Community Solutions for Sustainable Development: Perspectives from South Africa

5 Alberta Youth were selected to go to Hamburg, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in July 2015 as part of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Change Your World Tour. They were hosted by the Keiskamma Canada Foundation, and visited the projects of their partner, the Keiskamma Trust

Be inspired to learn about the health, art, and educational programs run by The Keiskamma Trust, and supported by ACGC Member Keiskamma Canada Foundation. Youth have presented their experience at 18 events in Lethbridge, Wainwright, Peace River and Edmonton so far, and are not done yet!

Saying Goodbye to Magda and Ester…


We, the Keiskamma Community, will be saying goodbye to Magda and Ester soon, though hopefully we will ‘kuier’ occasionally. Magda is a special person whose trajectory through life has been one of ever expanding contexts fulfilling her and peoples’ spiritual potentials. I know her heart is at one with God and letting go and following her heart, trusting in His wisdom, will and providence will lead to confidence, courage, personal dignity and peace in Him. Go Well.

Thank you for all you brought to Keiskamma, the passion and energy you invested, we will be the poorer for you going but still perfect in God and you, greater, justly rewarded in God’s will.


In Magda’s own words:

I started working at Keiskamma in 2009, I came 1 week every month. I was still lecturing in Textile Design and Technology at TUT and worked with my local church – ministering to the poor – we did everything we could in those communities. I did that for 18 years before I finally moved to Hamburg in 2010.
My first job was product development with the Art Project. I was involved in gong to the Design Indaba, making the Keiskamma Guernica and going to Grahamstown with the felting group to have an exhibition called “felt and feelings”. We made and sold a book we produced about what it feels like to be poor combined with beautiful pieces of felted embroidery that they made. It was so much fun to work with them; we made curtains, second-hand coats were embroidered (it was so cold that it sold within 2 days), all sorts of things – even ties (nobody bought that).
When CIDA started I moved over to the health program mainly to care for the Orphan’s and Vulnerable children and where we initially thought we needed a children’s home we decided to work first with the children in the families that where they are – to strengthen the families. I set up the psychosocial program where I worked with the Village Health Workers of the health program and started a Welfare clinic where we do 3 things: caring for the carers, talking about the cases we work with and do a bit of training. I was also responsible with a team for the ‘psychosocial support of the children who are HIV positive’. This we did through camps – camps were done before I came and I continued with it by adding a bit and changing a bit. With a wonderful team. We did many other things but those are the main brush strokes.
I love the Keiskamma Trust. I love the way we do art and health and welfare and music and education. I will always be grateful that I could be a part of this amazing work. I have met the most amazing people and participated in the most wonderful events and learnt in so many dimensions that It will always affect the way I work.
I deeply respect Carol and the rest of the family, I have never seen anybody with such compassion for people and who would care for the rich and the poor, the ‘important’ and the ’unimportant’ in the same way. It would be a sad day when we substitute those initial reasons why we do this for grander more measureable stuff. I believe that each person should receive the message that he/she is valuable beyond measuring. That should always be a fundamental part of helping the poor. Because the message they get all the time is – you are not that important.
Lastly and not the least I want to thank God for His kindness and acknowledge that without Him it is pointless for the builder to try and build a wall.
Thank you.


I have always had this battle in my life between doing art and helping people and sometimes I find it less at war and other times more. I have done mostly helping people the past few years and my whole being is longing for doing art now. So I will start there and for I will be getting involved with helping the poor again. I am passionate about it. There is an amazing church and a wonderful school that Ester will go to.
What I am dreaming of is a program that will take our OVC’s – especially those who are HIV positive – from birth through PMTCT up to when they are young adults and standing on their own feet and contributing to the community where they live. Age appropriate interventions that will prepare and build these kids. At the moment we do our best, and we do a lot, but we are still only doing crisis interventions.
I am also dreaming about a program specifically aimed at empowering our Village Health Workers. More than training and helping them to do their work, we do that. The VHW are not paid much and they are the backbone of our health program and often they face the same as our clients. Poverty, loan sharks, being a sole provider in their family, being sick themselves, being abused. We need to empower them to be more resilient by addressing some of the problems that they have. We started that with the welfare clinic – one of our programs – but we need to expand it to be more effective.
The work will always go on.


