
  3. Personal and professional tools in managing relationships
  4. Knowledge and skills for how organizations can support developing reflective practice.
Please contact Robyn Hemmens on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details.
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