Our Journey

The first steps 1999

HIV and AIDS start to make their presence felt in a big way.

In the 1990’s, hundreds of adults, both men and women, were dying at home from a 'flu like' disease that saw people wasting away. It was called “the disease of the people”. Local traditional healers didn't understand it and the hospitals couldn't cope with the increasing numbers of patients. In the rural Nkomazi Region, little was known about the effects of HIV and AIDS and the remoteness of the area separated the community from mainstream assistance. Poverty, unemployment, and undernourishment were already significant problems in the region, but now thousands of children were being orphaned and families were being left with little or no support.

Sally McKibbin, who had been living and working in the area since 1986, was approached in 1999 by the Department of Health who introduced her to an organization called Project Support Group  (PSG) that was a pioneer in working within the AIDS epidemic in Southern African Development Countries (SADC).

Seeing first hand the devastation that AIDS was causing, Sally agreed to start a home based care project.  In 2000, along with twenty other women, they were trained to help alleviate the suffering of those dying from AIDS. Within only a few months, over 100 care-supporters were servicing 12 villages in Nkomazi. Everyday the courageous care-supporters walked the dusty roads, from house-to-house, offering basic medical assistance, household support, and counseling.

For the many that suffered from HIV and AIDS in the region, these women and their base of operations, became a literal ‘haven of hope’ – thus, ‘Thembalethu’ (which means ‘Our Hope’) was born.

By 2006, Thembalethu’s scope had grown exponentially and the organization was reaching more people with needed services than any other organization in the region: over 9,000 patients had been provided with palliative care; more than 4,300 orphans and vulnerable children had been identified to receive assistance; 400 direct jobs had been created to alleviate poverty, with an estimated 6,000 indirect beneficiaries; over 8,000 persons were receiving nutritious staples through either food parcels or fruit & vegetable gardens; and an estimated 50,000 readers a week were receiving their local news and important information from a community newspaper, Nkomazi Voice, published by Thembalethu.

And, over the last decade, Thembalethu gained much-needed international recognition through hosting visitors, volunteers and media sources from around the globe who wanted to learn first-hand about the HIV and AIDS phenomena in South Africa. Thembalethu has thus been instrumental, not only as a role model for other South African agencies, but as a link between the ‘first world’ and ‘third world’ in a united fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

In 2014, Thembalethu continues to maintain its roots in house-to-house care, but has also expanded its services to assist with the myriad other challenges caused by HIV and AIDS and poverty in the region. And while Thembalethu has succeeded in bringing HIV to the forefront of discussions in the Nkomazi region, there are still very few in the communities that fully acknowledge the impact that HIV and AIDS has had on their families, neighbors and friends. For this reason HIV and AIDS remains, to a large extent, a hidden tragedy of horrendous social proportions.

Join us on our journey by clicking through the menus and you'll be encouraged by some of the good things that have emerged from this tragedy.

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Why We Work

"Where there is charity and wisdom,there is neither fear nor ignorance." St.Francis of Assisi 1181-1226


HIV, AIDS and poverty work together to destroy our communities. We have seen the devastation caused to families and in particular to young children, and our hearts have been filled with compassion and empathy. The Bible teaches us to love one another and to work towards the upliftment of our neighbors, so as staff of Thembalethu we have pooled our skills and work together to offer solutions that will have a positive impact to mitigate against HIV, AIDS and poverty.


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