Monday, 22 December 2014

Rounding Up Our Year at Keiskamma Trust

On the afternoon of December 12th, an audience, mostly parents & families plus a few of the early holiday visitors, gathered outside the new music building in Hamburg to watch a performance of 'Indalo'. This outdoor production, which grew out of the 'Carnival of the Animals' (performed in 2013 at Grahamstown Festival), featured the Music Academy and a new cast of local young actors.

Despite a gale force wind, actors and musicians managed to tell their story to a crowd who were wowed by the music, the magic and the humour. It was a delightful finale to Keiskamma Trust's activities throughout 2014. The production was followed the next day with the Intlantsi Creative Development team organising and hosting the annual Christmas party for all the local children. Over 350 Hamburg children received gifts from Father Christmas, and were entertained by the Intlantsi facilitators, who 'clowned' and face-painted for hours!

The Trust offices are now closed for the end-of-year break but the Art shop continues to be open every day as visitors come to do their Christmas shopping. An adjacent building is also serving as a gallery, where the Altarpiece, back 'home' from its global journeying, is being exhibited, as well as several pieces from the 'Botanicals' range.

Our gallery and shop in Hamburg

Our shop in Cape Town ( @ The Watershed - Ground Floor - Market Stall F107)

And so another busy year here draws to a close. As ever, the challenges will continue in 2015. For a small NGO in a remote rural location, keeping funding flowing and helping to nurture a healthy, sustainable community is never plain sailing. But if you dip back in to these 2014 blog posts, you'll get a sense of this special place and what is being achieved and celebrated in this little corner of Eastern Cape.

None of this could happen without all our donors and friends! So we take this opportunity the thank you ALL for another year of continued support. All of us here at Keiskamma Trust – staff, volunteers and students – wish you a peaceful and enjoyable holiday season and warm wishes for everything you hope for in 2015.  

Friday, 19 December 2014

Christmas shopping at V&A Waterfront | Cape Town

Watershed, Ground Floor, Market stall F107

Curated by Cathy Stanley

Santa Shoeboxes Hit Hamburg!!

Nokuphumla Nameka preparing the distribution at Vulindlela Centre

512 children in Hamburg and the surrounding area had a lovely pre-Christmas surprise with the unexpected delivery of a truckload of 'Santa Shoeboxes'. Companies and organisations in East London and the children of Hudson Park Primary organised this initiative, and Nokhanyo Nkani, the Trust's OVC and Aftercare Coordinator, arranged for this special delivery to our local villages.

Each shoebox was stuffed with toiletries, stationery, clothing and sweets; all age appropriate and lovingly wrapped in festive paper. For some children, this was perhaps the first time they had received such a bright and thoughtful Christmas gift.

There followed a very busy time in Vulindlela Centre as staff packed and sorted and organised the deliveries far and wide. Mxolisi Educare Centre, Masivuye Day Care, Bjorn Centre, Eva Centre and Hamburg After Care all received a consignment of boxes, each neatly labelled with the name of each child.

The children and parents were delighted with this Christmas surprise and some wrote lovely thank you notes to the organisers. 

Keiskamma Trust wish to thank the kind donors who participated in this scheme and to Nokhanyo for getting involved in this innovative initiative.  

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Music Academy Off to Camp!

Keiskamma Music Academy finished the year on a high note with a 5-day camp at Ubungani Wilderness Trust, Boknesstrand, in early December. The Centre is just along the coast on the way to Port Alfred so it didn't involve too much travelling; however the change of scene provided an exciting opportunity to prepare and rehearse for the Christmas production of 'Indalo', as well as to work and play together as a team.

In addition to the music and drama students, KMA staff and volunteers, the group were accompanied by Hanneke van der Merwe and her team who prepared amazing food, organised team-building activities, and nurtured participants with care and support. It was no holiday though! There were intense rehearsals every day after an early breakfast and warm-up, and the afternoons were spent either on the beach, weather permitting, or involved in environmental and cooperative exercises. The evenings gave everyone a chance to relax a bit, with dancing and marshmallows on sticks as the students' favourites!

