The Thembalitsha Foundation, a NPO in South Africa lives up to its name “new hope”, translated from isiXhosa. Their focus is education, health and social development. Their motto of “one team, one vision, restoring hope and transforming lives” has enabled them to currently run 9 projects.
Mama Themba (MT), the smallest of the nine, serves on average 500 women per month in the clinics and 2 maternity units in the local state hospitals. Mama Themba, formerly known as Bosom Buddies, was originally started when Mel Novitzskas noted the disparity in the experience mothers received between Government and Private Hospitals.
Mama Themba has two staff members, Lindy Officer, the Project Manager and Zoleka Malamba, the Peer Counsellor who facilitates the work in the clinics. The rest of the team is made up of pro bono workers and volunteers. Mama Themba would not exist without the incredible support received from Susie Erwin (a Texan working pro bono for Thembalitsha), her daughter Alyssa and Edwena Kohler who give generously of their time and talents to support all they do and of course their wonderful, generous volunteers.
MT offers essential antenatal, breastfeeding and postnatal education. In addition to this Mama Themba supports mothers who wouldn’t otherwise have access to such care and services by giving them a Care Bag. They prepare up to 300 bags a month! Volunteers visit the hospitals to welcome the baby, congratulate and encourage the mom, offering to pray for them and by providing her with a Care Bag. This ensures she can take her baby home warm and snug and in dignity, as many have absolutely nothing for their babies. In the bag, you’ll find a blanket, a pack of nappies, wet wipes and sanitary towels, a baby grow, a vest, jersey, cap and socks (depending on the season). Bags are color coded; Kanga Bags are red for premature babies, pink for girls, blue for boys and green for neutral. This is a continued process, as Lindy says they give and stock comes around again. Whatever your belief, you would have to agree God does provide.
This is for many the only gift they receive, for others this means hope, exactly what the Thembalitsha Foundation personifies. One such story is that of a Zimbabwean couple that came to South Africa for a better life – one of many. Her employer told her that she wouldn’t have a job anymore if she fell pregnant. These circumstances came into play, when she did and simultaneously her husband was retrenched. What a beacon of hope their Care Bag and welcome from Mama Themba was. The new mother told Lindy, that she felt God was saying – “I’ve got this.”
Another precious gift by the Mama Themba Team is time. Time taken to not only give and prepare the bags, but reach out in prayer and in educating the new mothers among other things, about skin-to-skin-care. Special attention is given to the mothers of premature or low birth weight babies, known as Kanga Moms (short for Kangaroo, deriving its name from keeping their babies skin-to-skin). These mothers can spend many weeks in the hospital caring for their babies until they are well and big enough to go home. This is a lonely and difficult time for these mothers, many of whom are very young.
Zoleka is multilingual, a helpful skill as many new mothers have not had access to a high level of education and are in desperate need of this knowledge. Lindy loves languages and can welcome the mothers and babies in Shona, Xhosa, French, Afrikaans and English. This enables them to reach out to various nations, as many are from the neighbouring countries, where the basic facilities are lacking even more.
Who better to understand the plight of the children than Nelson Mandela? Mama Themba commemorated the recent Nelson Mandela Day by spoiling the staff at HH. It was fitting that time was taken to spoil the staff and acknowledge their contribution. Everyone from the security guard, cleaning crew to the nurses, was treated to a hand massage and refreshments.
As with all business of this nature, funding is always needed. No project can run without money and much is needed to allow Mama Themba to continue serving the community in a greater and more effective capacity. There is a constant need for mentoring and support for these women. Both locally and abroad, their key collaborators include Thembalitsha’s funding arms in the US and UK, churches, individual funders, local businesses and local governments. Lindy has recently formed a partnership with Sabine and Thomas Braun and Peter and Karen Breuer’s organisation, aptly named Friends-4-Hope in Germany.
Friends-4-Hope encourages the distribution of the care bags and provides a welcome card, personalized with the donors’ names to the new mother. Their aim is to support, irrespective of origin, religion or race to better the quality of life and restore human dignity. Their partnership is a fit as this mirrors Lindy’s passion and dedication for people, community and babies. She is a team player and no newbie, tirelessly campaigning on behalf of the less fortunate numerous times. She appeals to corporate organisations not only to invest (as high operational costs are ongoing), but to get involved and fill the need. Fittingly her motto is “equipping mothers to nurture new life”.
Their needs are simple but needed in copious quantities. As Tata Madiba said “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” So hamba kahle (isiXhosa for go well) Thembalitsha. Let’s remember that our children and society’s future depend on the act of giving. We need to recognize this need and pay it forward.