PHAKAMISA is pronounced pa-ga-mee-sa.
A Zulu word meaning 'to uplift.'

Our History

A history of Phakamisa by Glenda Howieson - Project Co-ordinator.

In the mid 1980's, I was teaching in pre-primary at the John Wesley School ( a ministry of Pinetown Methodist church) and was deeply moved by the plight of the very poor. By 1994 and for the next few years, I began voluntarily running, after school hours and at weekends, teacher training workshops for illiterate, uneducated women who themselves were running Educare Centres. An Educare centre where EDUcation and CARE are given to children in the 0-6 year age group.

Teaching in John Wesley school during the day; running the workshops after school and at weekends, not knowing the circumstances under which the 'students' were living and working, I felt my work was ineffective and I was about to throw the towel in when, an opportunity arose for me to apply for funding from the British Methodist Overseas Division.

My application, in 1996, was successful and the BMCOD's substantial grant and importantly donations from other churches in England, particularly the Nottingham Derby District funded my salary for the next six years enabling Phakamisa to become established. The grant came to an end. Despondant, I thought the project may have to close but Nottingham Derby pledged £115 per month towards admin costs and we were able to continue. As I'd made contacts with a few individuals and churches in the UK, funding became more secure and has continued to the present day.


Phakamisa began with 5 Educare Centres and a total of 100 children. Over the first five years I continued to train the 'teachers' (many of whom were not even picture literate) in fortnightly workshops based at Pinetown Methodist Church and then helped the students implement the theory into their own centres. (presently known as monitoring).

The transference of knowledge and applying it to their own situation was very difficult for our 'teachers' considering how little education they had had and so assistance in the implementation of their training, through monitors, became and continues to be a critical aspect of Phakamisa's work.

Phakamisa's monitors are all Zulu women who understood the local situations and needs of the teachers and their centres. The monitors not only help the teachers implement what they learnt in workshops into their own centres, they also assess the needs of each 'school' helping with the distribution of gifts of tables, chairs, equipment etc. Monitors have a real overview of the situations, especially where the greatest need is and which teachers have orphaned children living with them (an act of love since they receive no financial support) and require extra support.

Consider: Half of all one ever learns is learnt before the age of six years. The high rate of unemployment in SA denied (and continues to) many children a basic pre-school education as their parents are unable to afford the Educare centre fees. (The government provides free education to children of 6-16 years- thus pre-school education has to be paid for) These innumerable children, wandering aimlessly around, or hanging, longingly on the fences outside the Educare centres led to the development of Phakamisa's wandering teachers.

In 1998 we employed our first wandering teacher, providing free lessons to children of 4-6 years living in abject poverty and whose parents were unemployed. This grew to 4 women teaching on the pavements, in gardens,, community centres or under trees for 2 hours ever day. The teacher taught the children, gave them a sandwich, then 'wandered' to the second venue and repeated the process. Effectively each teacher teaches 60 children every day. The programme was and continues to be successful and although, with funding decreasing drastically, we can only afford to have 3 wandering teachers (Nonkululeko and Thandi working in wooden hut cabins, Nomulanga a 'pitch' on a pavement, all within informal settlements) we continue to be thrilled by reports from the local primary schools who say that these children are well taught and ready for formal education.

Today Phakamisa annually trains 250 women working in Educare centres, supporting them in their schools, working with a total therefore of 10,000 children aged from birth to 6 years.


In early 2000, in response to the Aids crisis, we started 'GRANNY SUPPORT GROUPS' providing spiritual and emotional support for women caring for orphans and vulnerable children. The structure of the devotional meetings were carefully designed to provide a simple spiritual support mechanism and so the Grannies could share their problems and joys, pray for each other and have joyful Zulu worship. If we could keep the CAREGIVERS strong, we felt the children would benefit.

Initially the Educare monitors worked with the Caregivers groups, visiting and helping them in devotions, and reporting any problems to Glenda so that she could try and solve them. But the Caregiver groups were quickly to became more than fellowship groups meeting once or twice a week as Phakamisa provided skill based workshops.

A leader emerged from each Caregiver group and they came to Pinetown once a fortnight, to share the problems of the group in devotions and then to learn skills initially in - sewing, knitting, crocheting, and vegetable gardening, taught by volunteers from our congregation. Returning back to their community the Caregiver leader taught her group the skills learnt from Phakamisa. The grannies were now not only chatting and sharing with each other the responsibility of caring for orphans (who are not necessarily related to them) but working together building skills that could be used to provide for the physical needs of their families or to earn some form of income.

The Caregiver programme over a decade has evolved in response to the needs of the communities as they have become apparent. As the number of Caregiver group Leaders attending increased, it became apparent that we needed to have Zulu speaking staff members to develop the training and monitoring programme. Today we have a team of skilled trainers in beadwork, sewing, cooking, vegetable gardening, home-based care and more recently in parenting and literacy training. Caregiver Monitors, following the model of Educare Monitors, again understanding the communities they work in help the Caregiver leaders implement the training in their groups and situations.

Presently Phakamisa has approximately 270 Caregiver groups with 1,700 members caring for 6,000 orphaned or vulnerable children. These groups work in 220 communal or individual vegetable gardens which means 1,000 families have access to a nutritious diet.


HIV/AIDS continues to have devastating effects within the communities we reach, with 1 in 2 people infected with the virus which has a severe impact on families and their health and income.

People within the communities who are HIV+ face being marginalised, isolated and uncared for in their illness and so in 2005 and as a response to this deep need, Tholuthando our HIV/AIDS support group was formed. Tholuthando is a Zulu word meaning 'we love one another'. The group meets fortnightly to celebrate life, living it positively. We promote a healthy lifestyle and offer education on HIV matters, exercise

and nutritional information with time for counselling, social interaction and life skills. Presently we have 70 group members on our register, each member now feels loved, cared for and valued.


Phakamisa started in 1994 with 5 little Educare centres which touched and changed for the better the lives of 100 children and their teachers. 18 years down the track and the ministry of Phakamisa, remains firmly centred in God. It has evolved, changed and developed in direct response to the needs expressed by the communities we serve. It has impacted on the lives of thousands of adults and children living in a 50km radius of Pinetown, Kwa-Zulu Natal providing training and support to enable independence.

Recently the staff and participants on the various courses of Phakamisa, pledged to “be the change we want to see in our world”, to quote Mahatma Gandhi, particularly by offering protection in whatever way we can, to the children. Our Caregivers and Educare teachers have a critical role to play as they are at the rock face and Phakamisa has a critical role to play in supporting and resourcing them.

Phakamisa is only able to continue to make the changes we want to see in our world through the continued giving by you, our donors and supporters.

Thank you for making a change in our world through your help, gifts, prayers and commitment. From one who wants to change and be changed, in love and with love.