Topsy Foundation NPC

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An informal dwelling in rural Mpumalanga
An informal dwelling in rural Mpumalanga

As part of Topsy’s Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Programme, our community care workers pay home visits to families living in extreme poverty within rural Mpumalanga, South Africa.

The community care workers provide support to families by assisting in the registration of children’s Birth Certificates and Government grants, establishing community food gardens and providing the necessary supported needed in many,  many other situations.

The children in rural South Africa are particularly vulnerable within their communities with many children living in child-headed households, with only one parent or with elderly relatives. Most of these children have to become very independent at a very young age in order to survive. In these communities there is no or little access to electricity and cooking, lighting and heating is done using a flame. Children in these communities are often left unsupervised or with very little supervision as their care givers need to go to work, or go look for work, very early and only return home very late.

This is the tragic story of a mother and her children living in an informal dwelling in Nthoroane, a remote, rural community of Mpumalanga, South Africa.

A few weeks ago, the Mother left the family home early in the morning with little Sizwe (3), to take him to the local Early Childhood Development Centre for the day, leaving Senzo (6), Samele and older brother Mxolisi home alone.

Little did she know, that on this fateful day, their lives would change forever when Senzo accidently set their home on fire and it burnt to the ground.

Devastatingly, Samele, who was only 8 years old, did not survive the fire.

Senzo is still in the hospital with severe burns and his future is uncertain. Mxolisi sustained significant burns but is healing at home.

This family lost everything. 

The community, who themselves live in poverty, donated clothing to the family, showing the true meaning of ‘Ubuntu’ (humanity to others).

Topsy has given the family food parcels and blankets and we will continue to help and support them through this heart-breaking situation with donations and social support.

The local council has provided materials for the family to rebuild their home, but for now they are living with their granny in her informal dwelling. 

This is just one of the many families Topsy is helping and we will continue to work with communities in need, providing support and enabling severely poverty stricken children in rural communities to reach their full potential.

Topsy’s vision is to develop thriving sustainable communities by creating lasting transformation in individuals’ lives.

The family is still in a state of shock
The family is still in a state of shock


Happy customers at the bake sale
Happy customers at the bake sale

Every year on 18th July, the world, especially South Africans, remembers Nelson Mandela on his birthday. This day is known as Mandela Day. It’s an internationally recognised day of service. Mandela Day was conceptualised on 18 July, 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”. It is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy. It is a global movement to honour his life’s work and act to change the world for the better.

 The Topsy Foundation chose to remember the great man in two ways:

  1.  Topsy Charity Bake Sale. Supporters and partners were invited to spend 67 minutes baking something delicious that could be sold on behalf of Topsy, to raise money for Orphaned and Vulnerable children in rural Mpumalanga.
  2. #TypingforTopsy. A social media drive that could be performed from all corners of the globe. Existing supporters were asked to promote the cause on social media platforms. The aim was to build awareness of the organisation and their mission and vision.

The Results

The day was a huge success. We raised much more than anticipated and are considering making the bake sale a quarterly event in our calendar! As for the social media recruitment drive, we realised that this is not something that can be forced, our support must grow organically.

 We are still busy climbing down from the extreme high of the Mandela Day activities. We are overwhelmed and encouraged by the show of love and support for The Topsy Foundation. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who:

  • Brought a cake for us to sell
  • Assisted at the bake sale
  • Bought a slice of deliciousness
  • Dug deep to make a once off donation
  • Dug even deeper to commit to a monthly debit order
  • Liked, shared, commented, posted, tweeted about Topsy on Social Media

We were really moved by the energy we felt from all those involved. Please continue to make every day a Mandela Day, by supporting good causes like Topsy, and serving others. We will continue to share with you the life changing work we are able to do, thanks to your kindness and care. 

Topsy supporters
Topsy supporters
Cake for everybody!
Cake for everybody!


Big smiles at the Drumming Circle
Big smiles at the Drumming Circle

Music is Food for the Soul

Our Holiday and Life Skills project offers disadvantaged children in the rural communities of Dipaleseng, Mpumulanga, a break from their everyday lives, to participate in fun and memorable experiences. The beneficiaries of our Orphaned and Vulnerable Children programme are invited to spend some of their school holidays participating in activities that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience. We aim to engage in creative activities so that children’s creative abilities may be awakened.

