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.
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Pictured here are participants working on their ‘Me Badge’ at last year’s event.
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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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