Everyone felt that the five days went far too quickly and they would have liked to do it all over again! Keiskamma Music Academy wish to thank their kind donors for giving everyone the chance to have this special experience, living and working together. They also wish to thank Ubungani Wilderness Trust, and Hanneke van der Merwe & her staff for looking after everybody so well. And not forgetting Keiskamma Trust drivers for getting the crew there and back safely!

The students all agreed, 'It was a great start to our summer holidays and we'd love to go back again soon'.  

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

World Aids Day 2014 – 'Caring for the Caretakers'

Since 1988, December 1st has been designated as World Aids Day. The day is an opportunity for people across the globe to raise awareness, increase education and support those living with HIV. Keiskamma Trust always mark this day in some way, so, on December 1st, almost seventy members of the Art Project at the Trust and members of the Hamburg community gathered in the newly completed Umthombo Art Centre to meet representatives from Mercedes Benz South Africa (MBSA), the main funder of the Art project over the last three years. The SASSA team (South African Social Security Agency) were also present at the event.

Thembeka Sigabi, the Art Project's contact at MBSA in East London, welcomed all the guests and explained that the theme of the event was 'Caring for the Caretakers'. Speeches by social workers and SASSA highlighted the fact that many people present there spend their lives caring for and supporting others, and occasionally, they too need recognition and someone to look out for them.

Eunice Mangwane , Keiskamma Health Councillor, thanked MBSA for their visit, their support and their generosity. The event concluded with the distribution of gift bags, containing useful items such as toiletries and soup, and a little luxury too with the addition of some chocolate!

Keiskamma Trust wish to thank MBSA for venturing down our long and winding gravel road to meet the community here and to commemorate World Aids Day in a spirit of joy, cooperation and kindness.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Come and visit us at V&A Waterfront (Cape Town)

At The Watershed, 
Ground Floor Market Stall F107 

Curated by Cathy Stanley 

Extended hours until 9 pm extra specials 

on Monday 15th December!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Summer Exhibitions in Cape Town

Dear friends and supporters,

We are looking forward to seeing you at our Summer Exhibitions in Cape Town

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Reaching out for Women’s Health in Horton!

On the 3rd of November a team of 6 community healthworkers, the Keiskamma health cordinator Unathi Meslane and ourselves- two volunteer doctors - bundled into the Trust’s backie and set off for Horton Clinic- an hour away via potholed roads and through heavy rain. A quick stop in the town of Peddie to pick up enough supplies for the trip (a lot of chicken!) and tie up a few loose ends and we were on our way.

Our aim was to deliver training to these community health workers along with others from Horton on key areas of women’s health that need improvement in the Ngushwa district. We then planned to pass on this knowledge to the catchment area of the clinic via a door-to-door campaign. This initiative was based on the government plan for Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. We hope that by targeting all women (not only those who already have diagnosed HIV) we will be able to pick up new cases of HIV early and initiate treatment as soon as possible.

We began with a day of teaching delivered by KT founder Dr Carol Baker, educating us on the reasoning behind early booking in pregnancy, exclusive breastfeeding and contraception. Presenting to a medical professional late in pregnancy is a major problem in the areas served by the Keiskamma project. Contributing factors include cultural practises of non-disclosure, fear of the consequences of extra-marital pregnancy and worries around the perceived “compulsory” HIV testing. Exclusive breastfeeding has been difficult to establish as previous advice was to bottlefeed if mothers were HIV positive and clinics were providing free formula (see WHO guidelines for more information). The use of contraception appears to be patchy as there are high numbers of teenage and unplanned pregnancies.

