The ICS Tearfund volunteer journey

Where have we been?

For the past 10 weeks a very large, energetic, and passionate group of ICS volunteers have been living, working and socialising in the Valley of a 1000 Hills. With 11 national volunteers and 14 from the UK, we have had the exciting challenge of learning and growing in each other and have come out the other side, changed more than we probably realise or expected.

Team uHambo
The valley of a 1000 Hills is in Kwa-Zulu Natal, West Durban and is very literal to its name, with rolling hills as far as you can see. It has an abundance of wildlife with games reserves and waterfalls a plenty. There is a widely mixed population with both extreme ends of the spectrum of wealth. Unfortunately, this is fairly closely linked to the segregation that is still prominent in the country. Valley of 1000 HillsWhere the white population have built-up towns, education, jobs, cars, big sturdy houses and swimming pools, the black community live in townships and the rural hillside with houses that are very often ineffective to the elements. They also have a severe lack of food and limited access to jobs, education and medical facilities. Whilst this is a generalisation, it is more accurate than it should be on any moral, ethical, social and economic scale in the 21st century. However, despite these injustices and challenges, we have found that we have be welcomed, loved and blessed by everyone we have had the privilege to meet and work with.

What were we doing?

The main objective of this placement was to carry out and implement a survey called the ‘Child Status Index’ (CSI) which is a measuring tool to evaluate the vulnerability of children. As of 2013 the CSI has been used in 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America and has been adapted according to the language and culture of each. The assessment concentrates on 6 domains; food and nutrition, shelter and care, protection, healthcare, psychosocial and education. The survey has been done in Kwa-Zulu Natal with the hope that the results will highlight key areas in the community that need to be addressed. This is only the initial stage of the programme and from the information that has been gathered by this group we hope to provide information and lay the ground work for future groups.

Out of the 25 volunteers, 9 were placed at ‘1000 Hills Community Helpers’ in Inchanga. The project was established in 1989 by starting up a community feeding program in a local catholic church in response to the strife and devastation of families caused by political unrest. In 1990 it was realized that community members were in need of medical assistance due to the impact of HIV/Aids related illnesses, so a basic clinic was set up, followed by an infant nutritional program. This solely relied on volunteers. The community care centre was constructed in 2008, being named “Ikhaya Lo Thando” (Home of Love) and has been of immeasurable benefit to the community. The centre is comprised of a health and wellness clinic, children’s infirmary and education and development facilities, providing essential services in the form of health care, education, infant care and HIV/AIDS awareness. The Centres’ vision really tells of their love for the community they are trying to improve…

“To improve the lives of HIV/Aids infected children and adults through treatment, clinics, feeding schemes, counselling, home-based care, creches and support groups. Our children are our future.
If there has ever been an event in history that has united people across cultural, political and geographical boundaries, it is the AIDS pandemic of the 21st century. While researchers put all of their learning, skill and creativity into finding a cure for this modern day plague- everyday, people are still being infected and are dying.
1000 Hills Community Helpers exists to alleviate the suffering of the elderly and children in distress. As society has evolved and new horrors confront children, we have adapted our services to the needs of the community and focus particularly on children and communities impacted by AID.
Together, we can bring hope into the lives of these people.”

At 1000 Hills we worked with the Community Care Givers (CCG’s), who are well known figures in the surrounding townships, to complete the survey. We also spoke to the head master of the local primary school in Inchanga who allowed us to use their school rooms and invite parents to come with their children to be assessed. The survey took 5 weeks to collect 300, which we feel is quite an achievement.
Whilst completing the survey and visiting the community there were two key issues that were highlighted; the amount of children with cerebral palsy and the lack of knowledge on the condition and the amount of people/children with drug or alcohol addictions. From this, two side projects were born to try and provide an extra service out of 1000 hills.

Cerebral Palsy Project

Working with children with cerebral palsyChildren with cerebral palsy in the community have little quality of life due to either a lack of knowledge about the condition or the lack of funds needed to take the child to receive the appropriate medical care. These children are often left for the majority of the day in a bed or chair, rarely; seeing the outside, receiving stimulation or care and often left on their own. Obviously this deeply concerned the group because of the realisation that their vulnerability is much higher than that of other children due to their complete dependence on the caregiver.

The next step to addressing this issue was to seek professional help and training. A physiotherapist, with experience in cerebral palsy and rural community work, held a training day providing basic information on the condition, appropriate positioning and deep pressure touch. From this training, information sheets were created to be used as a learning tool. A workshop was then held for the CCG’s using the information and it was then given out during home visits to the caregivers. The group’s next course of action was to make contact with occupational and physio therapists in a local school for disabled children. The hope was to make them aware of the families with cerebral palsy children in the community so they can receive help from visiting therapists.

