Our Projects

Gumboots UK is proud of the support we have been able to provide over a number of years to “home-grown” projects, located within some of the most deprived urban and rural communities in South Africa.

We have forged close friendships and bonds with the people who run and benefit from these projects and we feel privileged to have played a part in their success.

There is no limit to what can be done when such energy, creativity and resourcefulness is at hand and with your support we can really help to make a difference.

Sakhimfundo

Sakhimfundo is a joint venture involving Gumboots SA, Gumboots UK, Kidlinks World Inc in the USA and the Kadey Family Charitable Corp in Canada (KCC) which provides a much needed home for Sigya Sonke Dance Group and an educational support programme for children and young people.

The dancers are now able to rehearse and to receive educational support, focusing primarily on reading and maths. This spacious new location continues to change the lives of these talented children.

The children arrive at Sakhimfundo at 3pm at the end of their school day where a hot, wholesome meal awaits them … you cannot study on an empty stomach! Classes commence in the new Learning Centre with online lessons supervised by 11 tutors, and it transforms into a quiet space, enabling them to supplement and uplift their academic performance. Once lessons are over, the centre again becomes a vibrant, thrumming, dancing hive of activity under the tutorship of Jack Letsoela and his talented son Zenzele.

Sakhimfundo is now a centre of excellence, providing a stable balance of mental stimulation, physical activity, healthy meals and emotional support … all in safe and beautiful surroundings of lawns, trees and vegetable gardens.

The Caitlin Fund

This fund was set up in 2010 by Caitlin’s mother, and Gumboots UK trustee, Margz Green in memory of her beloved daughter Caitlin who died at age 27 after a long and brave struggle. She was a bright, intelligent and well-read young woman who made the most of her study opportunities and gained a first-class degree in English at Sheffield University. Born and raised in South Africa, Margz wanted something positive to come out of her tragic and painful loss. With Caitlin’s modest estate she established a fund to support the education of disadvantaged young women in South Africa.

Gumboots UK and our sister organisation Gumboots SA are increasingly seeing that the educational support of young people is one of the most effective ways of improving their life chances. For this reason, we were delighted to adopt the Caitlin Fund under our umbrella. Caitlin’s family and friends have also contributed generously to the fund which has now supported several girls and young women through their education and into the world of work.

Sigiya Sonke Dance Group and Youth Project

Sigiya Sonke (meaning “Dance Together”) is a group that empowers disadvantaged young people through dance. Also known as Youth Stand Together, based in Alexandra Township, the group is led by Jack Letsoela and his wife Beauty, who both grew up in Alex and understand the difficulties faced by young people. Taking young people off the streets to give them the opportunity to learn to dance, Jack teaches them traditional, hip-hop, pantsula, R&B, gumboots and modern dance. In the 30 years since the group was started, over 1 000 children have benefitted from its activities, and have won many trophies and competitions, for example, gaining first place in the world hip-hop championships in Prague in 2006 and winning the 2023 South African pantsula competition.
Dance is a way of empowering children, giving them tools such as confidence-building and social skills. These attributes help with their education, and we have watched many of the alumni rise successfully in their various tertiary careers.

Click here to see a video of our talented young dancers in action!

The streets of Alex are tough, and poverty, unemployment and crime are endemic. Many young people are struggling to survive with either one or both parents absent or deceased due to HIV/AIDS and other illnesses … some may have only one grandparent on whom to rely, others are from child-headed households. Nonetheless, there is a spirit of hope and optimism among the young people despite their deprived backgrounds. Sigiya Sonke is so much more than a dance group with Jack and Beauty providing valuable counselling, support and friendship to the young people. Since 2005, Gumboots Foundation has funded the group’s essential expenses, the cost of their outings, performances, new costumes, instruments, school uniforms, as well as the meals provided by Beauty and her team.

About 25 years have passed since Sigiya Sonke first began in an abandoned warehouse, with Jack and his students training daily in conditions that were either stiflingly hot in summer or freezing in winter, often by candlelight. Gumboots funded the renovation of the warehouse, but sadly this was taken over by squatters and finally destroyed by fire. Jack then moved the rehearsals to his small backyard, which was far from ideal. Something had to change!

Over the last 5 years, Gumboots has made great strides to secure a home for the dance group … a site was purchased with generous personal donations from two donors, and money was raised at Gumboots UK’s Christmas Craft Market and The Big Give Christmas Challenge to help fund this first phase of the Sakhimfundo Youth Programme for a Performing Arts Centre. Ten recycled shipping containers were obtained (a popular affordable building method in South Africa) and they were converted into changing rooms, showers and toilets for the dancers, storage for their instruments and costumes, a kitchen to provide meals, an office, and facilities for a site caretaker.  The group now had a safe and secure place to gather and rehearse – work then began on the second phase to build the learning centre.

The dream of this programme was finally realised with the official opening of the Sakhimfundo Youth Programme NPC early in 2023. As a joint venture involving Gumboots SA, Gumboots UK, Kidlinks World USA, and the Kadey Family Charitable Corp in Canada, it provides a much-needed home for the Sigiya Sonke dance group and a learning centre for children and young people.

Ratang Bana Community Child Support Project

Notwithstanding the roll-out of ARVs, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives of South African children. As a result, in 2009 Ingrid Moloi, a social worker and resident of Alexandra Township, founded Ratang Bana. This is a youth outreach project, offering support to child-headed households and other disadvantaged young people growing up in Alex.