The aim of this effort is to impact the lives of orphans and vulnerable children by teaching them life skills. This is something that the current generation is missing from adults, due to death of parents and thus mended large families wherein the guardians might not have the time to spend with the children they care for, as they are trying to make a living for the family. Through these new experiences and by teaching life skills, we aim to close this gap for the future generation.

Each Holiday and Life Skills experience hopes to encourage children to become more aware of their creative potential and to harness it. Children are encouraged to discover their talents and work on them, potentially growing their talents in order to make a living and contribute to the communities (humanity) in their future. 

In the recent Easter holidays, children were invited to spend the morning at the Topsy Sanctuary, Grootvlei, to join in a Drumming Circle, learning how to play the drums and a variety of other percussion instruments. The children and young people were also given a short lesson about the different types of drums being played buy the musicians leading the circle and the different sounds they could create. This wonderful, heart-warming experience was kindly sponsored by The Drum Café in Johannesburg, .

The children were shy and unsure to begin with. The musicians from Drum Café began performing and told the children to join in and beat the small drum found at their feet. The lead drummer urged the children to make music with the drums, however they want to, there was no right or wrong way – just have fun. As music filled the room, the children began to warm up and really started to enjoy themselves. Smiles spread across the room as their little hands began to find the beat and soon everyone was drumming to the same beat. They were naturals! There was so much rhythm and energy in the room. Even though the children were extremely excited, they were very co-operative and listened to every word the teacher said - a proud moment for the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Programme staff that have grown close to the children. 

Before this experience most learners had not been exposed to such an exhilarating experience and their lives were built upon a normal routine. Nyengi, a qualified school teacher who runs our Afterschool Centre, participated in the Drumming Circle and said the following:

“The whole exercise made me feel jubilant, thrilled and revived so I was excited that the same happened to the learners.”

If you would like to help us fund another Life Skills Experience, please give through our GlobalGiving page.

Kids listening carefully to instructions
Kids listening carefully to instructions
Feeling the beat
Feeling the beat
Clapping to learn the rhythm
Clapping to learn the rhythm
The Drum Cafe Musicians
The Drum Cafe Musicians
The room was filled with children and music
The room was filled with children and music


Emily received "Most Improved ECD Centre" award
Emily received "Most Improved ECD Centre" award

November 13th 2015 marked a momentous occasion for our Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme, the first graduation ceremony for 17 day care centre principals from the communities we serve.

Early in 2015 we began partnering with ASHA Trust, a provider of Early Childhood Development support programmes for home-based crèches in disadvantaged communities. From May 2015, they started facilitating The C.A.R.E Skills Development Programme from our Sanctuary, for day care centres in the surrounding communities.The C.A.R.E Programme by designed by ASHA is a practitioner development programme which includes face-to-face tuition and follow-up hands on support in the centres. The programme:

  • Equips the ECD practitioners with the basic skills of running effective and stimulating centres.
  • Emphasises the importance of a daily programme and nutrition.
  • Prepares the principals / owners of the centres, for registration with the necessary local authorities. Once this has been done successfully they become eligible to receive financial subsidies to help with the nutrition programme and to pay child care workers.

Emily (pictured above) is one of the principals that received certification. Emily is the principal at Leseding day care centre in Siyathemba. She started her day care centre in 2009. When Emily started the ASHA Trust’s training programme she had minimal working experience in a day care centre as a practitioner.  Her centre is not yet receiving a subsidy from the Department of Social Development which makes it one of the most under-resourced centres we work with.

The training Emily received from the programme helped her gain knowledge on how to provide the best possible quality care and stimulating environment to the children in her centre, in spite of the lack of adequate practitioners and financial resources. The training has also improved her administration skills which make her centre management better and increases her chances of receiving financial assistance from the Department of Social Development, and other donors in the community.  

Emily received the award for the most improved day care centre. In spite of the financial challenges she faces, staff and disadvantaging community environmental factors, she has been motivated to rise above her challenges. Her confidence has been lifted and she knows she continues to have support to implement what she learnt and improve her centre further.

Emily is the epitome of potential unlocked through our partnership with ASHA Trust and their practical training programme. She has been given an opportunity to better impact the lives of the children in the community she serves. 