Finally, the group put their skills into action.

Working with children with cerebral palsy 4Working with children with cerebral palsy 3

Drugs and Substance Abuse Workshop

A major issue that is a direct impact of poverty in the community, is drug and alcohol abuse/addiction. This is visible and prevalent in the immediate and surrounding areas of the 1000 Hills Community Centre. Through talking to people in the community we established that it is not uncommon for children as young as 9 to be battling with some form of substance abuse. There is next to no help in the local area apart from the counsellors associated with schools and 1000 hills.

The issue of drugs and alcohol is never as simple as it just being an addiction. Behind the lifestyle there’s usually a whole tangle of emotional, physical and mental turmoil that drives peoples actions. The aim of the project was to breathe a fresh sense of life into children and teenagers up to the age of 18 and to show them love and encouragement that they may not get elsewhere.

In order to try and gain some grounding and cultural understanding in the issue, the group spoke to the counsellor at 1000 hills and asked South African friends to share their experiences and stories of drugs and alcohol in their communities. We wanted to meet our audience where they were at in their journey, at which ever stage it was, without judgement, superiority or reservation. The issue was tackled from a much more factual basis for the primary age as opposed to a more relational and motivational basis for the secondary.

In the primary school we taught four Grade 4 classes, giving information on different types of drugs, the impact they have on your body and how to deal with peer pressure.

Drug and Substance abuse workshops 2Drug and Substance abuse workshops 1

Siphesihle High School is in one of the poorest areas of Inchanga, only has 3 full time teachers, relies on volunteers and has 90 known pupils with drug problems. It is unlike any high school that would be allowed to be operational in the UK and yet when you walk through the gate you can see the amazing potential the pupils have if only they had the chance and encouragement. Siphesihle High School We felt that giving information on drugs to this boisterous crowd simply wouldn’t cut it. They already know the impact of drugs and for some part have ignored the warning. Instead they need self-belief and the encouragement to dream big. Some members of the group were able to share their personal testimonies on the destructive impact of drugs on their lives and how they have managed to overcome it. We found that this really helped to break down barriers and make the class feel more comfortable talking about their experiences. There was always the emphasis on the fact that while we can all make poor decisions in our lives, it doesn’t mean that it is a true reflection of who we are or have the potential to be. You can make a poor decision one day, but then you get up the next and try again. The most challenging question that was posed to the classes was, “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?” Nobody would like their friends and family to stand up and say that they had the potential to change the world but there time was wasted to a life of drugs, crime or pure laziness. Instead we challenged them as a group to fix their dream/goal in their minds and do everything in their power to achieve it. Over all we taught 22 classes with over 1200 pupils all with dreams of becoming doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, social workers and much more. Despite the injustices of the country they live in they can and need to believe that they can succeed.

Siphesihle High SchoolAmongst the pupils is a group of ‘Peer Educators’ taken from all grades, who strive to help their friends and fellow pupils. They address different issues in the school in workshops held once a term and are always available to those who need to talk. We held a separate class for them to explain how we built our workshop, the different ideas that went into it and to give them other thoughts on how they can impact the school.

The difficulty in starting a project like this one, is that you create friendships and build trust and then you have to leave. But we are hopeful and confident that the next group will be able to continue and build on what we have started.

What else did we squeeze in…

Helped bring people from the community to the clinic…

ICS volunteers at 1000 Hills Community Helpers clinic

Played and had fun with the children…

Children from 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Had a bit more fun with the children who come to the centre after school…

Children at 1000 Hills Community Helpers' aftercareWorkshops with children at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

Helped distribute food parcels….

Handing out food parcelsFood parcels distributed by 1000 Hills Community Helpers

We wanted the class rooms to be fun and exciting for the ‘Littlies’, Who’s more fun than Mickey and his friends? (Maybe us!!)

Painting the creche at 1000 Hills Community Helpers 1Painting the creche at 1000 Hills Community Helpers 3Painting the creche at 1000 Hills Community Helpers 2

The Gogo’s (Granny’s) and Mkhulu’s (Granddads) work tirelessly for their families and communities so we thought they deserved a little pampering…

Pampering the gogo's 1000 Hills Community Helpers 2Pampering the gogo's at 1000 Hills Community Helpers


Both as a group and individually, we have had the most; incredible, challenging, emotional and fun time. You can never stop learning about poverty and we have had our eyes opened to how encompassing it can be and the injustice of South Africa being both a first and a third world country. We have cried and laughed alongside members of the community and colleagues at 1000 Hills Community Helpers. And to reiterate the sentiments mentioned above, we have been welcomed, accepted and loved beyond anything we could have hope for. As the team departs for home, whether it be in South Africa or the UK, we leave with a