How to Spread it? – Angela Larkan: From theory to good social practice

2014-09-14 15:00

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When Angela Larkan started Thanda After-School at KwaNdelu in rural Mzumbe on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast in 2008, when she was just 22, she had no idea her model for assisting Aids orphans in the impoverished farming community would grow into a fully fledged community resource, serving more than 2?500 children every week.

The Thanda model is based on Larkan’s research on the needs of orphans in the province in 2003, undertaken while completing her thesis at Wesleyan University in the US.

It now serves six primary and secondary schools in the municipality. Thanda’s outreach workers feed 460 children daily in the schools and teach them an array of skills after school.

Originally based at the Sacred Heart Convent orphanage at Mzumbe, Thanda (which means love in isiZulu), now occupies a larger, 200m² tract of land across the road.

It features a library and resource centre; a computer laboratory; a seedling nursery to supply community market gardens; a kitchen with three full-time staff; and 20 local staff employed as teachers, facilitators and trainers.

There are plans to build an art centre?–?with a stage and a skate park?–?for the complex, which is powered entirely by wind turbines and solar panelling, with a biodigester that will turn kitchen and other waste into natural gas for cooking.

Larkan returned to South Africa to create Thanda after completing her research. She was named the Clarins Most Dynamic Woman of the Year for 2011 in recognition of her work in fighting the impact of HIV/Aids and poverty on orphans in rural communities.

The model uses schools to provide a safe after-school environment for pupils while giving them key skills to supplement their classroom education and can be replicated elsewhere to help ailing communities.

“We focus on using the schools, which are the only community resources, for our facilitators to teach the skills after school. This is not about competing with the schools but supplementing what they do.

“We teach skills from how to open a bank account and computer literacy to how to grow and sell vegetables for food security and to generate an income,” says Larkan.

Thanda also uses entertaining and interactive tools, from art and music to sport, to help each facilitator responsible for a group of children from each school.

While Thanda receives some funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, it essentially survives from month to month and

is constantly searching for new funding sources.

Nkululeko Ngongoma (22) started as a soccer coach at Thanda when he finished school, but is now working as an agricultural coordinator.

“You can tell the difference between a child who has been at Thanda and one who hasn’t,” says Ngongoma, who is studying for a Bachelor of Education degree at Unisa.

“Those who have been here are more confident, are better fed, and know more about the world than those who haven’t. When I qualify, I want to stay on here as a teacher as this is helping our community.”

When a group of Grade 2 and Grade?3 learners from Dibi Junior Primary School arrive for their weekly library session at Thanda, the children are clearly excited as they swarm around Slindile Dlamini, another KwaNdelu resident now on Thanda’s staff.

They calm down once she starts reading to them and by the time she turns the first page you can hear a pin drop in the resource centre, which also lends out books and teaching equipment to the six schools with which it works.

Delisile Mqadi, a Thanda kitchen staff member, has been with the centre since it opened and helps prepare more than 460 meals daily.

“I love to cook and I really like that I can help these children. Some are very poor and this meal is important.”

Lunch is usually chicken or vegetable curry, with most ingredients bought from the gardening projects Thanda supports by helping with gravity pumps, seedlings and fencing.

Sebenzile Mgobhozi works on the community plot. She and her neighbours share the responsibility for maintaining the fencing and ensuring the gravity pumps are working.

“This garden helps me. I don’t have to buy carrots, spinach or cabbage any more and my children bring vegetables back to town when they come home,” says Mgobhozi.

This series is developed in partnership with the Southern Africa Trust and the African Grantmakers Network. To support a cause, visit change4ever.org/donate

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