Nurturing a Healthy Community

The Keiskamma Health Programme, based in Hamburg, Eastern Cape, aims to improve the overall health status of the Peddie South community and reduce illness from preventable diseases. This is done by addressing the social causes of disease and focusing on primary health care in 47 villages in the surrounding area. The programme works closely with local clinics and the Department of Health in order to support and strengthen existing services.

In South Africa the HIV/Aids statistics are still staggering. There are 5.6 million people living with the disease and it is estimated that over 2 million adults and a quarter million children still require treatment. Despite the largest treatment programme in the world, the ARV (anti-retroviral) coverage rate is only 52%, and in 2011 there were 380 000 new HIV infections, and 270 000 South Africans died due to AIDS related illness. Over 2.1 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. Clearly there is still much work to be done.

Although HIV/AIDS is the condition with the largest public significance, it is not the only epidemic which needs to be addressed. South Africa has one of the highest rates of TB in the world and new infection rates have increased by 400% over the past 15 years. HIV is driving the TB epidemic and many patients are struggling with both.

The Keiskamma Trust addresses these health priorities through community awareness events and an innovative community health worker programme that reaches out to all members of the community. The Community Health Worker (CHW) initiative is highly successful and currently employs 51 health workers and 6 team leaders. They are engaged on a new nationally accredited training scheme, using innovative low-cost cell phone technology, which is an exciting new development in an already vibrant programme.

Programme History – –13 Years of Filling in the Gaps

In 2000, Dr Carol Hofmeyr began to work in the village of Hamburg at the mouth of the Keiskamma River. Her combined skills as a medical doctor and creative fine-artist, as well as her passion for human rights and well-being, began to transform the lives of the people she worked with and taught. The poor health service in the area could not be ignored and Dr Hofmeyr started working in clinics to assist the communities she was working in.

In 2005 there were no HIV treatment services available in the Peddie district. The health programme was established by a handful of passionate local and professional people to provide ARVs and palliative care to AIDS patients in their own homes. Community Health workers visited patients, helped them take their medication, did pill counts, reported side-effects and assisted them to access clinics and treatment. At the same time, the health workers received education about all aspects of HIV/AIDS.

As there were almost no other HIV treatment services available at that time, patients came from all around the country seeking care. Due to ill health and huge distances travelled, it was clear that the patients needed somewhere to stay while being prepared for treatment. Urgent fundraising led to the establishment of the Umtha Welanga in 2005, where patients could be cared for with compassion and dignity.

In 2006, Nompulelelo Hospital (the district hospital in this area) became accredited to provide ARVs. And over the years the government response to the HIV epidemic has changed; so the Health Programme has provided a flexible response, supporting government provision and always with the well-being of the community at its heart. Nowadays, the Keiskamma Health Programme is in line with the National Strategic Plan (2012 –- 2016) and addresses national and provincial health priorities. Generous funders have provided a lifeline through difficult times.

Future Health Focus -– Where Do We Go From Here?

There are currently lots of changes in the South African Health Service and the next stage of the programme is to fully align ourselves with current South African Health Care Reforms. These reforms aim to deliver a health service through primary health care outreach teams, which have community health workers at their core.

The South African Department of Health has recognised the excellence of the Keiskamma programme and is starting to fund a portion of their activities in 2013. Commitment from the government to support the programme and its employees will be the next encouraging step in this journey of hope and determination.

Currently the main activities of the health programme include:

  • Advocating for improved access to quality health care for all members of the community
  • Strengthening collaboration with the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development
  • Training and supporting a team of community health workers (CHW)
  • Providing comprehensive primary health care services (with a specific focus on PMTCT and TB case-finding) through trained CHWs
  • Psychosocial support
  • Nutritional support (distributing emergency food parcels, community food gardens, Gogo gardens)
  • Establishing support groups
  • Community awareness campaigns
  • Transportation services for patients unable to access health care
  • Monitoring & evaluation of the health program
  • Research to inform policy

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