Kids from a local day care centre sang for guests
Kids from a local day care centre sang for guests
Training for Bophelong practitioners
Training for Bophelong practitioners

The Bophelong Stimulation Centre Report – October 2015

The Bophelong Centre for Disabled Children is situated in Syathemba, Mpumalanga, often referred to as a forgotten part of the South Africa, due to its scant infrastructure and lack of large-scale industry. We have been in partnership with Bophelong since April 2014. The centre is doing a great job caring for the children, despite the challenges they face in terms of lack of space, resources and training. The ratio of staff to children in most centres catering for children with disabilities is at the most four children to one staff member. When children with severe cerebral palsy are being catered for it is usually three children to one staff member. At present, with 40 children usually attending Bophelong centre and four care givers, it is difficult for the staff to cater adequately for the children’s needs.

The ages of the children in the centre range from 3 – 17 years old. The building itself is very small. Their infrastructural needs are huge; from an audit completed by Topsy social workers we have identified the following requirements:

  • Storage space for indoor equipment and for practitioners personal  belongings
  • More space, internal and external
  • More classrooms
  • Improvements to fencing around perimeter and a lock on gate
  • Outside play area
  • More bathrooms
  • More lighting

We support the Bopheloing in the following ways:

  • Assist with basic management and site development to create a stimulating environment for the children
  • Offer infrastructural support
  • Provision of specialised equipment to encourage play and stimulate the children
  • Train principals and practitioners on the concept of Early Childhood Development
  • Food security in the form of a vegetable garden and food parcels

We have built strong relationships with the following partners, which enables us to provide more specialised support to the children at Bophelong:

  • Gill Lloyd -  a consultant in Inclusive Issues & Disability Management 
  • The Sunshine Centre Association – a non-profit organisation in the field of intellectual disability, offering diverse services at many levels. 
  • Shonaquip and Uhambo Foundation – committed to improving the quality of life of individuals living with moderate to severe disabilities. They manufacture and supply posture support wheelchairs, mobility equipment and other positioning devices. They have completed an audit on what equipment the children need.
  • ASHA Trust - a provider of Early Childhood Development support programmes for day care centres in disadvantaged communities. 

Wheelchair Donations from Old Mutual through Shonaquip & Umhambo Foundation

In April 2015, we were thrilled to receive a donation of two specially equipped wheelchairs for two of our beneficiaries at the Bophelong. The wheelchairs were donated by the Old Mutual Foundation.

“This will most definitely ensure that secondary complications do not set in and that the girls are able to participate in activities and can thus develop in all areas.”

Ruth Stubbs, Seating Practitioner, Inclusive Educator – Shonaquip/Uhambo Foundation.

Sunshine Centre Donation of Used Equipment - April 2015

Shonaquip and Umhambo donated used specialised equipment for the children of Bophelong.

Shonaquip Report on Bophelong Centre for Disabled Children

We made contact with the Uhambo Foundation with regards to purchasing a much needed Stimulation Kit for Bophelong. Through this connection, the director of the Uhambo Foundation arranged an assessment of the Bophelong Centre for the Disabled with Ruth Stubbs of Shonaquip Gauteng. The following recommendations were made:

  1. Upgrades to 2 small Madiba Buggies currently used by 2 of the children
  2. Upgrades to 1 large Madiba Buggy currently used by 1 of the children
  3. 1x 10” Sully wheelchair with a Tess back postural support system
  4. 1x 18” Sam wheelchair with a Tess Back postural support system
  5. 2 x small Madiba Buggies

ASHA Trust Practitioner Development Programme

Through funding that was secured by Topsy, from the DG Murray Trust, the principal of Bophelong was able to attend training conducted by The ASHA Trust. The C.A.R.E Skills Development Programme is a programme which includes face-to-face tuition and follow-up hands on support in the centres. The training started 12th May 2015 and all four modules of training have been completed. The ASHA training programme:

  • Equips the ECD practitioners with the basic skills of running effective and stimulating centres
  • Emphasises the importance of a daily programme and nutrition
  • Prepares the principals/owners of the centres, for registration with the necessary local authorities. Once this has been done successfully they become eligible to receive financial subsidies to help with the nutrition programme and to pay child care workers

The modules completed by the center site head were:

Module 1 - Children’s Needs and Centre Requirements

Module 2  - Administration Requirements

Module 3 - Roles and Responsibilities of Day Care Centre Staff

Module 4  - Educational Needs and Learning resources.

A certification ceremony will be held in November. We are looking forward to rewarding principals for their hard work and seeing the joy on the practitioners faces for their achievements.

Gill Lloyd Training on Inclusive Education For Disabled Children

Bophelong Staff attended training by specialist educator, Gill Lloyd PhD. The four training sessions completed from 6th June - 11th July were:

  1. Child Identification and Assessment - Provided facilitators with training to ensure the best education possible at the relevant developmental ages of each child
  2. Special needs training for the Bophelong School for the Disabled – Practitioners were taught to distinguish the chronological versus the developmental age of special needs children and will be shown how to focus on most beneficial progress areas for each child
  3. Identification of Barriers to Learning or Developmental Delays – Content included  the different barriers to learning and how children are different from each other
  4. Accurate Observation of children and Making Toys/Resources from Waste - The practitioners learnt that good teaching resources can be made from waste products. There is no excuse for a lack of resources

Shonaquip Training and Handover of Stimulation Kit - 17th and 19th August 2015

Shonaquip facilitated training at Bophelong with the practitioners on Monday 17th and Wednesday 19th August. The training was to teach them to provide the children at the centre with stimulation activities. Practitioners were taught how to access children’s developmental levels, establish developmental goals, use the test kit to engage in stimulating activities with the children and assess their developmental progress over specific time frames. Shonaquip took time to identify children’s abilities and areas that need improvement with the practitioners and to give practical ways of stimulating the children’s development using the tool kit manual and toys.

Three practitioners were appointed two children each to work with over a period of six weeks. Shonaquip will visit the centre to check on the practitioners and children’s progress. Developmental goals were set for the six children and stimulation activities will be done by the practitioners.

The practitioners from Bophelong had a wonderful time at the training. They were grateful for the opportunity to learn how best to do their work in a practical, simple and understandable way. Thembi, a Topsy Social Worker, said the following “The experience of the children at the day care centre cannot be explained. From not having stimulation toys to having someone who is knowledgeable and who understands their disability and developmental needs spend the day with them was an exhilarating experience. The children loved receiving attention, stimulation and love from Anushcka (Shonaquip), Topsy staff and practitioners.”

Sunshine Centre Training

Practitioners from Bophelong were privileged to spend a day at The Sunshine Centre, to further develop the skills they learnt during Gill Lloyds training sessions. A professional from the Sunshine Centre taught the staff how to work with disabled children hands on i.e. physical and intellectual stimulation.  

Fundraising for Bophelong

  • Natalie Hamett from Australia contacted us in April 2015 and expressed an interested in fundraising for Topsy, and specifically to help disabled children. She ran the Melbourne Half Marathon and raised R10, 000 which has been specifically allocated to improvements at Bophelong.
  • A grant of R 38,000 was awarded by The Persula Foundation from the UK specifically for the disabled children of Bophelong.

Plans for the Future

The funding we received from DG Murray Trust was awarded for one year. If all targets and indicators are met successfully they will consider renewing for three years. This will enable us to the train the principal for another two years:

  • Year Two (2016) training from ASHA will be Child Development Programme - ETDP SETA Accredited course. This will give principals the tools to develop children’s foundation for learning; colours, shapes, numbers, big and mall, spacial awareness and written words.  
  • Year Three (2017) will be “Money Management”, a financial management training programme for people with little formal education, as is the case with our many of the day care centres we support. Successful practitioners will be awarded 5 points in accreditation towards SETA-ECD level 4.
  • We would like to employ one full time occupational therapist and one full time physiotherapist to work with all beneficiaries of our programmes. The children at Bophelong will benefit from this hugely. It will ensure they are stimulated and given specialist care,  and one on one attention they desperately need
  • Additional outdoor equipment is needed to prevent the children from being indoors all day, and to encourage physical activity and development
  • We will continue to raise funds to enable us complete all the upgrades and purchase the equipment for each child that was highlighted in the audit completed by Shonaquip
  • Gill Lloyd’s training sessions emphasised the need to encourage parents to educate themselves on how to help and stimulate their children. With adequate funding we would like to purchase the Parental Manual from Shonaquip that is associated the stimulation kit currently used at Bophelong

Thank you for taking the time to read this report.

Specialised equipment donation - Sunshine Centre
Specialised equipment donation - Sunshine Centre



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Topsy Foundation

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Project Leader

Sarah du Toit

Development Manager
Johannesburg, Gauteng South Africa

Where is this project located?

Map of Topsy Foundation NPC