Kgotso is a single mother, living in an informal settlement with her two children and younger sister who struggles with a mental disability. Kgotso is also a survivor of gender-based violence. She joined our Ikemele program in January 2021, attending counselling, support group sessions and skills training classes.
"When I first joined Lesedi's programs, never in a million years did I think I would achieve my dreams. I felt like I was stranded and alone, and depended a lot on my partner who was very abusive. I soon realised I wasn't alone and that other women are going through similar struggles. Lesedi la Batho didn't only give me support to recover from my abuse, but also relieved my family with food parcels while I got on my feet."
Upon graduating from the Ikemele program, Kgotso presented a small business plan to Lesedi la Batho, with the idea of starting a vegetable garden on our centre property. The produce would be sold in the community to support her family. We agreed to host the project and seed funded the first supplies she needed. Kgotso then invited other women from our programs to work with her - feeling that she had an opportunity to empower other women to regain their independence.
Here at Lesedi la Batho, we don't believe in hand outs - rather giving opportunities to people to help them improve their lives and become independent of hand outs. Our holistic offering of upliftment services works to achieve this mission, yet many of our beneficiaries are living day to day with very little resources to begin from. That's why our outreach and social relief department provides essential help along the journey to those in most need.
Our already marginalised and struggling community has been hard hit by the pandemic - job losses, increased domestic violence, losing loved ones and breadwinners to the virus, and many social and economic knock-on effects. Many are relying on their families, neighbours or NGO's like Lesedi la Batho for support - we have seen firsthand a deep, desperate and increasing need for outreach and social relief over the past year and a half.
Gratefully, we have also seen more benevolence and generosity for those less fortunate than we've ever seen before throughout the crisis. Our supporters came together time and time again to help us meet the needs of the vulnerable - making many gestures of relief and hope possible.
Knowing the issues in our community aren't slowing down anytime soon - and neither are we - the Lesedi la Batho Social Relief Fund was established in June 2021. In just three months, we've achieved so much together - read on for some significant stories of hope.
First, thank you to each and every individual, corporate and foundation who have helped make our new Ikemele women empowerment project a reality. Because of you, women in Mabopane have restored hope, motivation and the support they need to overcome their abusive backgrounds and rise up!
After 7 months of running the program, 23 women have graduated and we have assisted 6 small business start ups. Other graduates are choosing to go back and finish their high school education, and one graduate made the decision to quit commercial sex work and moved out of the brothel we found her in. Women are motivated and committed to inspiring other women in abusive situations with the knowledge and confidence they have grown.
These are just some of the stories of our most recent graduates...
About a year ago, as the pandemic turned the world on its head, our team became more and more aware of the rapid increase in gender-based violence and fewer opportunities available for vulnerable women in our community. We knew we had to do more to support them. The concept of a sponsorship program to help women access our skills training, counselling, support groups, practical support and help starting small businesses was born. A few months of research, program design and fundraising later, and we welcomed the very first group of Ikemele women into their program in January 2021!
This past month, we hosted an intimate graduation ceremony for the very first 15 Ikemele graduates. The excitement, joy and hope in their hearts was evident through their smiles and energy!
"It was so exciting to see these ladies so happy. I was really inspired by the smiles on their faces. For many of them, it was the first time graduating. This is why we work as hard as we do." - Tshepo Mbengwa, Project Facilitator
The very first Ikemele graduation in April 2021
Our team met with them to assess their needs and what the house needed to become a healthier living environment. We got hold of Jane's* family members to take care of them while we renovated, and got to work. The house was extended with more rooms, we built an outdoor toilet, cleaned, fix the roof and gathered furniture donations.
We helped Sarah* do her online applications for Grade 8 in 2021 with help from the Department of Education. She was successfully accepted in Letlotlo Secondary School. Zinhle* started attending our skills training courses in Basic Accredited Computer and Life Skills. When he graduated, we referred him to an opportunity to do a one-year learnership at a local grocery store, Big Save. He was chosen for an interview, which he passed and is now working at Big Save earning a monthly a stipend.
Today, they are all happy to be back home and leading more healthy, purposeful lives. We are still supporting them with clothing donations, food parcels and doing follow up visits. Our mission is to help people in our community get on their own two feet, become motivated and become independent of hand outs. That's why our name is "Lesedi la Batho" - meaning "light for the people" in Setswana.
Thank you for being a part of this beautiful project in Mabopane, South Africa!
Scroll through the gallery below to see before and after photos of the Khumalo's house.
*Names changed to protect the identity of our beneficiaries
At the beginning of August, the month we celebrate Women's Month in South Africa, we met three women - Astrid*, Margaret* and Refilwe*, each with different stories but the same plea - their own safe space to call home. Their situations were desperate and we couldn't turn them away, so we released a call for help to raise funds to build them each a low-cost home, and were positively overwhelmed by the instant response. Within just 2 days, we had enough money to go ahead with the building!
The saying "it takes a village" comes to life when volunteers put their unique skill sets to work to increase and improve our impact in Mabopane.
This past weekend, a group of 5 students from the University of Pretoria's JCP Module volunteered in our computer lab, improving infrastructure and software systems - a long-awaited project disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown restrictions.
Their handiwork came just in time for us to reopen several of our free skills training courses for community members. Computer Skills is by far our most popular course, and, being a highly desired skill in the workplace, has enabled numerous learners to secure employment in various fields.
Lesedi la Batho was very fortunate to celebrate Mandela Day 2020 (Saturday 18 July) in Mabopane this year, amidst the chaos and perpetual need. As a non-profit organisation, we strive to empower vulnerable women who have survived rape, abuse and trauma to rediscover their self-worth and become more independent. We offer free skills training and job placement assistance, support groups and counselling, referrals to supporting institutions and emergency relief such as food parcels and clothing donations.
Congratulations to Katherine Leonard from New Jersey, USA for winning the GivenGain Foundation "Most Creative" fundraiser award! We are honoured to be on the receiving end of your skill, compassion and commitment - a true force for change altogether!
Kate was one of five students from Fordham University in New Jersey, USA who landed on South African soil early this year for a 6-month community engagement project with Lesedi la Batho. They were just mapping out their project ideas, when their experience was cut short as they were hurried back to their home country just before the international lockdowns at the end of March.