Ithemba means Hope.
For the children and adults who live in the financially, medically and educationally impoverished community of Sweetwaters, Ithemba means life. Sweetwaters, known in Zulu as Mpumuza, is a community within the region of Pietermaritzburg in Durban, which resides in the KwaZulu Natal region of South Africa. Whilst the earth sings with the vibrant blood of red African soil, it also laments for the 50-60000 people who inhabit the community; a community predominantly made up of young adults and children. Plagued by limited or non existent employment opportunities which are exacerbated by inadequate education and therefore poor employment skills, the 2001 estimate that 70% of people in Sweetwaters were unemployed is a stark indicator of the desperate need that proliferates the community.
With numerous houses led either by children or single parents, families plagued by the effects of alcoholism and drug use, healthy family structures are a rarity, broken units a rising norm. Within South Africa, the country worst affected by HIV/AIDS, KwaZulu Natal has the highest prevalence of the disease with a 31.9% infection rate. HIV/AIDS orphans are on the rise, and sadly, in tandem with this increase comes poor sexual health education and practices, linking this vicious cycle into a perfect loop of devastation, death and despair.
Yet Ithemba means Hope, and that is exactly what the charity Ithemba Projects is all about. Created in 2003 by a small group of worshipers at the local Hilton Baptist Church, the privileged community which incongruously boarders Sweetwaters, the charity was born as a response to the poor community relations and the pressing need that could no longer be ignored. In just under a decade, the charity has grown from teaching local women how to sew and thread, commonly known these days as micromanagement and local industry, to creating the Ithemba Kids Camp – a short holiday break for the children of Sweetwaters where they get to be children again. Now with a feeding scheme, a teaching scheme and a weekly youth programme under way, the charity has seen incredible transformation not just in Sweetwaters, but in Hilton. Where community is about coming together as one body to help one another, Ithemba Projects has seen hope transformed from a distant dream to a vibrant reality.
Over these next five weeks, I have the incredible opportunity to serve once again on the Ithemba team, putting my skills as an English Literature student to the test. I will be serving in both a local Primary and Secondary School, as well as creches, the local Zulu Hospital, Edendale, whilst helping to run a running club (though i can’t really run…), life groups, bible teachings and a youth club.
I invite you to take a journey with me, from London, through Dubai and into Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Hilton and finally into Sweetwaters. To take a journey with me, not to change the world, but to have an experience in furthering the vision of Hope. Having spent part of this summer already serving children across the UK, I am excited to capture some new stories, some new voices, and see how the voices of the UK’s youth and the voices of Sweetwaters change mine.
Welcome to a mini adventure with Death of the Writer. I hope you enjoy.
Previous Ithemba experience: