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.