Over the next three days, we were ‘released’ out into the village knocking on people’s doors and passing on our knowledge with the help of some brand new Xhosa pamphlets that we recently developed. It was a privilege to be invited into the homes of people from a culture that we had not encountered before. The range was quite extreme, from corrugated iron shack, to clay rondavel to 4 bedroom modern constructs. And the people we met inside had different stories to tell as well as different health issues. Although our main focus was promoting contraception, healthy pregnancies and exclusive breastfeeding, we also wanted to obtain a profile of the village and its health needs. These ranged from a 2 year old child that was failing to thrive, to a mother that presented to the clinic 5 months into her pregnancy, to an elderly man who needed walking aids.


It was heartening to see people hastening to Horton clinic the same day to get screened for HIV or have their blood pressure checked or be started on contraception. The immediate effects of our campaign were apparent. The experience gave us better understanding of the way the communities function and the cultural and social factors that affect people living with HIV and other stigmatised conditions. 

Spending three days working and living with some of the Community Health Workers was an insightful and often entertaining experience. We cooked to the beautiful sounds of their naturally harmonising voices and had our first experience of Miely Meal- pap doused in soured milk and sprinkled with salt (not entirely sure about that one but we were grateful for it all the same!) They looked bemused at my slightly confused look when first handing me the basin which I was meant to fill with a mixture of rain and boiled water to go and wash in as there was no running water in the entire village. One lovely lady was even kind of enough to demonstrate exactly how we should do this. Some of the community health workers themselves who were HIV positive spoke loudly and without self-consciousness about their diagnosis. There was a lot to learn from them and their input helped shape and direct our work.
Throughout the project, the teams both worked hard and looked after us, which we were very grateful for . We managed to visit 60 households in total and reached an estimated 300 members of the community. There were a few challenges along the way and we had to readjust our plans a few times to accommodate these but they did not have a significant impact on our work. From this project we were able to obtain valuable information on some of the barriers to access healthcare and also the level of understanding of certain aspects of health in the community. All in all it was a sometimes frustrating, often enjoyable and ultimately satisfying work trip that we hope we can build upon with future campaigns and new ventures.

Dr Amelia Hawkes

Dr Cavitha Vivek

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Christmas sale at Art in the Park

The Art Project

will be at

Art in the Park


Ann Bryant Gallery

in East London

on 29th November 2014

Ann Bryant Gallery
043 722 4044

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Miss Port Alfred Wows Mgababa!

Fish River Sun, the local hotel and golf complex, recently hosted a Miss Port Alfred competition as a fundraiser. Money raised from ticket sales was divided between three local charities and we were fortunate that one of these was the Bjorn Centre in Mgababa! 

The lovely Miss PA visited the centre to meet the staff and children and present the gift of R4000. The hotel have asked staff to write a wish list which the hotel will purchase and deliver. Our staff are still debating over the items they would like; high on the priority list at the moment are some new small mattresses and blankets for nap time! 

Keiskamma Trust and the Bjorn Centre would like to thank Fish River Sun for their continuing support, their kind generosity and their recognition of the work of the Bjorn Centre and its dedicated staff.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Teenagers Camp

Our visiting UK doctors reflect on the recent weekend camp for HIV positive children ages 12 to 18

On the 25th of October the health and social work teams worked together to organise a teenagers’ camp for HIV positive young people.

The activities started with a group discussion- the young people indicated the topics that they wanted to discuss and then these were worked through as a group. The first topic they wanted to talk about was peer pressure. All the teens seemed to be worried about alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy. The temptation to follow the crowd must be incredibly hard to resist when you so want to be like everyone else and to fit in.

The young people were also invited to write down an event from their lives where they had felt stigmatised due to their HIV status. These moments were then put into a box and read out anonymously and discussed as a group. The children tried to give each other ways of working through their problems. A lot of the teenagers disclosed that people wouldn't eat with them, wouldn’t play with them or would gossip about them behind their backs.

As doctors from the UK, volunteering for the Trust, it was incredible to see the resilience of these young people. One of the main worries shared by the group was whether "HIV is a death sentence". It must be very difficult to keep on the right track, go to school and avoid social pressures if you are so unsure about your own future. So we worked hard to explain that with medication their condition can be controlled and they can look forward to healthy lives.

