*All names have been changed to protect children's privacy.

Ekukhanyeni evolved in response to an unmet need in the community of Majwayiza where Mpontshini Primary School is based. One of the pupils, a teenage boy who was employed as a cowherd, was discovered to be sleeping in the bush. Other children were bringing him food. His tragic life story was a catalogue of rejection, abandonment, exploitation and physical abuse. Below is the episode which led to the creation of Ekukhanyeni.

In July 2000, one of the cows Thokozani was responsible for, was missing and could not be found. His employer accused him of thinking himself too important to find the cow now that he had new school clothes (bought by Zisize)and refused to give him food until he found the cow. He did not eat or attend school for a week. Then the man said he must dig holes for fence posts to keep the rest of the cows together. The boy protested that he was too weak, having had no food, to dig holes, so he was sent back to a distant relative who refused to offer him shelter. He then slept outdoors in the Bush but kept coming to school.

The Principal and the Governing Body met and they all agreed to him being given this shed, which had once been a classroom to 50 children and then a store room, as his home. All the teachers and members of the Governing Body pledged to share their food with him.

He made a little garden for himself. Inside he had a bed, donated by the principal, 2 pop crates and pieces of cardboard to form a table.

In 2001, with his agreement, Sibusiso*, another late school starter aged 19, joined him after his mother died and the neighbour who had taken him in, treated him as a virtual slave.

In 2002 Mavuso*, then 12 years old, whose mentally ill mother had abandoned him, was brought to school by a neighbour and the hut became home to the three boys. Later in 2002 Sihle* then aged 10, was brought to Mpontshini, having been found by a former pupil, near the local high school. His mother had died, his father, who was elderly and very ill had sent him to live with an uncle who physically and verbally abused him to such an extent that he ran away and lived in the bush, scavenging from bins for two weeks before being found.

The hut was not suitable for four boys. A carer was needed with the advent of the younger boys, so funds were acquired to build a three roomed cottage. We were not aiming for luxury just a place of safety which would give a level of care equal to that expected from a poor but caring family.

Gardens and maize were planted and a fish farm started. Over the years, geese, ducks, chickens, rabbits and pigs have been added to the menagerie.

There has been quite a lot of movement in the home, named Ekukhanyeni (Place of light). Thobekani* left school and went to work. The damage he endured in his early years affected him in many ways, including his ability to learn. He now lives with a local lady whom we support with food parcels. Sibusiso* left in 2003. He now has a job herding cows.


Prior to 2003, all of Ekukhanyeni's children were boys, mostly teenagers but in that year we had an influx of six children, three boys and three girls, all cousins, four of whose parents had been siblings and all had died, as well as their spouses. Their only surviving relatives were elderly and unable to care for all of them. Since 2003 we have been asked to care for children from the wider Ingwavuma area and have had slightly more girls than boys admitted and their ages are usually younger than the original group. The youngest at the moment is 3 years old. The most children we have had at any one time is 28. Several children have been admitted following disclosure of abuse to either lifeskills workers, psychologist or social worker, others simply have no surviving family to care for them.


In order to accommodate a growing number of children it was necessary to build additional bedrooms as well as a large lounge. The corridor has been roofed in. In addition project workers have built a jungle gym and shower and toilet block for the children.

Above and left is Ekukhanyeni in 2008

The kindness these children all show to one another and the pleasure they derive from the smallest thing are very heart warming and salutary for those of us living privileged lives who are rarely satisfied. One said, after being given a pair of school shoes, that when she became an orphan she thought that her life would be very difficult and never in her wildest dreams thought that she would have this kind of care and enough food and new shoes….. enough to make anyone cry!

In order to comply with government policy but continue to meet these children's needs, we are building homes for those old enough to manage a degree of self care (right and see buildings) and are seeking funds to build cluster foster homes for six children and a carer in each .

Our aim is not only to provide a place of safety but a place where children can flourish. They receive counselling from Zisize's psychologist and life skills classes.


Several of these children are sponsored by individuals in the UK but we need more sponsors to ‘adopt’ a child and not only provide money for their care but to take an interest in them. We are looking forwards to them going to University or College and having driving lessons to equip them for well paid jobs as adults but need a fund for this.

^ back to top