People and places: where giving goes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’re anything like me, you can expect to receive quite a few requests for donations throughout the year. From international aid organizations or local non-profits, to our friends and family on a team or running for a cause, the list goes on and on. One feature they inevitably share is photographs. While I may not read the entire request letter or email, I almost always look at the photos. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Are these photos real?” I wonder if they truly represent where my donation will go. In case you’ve wondered the same, I’m presenting these photographs, courtesy of Woza Moya, to highlight the faces and places where our donations to South Coast Foundation go. When you peek inside the homes, neighborhoods and meeting places, you share a piece of these very real people and their lives and, for that moment, you become a member of their international family. Welcome to our family.



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Have you been to South Africa?

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Those of us who have been to South Africa have a secret we’d like to share. The trip is guaranteed to be a life-transforming experience, unlike any other. It will stir you, move you, reach you in unexpected ways. There is nothing like it. If you haven’t been, consider going. Put it on your bucket list and make plans. But be forewarned: those who venture off the well-trodden tourist path to visit organizations like the ones we support usually return to South Africa time and time again – or wish they could.

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The Faces of the Valoyi Trust

Over the past months, I’ve received staff reports that are so moving, I wanted to share them with you. They profile the people who use the services of one of our grantee organizations, the Valoyi Traditional Authority Trust. The organization, with the assistance of Etafeni Trust, operates the Nwamitwa Community Centre. Located in the remote, poverty-ridden area of the Limpopo Province, it was built from the ground up by community members a little more than two years ago.

Image 10Prosperity Makhubele and Thelda Molungete  Family 

Prosperity lives with her mother who is unemployed. They depend on a child support grant. There is no proper shelter and they are living in a tent offered by Greater Tzaneen municipality after losing the roof on the one roomed house.  The family of five and use the tent as kitchen, bed room and dining room.  Prosperity received food parcels, blanket and school uniform and bag from Valoyi Trust in partnership with Starfish.  Thelda and Prosperity receive daily meals from the Valoyi Centre.

Image 1Vivian Mhlongo

The family lives in Shongani  Village near  Manyunyu  Primary  School. Vivian Mhlongo is a 13 year old girl who lives with her guardian (her grandmother), two aunts and an uncle. The grandmother does not receive an old age grant.  There are five family members in this house hold. Vivian is an orphan who receives a foster care grant on which the whole family relies. There are only two small houses to sleep in. Vivian has problems with her eye sight and hearing. She attends Manyunyu Primary School and is currently in Grade Seven. She receives a daily meal at the Valoyi Centre. Sometimes when we have food parcels we give them to her and her family.

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Sibongiseni and Musa Shiburi

This family is situated at Msiphana village, stand no 353, next to Chauke JB.  The family consists of 5 people, two parents and three children. The father is unemployed and he has been sick for 2 years now. The family has no source of income; they depend on child support grants which three children receive. The mother is working part-time at a nearby farm to sustain her family because her husband is unable to work and support the family. They live in a 1 room brick and mud house.

Image 7Nyiko Selowa 

This family consists of 5 people living in one room. The single mother works in a farm, she leaves her children behind to work and support her family. Nyiko’s father is deceased. Nyiko’s younger sister has dropped out of school because  the family moved away from the farm. We are assisting her to get a transfer letter from her old  school and help her to register in a local school.  They have receive food parcels, blankets, uniforms and  school bags.

Makhubele Pilato Image 9

This family is situated at Msiphana village, stand no 62. Pilato was born in Mozambique. He came to South Africa with his parents because he had problem with his eyes, and he was treated successfully. His father passed away and his mother went back to Mozambique and left  Pilato with his uncle.  His uncle is unemployed.  The family survive by means of  piece work that he gets. The family lives in a 3 roomed house, the family has 9 people, including Pilato. The family received food parcels,  Pilato’s  school uniform, a school bag and blanket.

Laizer and Julio 
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This family consists of 9 people.  They live in a one-room house and a shack. No family member  has identification documents.  The family originated from Mozambique.  There is no source of income except when the grandmother gets piece work from other households as a house keeper or from nearby farms during the citrus season.  Four of the family members are orphans. Sometimes they go to sleep without food especially during weekends, public holidays and school holidays.   One of the older children sleeps with their friend because they have no place to sleep at the house.

The 14 months old baby is HIV+.   We have provided uniforms, blankets and food parcels to the family.  We are in the process of helping the family with identification  documents to  access  social  support grants. We have involved the community councillor to assist the family.

One of the community members Mrs Hawuka Mhlohlonyi from Lwandlamuni village has offered to adopt two of the children who go to school; she has offered to assist them with their needs. The family has not yet decided on this matter. The family needs urgent assistance as they do not have money for a balanced diet for the HIV positive infant who is not growing well.

Image 12Ester and Angy Zitha 

This family consists of 5 people, living in a one-roomed house. The father has an identity document but the mother does not have an ID document which makes it difficult for the children to get birth certificates and they don’t have access to child support grants. Ester does not have a road to health chart; it was burnt with the house while they were in Johannesburg, together with the mother’s documents with which she was applying for her ID document. We are in a process of assisting the family to get identity documents and birth certificates. The father is working in a temporary job to sustain the family.

Lebogang  Mainetja 

 The family lives in Msiphani Village near Richard Nkuna. Lebogang Maenetja is 6 years old and she lives with her mother and ten family members.  Her father passed on while her mother was pregnant with her. Her mother is unemployed.  They depend on her grandparents’ old age grants, and Lebogang’s child support grant. There are four dwelling units: One RDP house, two huts and one room.  Lebogang is in Grade One at Manyunyu Primary School.  She receives a daily meal at the Valoyi Centre. We support Lebogang with food parcels and other materials when they are available.

 Joster Nkuna and Nhlamulo Makwakwa 

The family lives in Msiphani Village Stand no: 321, near Florah Simiyawo. Both Joster and Nhlamulo’s parents are alive but unemployed. Both children receive Child Support Grants. The family depends on these grants to survive. Joster suffers from Downs Syndrome. There is one dwelling unit with two rooms, which is under construction. Both children attend school at Manyunyu Primary School.  Joster is in Grade One and Nhlamulo is in Grade Seven. Both Joster and Nhlamulo receive a daily meal at the Valoyi Centre.

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Running with the pack

In the US culture, at least the one I live in, there is a certain pace that everything needs to happen. It needs to happen now, asap, or, as they say in South Africa, “now, now”.  The fast pace in the US has historic significance, associated with those highly revered trademarks of a post-industrial society: productivity, efficiency and capital accumulation.

Infused into our daily lives as the hallmarks of a life well-lived, getting it done quickly has taken on significance as an indicator of personal accomplishment, even success. Fueled by technology, our life must not only produce something, it must mean something. Part of that something is communicating it to others, our friends, loved ones, people we barely know, people we don’t know, anyone who will listen. The gates are open 24/7, as we broadcast our message perpetually online.

I notice the contrast in the pace of our culture when I read the annual reports from South Africa. In them, I read that a person has died, the funding didn’t arrive yet and the weather is getting cold. There’s an uninspired photo of a bare piece of dry looking land. Six months later, I see a photo of people in workers uniforms and a note that everyone went for training. The land has turned into an irrigated field. I’m relieved that it looks like the plants are growing. 

This year, I’m getting photos of beets and cabbages so large, I’m a little envious. I’ll never see anything like that in my market. I discover that the trees in the photo that look to me like any other are Moringa trees whose leaves are used as a nutritional supplement for mothers and children and as a protein and amino-acid rich food for fish poultry and goats. Planted as seedlings in January, they are now above “head height”.  While part of me remains hopeful that one day I will pick up my pace so I can run next to others, I am aware that nothing ever grows that fast in our American gardens.


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Going green and saving green


We have a very exciting venture to announce, one of several this year. Our most recent grant is towards the capital construction of pre-school classroom for Vhutshilo Mountain School in the Limpopo Province. Their innovative construction method, which uses sandbags as part of the building process, will create an eco-friendly building that cuts construction costs by thirty percent. After school, the building will serve as a community outreach and training center for caregivers. Many of the orphaned children at Vhutshilo Mountain School are being raised by their grandparents or siblings who live in extreme poverty. Thus the multi-purpose building will provide a significant community resource to all.

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The history of the organization is quite remarkable. Sue Cook, coincidentally my sister’s name, moved to this remote rural area of South Africa in 1984 from Scotland. She responded the community concerns about the growing number orphans by converting her mobile home into two classrooms. Using her truck as a school bus and gathering donations of furniture and toys from friends, Sue officially opened the doors of the Vhutshilo Mountain School in 2002. The school has now grown to provide food, services and education for 59 children during school hours. Its outreach program cares for 129 HIV+ children and their caregivers. With construction well underway, we will keep you posted with updates about the new classroom.