Peer educators tried to set an example of how to stay healthy and showed them that they can and should allow themselves to make plans for the future. We hope that by bringing these young people together they have been given a bit of fresh thinking on their lives and a chance to support each other.

The posters they made towards the end of the day recorded their thoughts and what they had learnt from the activities during the workshop. Their creativity and the messages they wanted to get across to people in their communities were really uplifting.

They also participated in some fun activities and games and everyone went home with a full stomach and hopefully, a lighter heart.

Our facilitators

Dr Amelia Hawkes

Dr Cavitha Vivek

Friday, 7 November 2014

‘The Untapped Connection’ Keiskamma Trust at the Gender, Water and Development Conference in East London (November 3-7)

On a rainy afternoon in Hamburg, the Music Academy’s concert ensemble, twenty experienced students, set off to East London to perform at the International Convention Centre as guests of a high-profile global conference. Keiskamma’s Art and Music programmes were invited by the organisers to participate in this event, thus offering an amazing opportunity to showcase some of our work.

The Art Project provided their beautiful 3 dimensional felt plants and ceramic pots to decorate the main conference hall. In addition, they had produced the conference bags, over 400 of them, which will serve as a lovely visual reminder to delegates as they go their separate ways at the end of the week.

The Music Academy provided the entertainment for the participants on the evening of Tuesday November 4th. In keeping with the theme of water, they performed Alla Hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music and other water-related pieces. The audience were hugely appreciative and really got into the mood when the ensemble played Ubuhle Ben Doda and Pata Pata, jiving enthusiastically and responding to the beat with emphatic ululations! The students also enjoyed the evening, a welcome break from their Matric and end-of-year school exams and study. They said they had such a warm welcome and they all talked about the amazing buffet food!

Keiskamma Trust particularly wishes to thank Glaudin Kruger and other organisers who invited us to this prestigious event, and, of course, everyone – artists, musicians, drivers and other staff – who enabled us to showcase our programmes to this international audience.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Story telling, flute and piano performance

Invitation to an interdisciplinary concert with BIRDS as theme: storytelling, flute and piano.

“All Birds Know This” 
after the title of a selection of contemporary Latvian poetry

Sunday 26 October, 16h, Glensheil Manor House, Parktown

Helen Vosloo - flute, pianist Ilse Myburgh and Nomkhubulwane Storyteller. 

Keiskamma Art Project will display bird puppets made from wire, felting and embroidery...

accompanied by poetry and works around by Vivaldi, Mouquet, Ridout and Poulenc on flute and piano.
Programme will appeal to adults and children.

Please contact Ilse Myburgh on +823461482 or
Tickets R150

Monday, 6 October 2014

New Art Project shop at V&A Waterfront

Come and visit us at V&A Waterfront (Cape Town) from Tuesday 7th October on:

The Watershed, Ground Floor Market Stall F107

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Happy teachers make for happy students!

A dream has come true for a team of Keiskamma artists who wished to develop the skill of teaching art to children. For the past year, Cebo Mvubu and Nomfusi Nkani have had the plan of teaching art to primary school children during school holidays. Their passion generated enthusiasm in 5 other artists who joined them to attend training by our Keiskamma Creative Development expert Themba Mchunu. For the past two weeks, Themba passed on very special skills to this team: how to capture the children's attention, to develop an interest in them for drawing and painting, how to give the children  freedom of expression, to plan a lesson and also how to report on challenges and explore how they might be overcome.

Standing in the class while the trainees are going through the de-briefing of the previous lesson, it is amusing and uplifting to hear the children packing up on the other side of the door. One has to stop them from pushing each other to enter the class. The art class is obviously  THE PLACE TO BE. "That's it," says Themba to the team, "you hear them, they can't wait for your new lesson, because when they wake up in the morning, they remember that the day before you told them they are going to do something new today!".