Ratang Bana, meaning “Love the Children” offers care, counselling and psychosocial support. The project has also helped many children to access education and to give them hope for a brighter future. Ingrid, whose energy and resourcefulness seems endless, is assisted by a team of local volunteers. Gumboots, in conjunction with many individuals and other organisations, now provide an umbrella of support to 10 000 children and young people from hundreds of households.

Progress and development at the project have been considerable, with new initiatives getting off the ground each year, such as:

  • In 2012, the project moved from cramped and dingy premises to a new location on a hilltop overlooking the township.
  • Outside a thriving food garden and shaded outdoor area was established.
  • A learning centre with computers was added, providing local children with both the space, peace and quiet they need to do homework and extra studies.
  • A recycling programme was started where, in return for receiving food parcels, the community collected bottles, cans and plastic for recycling.
  • A beautiful, landscaped playground was also created for the children, thanks to our sister organisation Kidlinks World USA.
  • More recently, Ingrid has provided accommodation at a “safe house” for a small group of orphaned children with a resident house mother.
  • A visiting group of UK donors funded a much-needed solar-heated shower.
  • Since 2012, with the help of four gardeners, the food garden has quadrupled in size. In return for free vegetables, grandmothers are encouraged to help in the garden at least once a week. Ingrid operates a policy of tough love “nothing for nothing”.
  • The centre has also grown to include an HIV/AIDS support station, a large kitchen and an outdoor area for meetings and performances.
  • An ongoing support programme helps families and individuals with the process of obtaining the necessary documents to qualify for state financial support – an incredibly lengthy and bureaucratic process that they would simply not be able to manage without the additional help.

Ratang Bana is an example of how Gumboots has provided seed funding and support to help create a thriving and independent much-needed facility for thousands of underprivileged children.

Phetoho Education Project

Phetoho, established in 2012, means “Change/Transformation through Education” and has evolved from our existing Alexandra Township projects: Leratong Pre-School, Sigiya Sonke Dance Group and Ratang Bana Child Support. The view of Gumboots is that education has emerged as the single most effective way of bringing about change in South Africa, by creating employment and closing the poverty gap. Although all children have access to schooling, the standard of education available to township children is much lower than in more affluent areas, particularly in the areas of reading and maths.

The Phetoho project seeks to develop the potential of individual children in the hope that those benefitting can use their skills and personal resources later in life, and ultimately be agents for change in their own communities. Under the banner of Phetoho, Gumboots has supported children in several ways:

  • As a start, four Sigiya Sonke dancers were funded to attend the United Church School (UCS) in Yeoville for the last two years of their schooling. This included funding their fees, uniforms, transport and lunch boxes. UCS is a small, privately run institution with good teaching and back-up support. All four passed their final matric exams and went on to do further tertiary studies and to find employment. We have continued to support them and are currently funding three of them in various ways.
  • We have continued to fund younger children at UCS, with selection based on their ability and motivation. Our hope was that an early intervention would give them the best chance of success. There are currently two children at the school who are doing very well. Sadly, despite carefully considered selection criteria, some of them have not succeeded due to their very disadvantaged circumstances, living in homes with limited or no electricity.
  • We cover the cost of school uniforms, stationery and lunch boxes for the Sigiya Sonke dancers and some of the Ratang Bana children. Without a uniform, children are unable to attend South African schools.
  • Two orphaned sisters from Ratang Bana are also funded for their education needs by Phetoho.
  • We have sponsored six young girls to attend the St Mary’s School Saturday Outreach Programme, which assists learners from Grade 10-12 with their studies, particularly maths and science. The matric rate pass of learners who have attended the programme is impressive – five completed their studies and achieved higher grades because of their attendance at the Saturday School, thereby opening the door to tertiary studies.
  • An activity club was created for outings and activities with money raised through the Big Give in 2018. The aim was to broaden children’s experiences by taking them out of the township to see places of learning and interest in and around Johannesburg. Over 400 children benefitted from these outings, such as wildlife centres, outdoor adventure parks, science and children’s museums, the Constitutional Court, and craft and performing arts events.

Leratong Pre-School

Situated in the heart of Alexandra Township, Leratong (meaning “Place of Love”), provides a safe haven and quality education for its pupils in a challenging environment. Alex is a vibrant but deprived area and one of the most densely populated places in South Africa. The pre-school is a lively, loving and nurturing place where it is hard to comprehend that many of the carefree children go home to situations of real hardship. What further makes this refuge more important for these children is that it allows them to be who they are – small, innocent and playful. It helps them learn that despite what they are exposed to, there is still goodness in the world.

Peggy Chauke, a highly respected figure in the local community, is the school’s principal and has run the school since its formation in 1993. It has taken much determination and courage to get the school to where it is today. Originally based on two separate sites, the school provided daily education and meals for up to 140 children. However, faced with the lack of provision and a growing need to care for orphaned children, Peggy was driven to combine the classrooms into one of the premises and to convert the other into an orphanage. Funded by the Kadey Family Trust, Peggy now lives in the orphanage but continues to run Leratong. Currently over 70 children attend daily and continue to receive pre-school education, nourishing meals and aftercare support.

Since the inception of Gumboots Foundation SA in 2002, it has played a major part in the development of Leratong by securing funds to pay salaries, to improve school facilities and to provide food and provisions. The school is an integral part of the community and, with Peggy’s wisdom and compassion, many of the parents and surrounding community turn to her in troubled times.

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