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Inspiring donors

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With the New Year upon us and the holiday season drawing to a close, I’d like to recognize our donors. For two years South Coast Foundation has provided fiscal sponsorship to Woza Moya, collecting donations from supporters in the US. Everyone who contributes so generously throughout the year keeps the doors of organizations like Woza Moya open. Yet that is only part of the story. They create an international link that reminds all of us that when we give, we can be part of something far bigger and more meaningful than our individual lives.

A warm thank-you goes to Catherine Anderson and her organization, Ubuntu Charlotte. In South Africa, she gives her time and artistic skills as a workshop leader, artist and volunteer at Woza Moya. At home, she brings her talents to fundraising, always seeming to find creative ways to raise funds every year. Her loving heart, inspiring messages and creative spirit reaches all of us.

Shirley Griffin is another donor whose contributions are dazzling. Along with her very generous financial contributions, she volunteers annually to Woza Moya, providing key administrative support to the director. As if that were not enough, in 2012 she delivered hand-knitted sweaters to all the children in time for Christmas. Her adorable photos say it all!

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Now we are off to Hawaii, where a group of dedicated people give all year and every year. Susan Henning and Gavin Harrison are major supporters of Woza Moya. As if their financial support where not enough, Sue and Gavin, along with family and friends, collected over thirty hand-made quilts and Hawaiian dresses that were shipped to Woza Moya. What a beautiful gift!

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The course of fundraising

ImageThis year we took a new approach to fundraising, one that was so exciting, I am completely hooked. We let you know that for every dollar you gave, South Coast Foundation would match it. Within a few short days, you responded, and, I might add, are continuing to respond. Right now, we are approximately $3,000 short of that goal, but I have no doubt that the goal will be reached in early 2013.

When I was considering a fundraising strategy for South Coast Foundation, my initial plan, and indeed efforts, were geared towards the more traditional methods of fundraising. Yet, considering our unique grant making program and its international focus, let alone the fact that we are a private endowed foundation, I knew it would be an uphill climb. I was also concerned about preserving the integrity of the foundation’s mission by introducing external prescriptions that could potentially detract from it.

Then I found you. The uphill climb turned into a breezy summer stroll. I discovered we shared common bonds: a heartfelt commitment to South African community organizations and the work that they do and fulfillment in giving. Immediately, for South Coast Foundation, the amounts of funding became less a measure of success than sharing the commonality of our collective purpose. Most of you have been to South Africa; some of the lucky ones return every year. Many of you feel a deep connection, as I do, to the organization(s) you support.

Image 2As our list of individual donors continues to grow, so does my enthusiasm to fundraise and to open the doors of South Coast Foundation to you, our donors. You give when you can, what you can, only to return, as you do to South Africa, to give again. It is this concerted effort over time that breathes live in an organization, sustains and energizes them. International connections are more meaningful than mere dollars. We, as donors, should never underestimate that. As I look at the coming year and consider our fundraising plans, I’m still willing to climb the hills, as long as it’s with you.

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No impact too small

As I review our bookkeeping records with tax season upon us, I am filled with gratitude for the generosity of all of you who made donations to South Coast Foundation. For those of you who think their donation is too small to make a difference, let me assure you it does.

Throughout the years, as the director of a smaller foundation in the midst of the mega-million ones, sometimes I’ve struggled to stay motivated, when I wished there was more to give, when the contribution seemed meager in comparison to the need. To help me through those times, I adopted a motto that became a guiding principle, “No impact too small”.

And now, with over a year of receiving the kind gifts of people in the US, I can say that the same principle I apply to giving in South Africa holds true here as well. When you give, no matter what you chose to give: your time, your skills, your creative energy, your money, it’s worth it because there is, “No impact too small”.


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A trip of a lifetime

Today is my son, Jason’s birthday and as I reflect back on our life-long relationship, I am struck by the connection of shared experiences that South Africa has brought to our family. When he was sixteen, we went on a trip there, his first of many more to come. That was in 1989, the year South Coast Foundation was founded. Last night, twenty-three years later, as we celebrated his birthday, we talked about his plans for the next one.

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A Little Piece of Heaven

Through the contributions of South Coast Foundation, Heaven’s Nest in Cape Town built a new classroom. TJ Watkins saw the classroom for the first time, met the students and left touched by the experience. TJ shares the same cultural roots as the children at Heaven’s Nest, a connection that made the visit a very personal and emotional one for him. We are now in the process of fundraising to provide educational materials for the classroom. All donations are welcome.

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