Ikhaya Loxolo was founded in 2005 by Alexandra & Michael Guenther (primary teacher for mentally impaired children, mechanic & farmer) with the help of traditional Headman Patrick Fudumele at Hobeni, a rural village near Elliotdale, Eastern Cape. After establishing an organic farm and preparing traditional rondavels and being registered as NPO, mentally impaired children were enrolled in 2008 through social workers and from neighboring villages. Today 18-20 mentally and often physically impaired children and young adults live, work and learn at Ikhaya Loxolo, cared for day and night by 23 mostly female care-givers (Ikhaya Loxolo is a Safe House).
The Guenthers: “We first had to understand and analyze the role we could or should play as an agent of change and the situation of the community and our immediate environment. We knew that many NGO’s had failed because they superimposed their ideas on a situation or community that was foreign to their ideas and their activities came to nothing. We were willing to rethink our way of life and to examine our own role in the existing political context. We made the decision to authentically commit ourselves to the community here and also re-examine ourselves constantly in order to achieve what we have achieved for and with the community.” Both Alexandra & Michael Guenther are fluent in isiXhosa.
In 2017 Michael and Alex handed over the responsibility of running Ikhaya Loxolo to an elected local management team. It has always been their goal to develop the skills of their staff to the best of their ability with the view of handing over full responsibility to the local staff one day.
This move resulted in an amazing development. The staff elected representatives of the different areas of work within Ikhaya Loxolo:
- Phatheka Mhlatyelwa is Managing Director of Ikhaya Loxolo as well as chairperson of the board.
- Malusi Sopazi, administrator, manager education project
- Nokuphumla Vobi runs the new farm gardens
- Monica Mgonondi garden and home manager
- Thandisizwe Nyikima is responsible for infrastructure, maintenance and life stock, is a board member and the representative of the male staff members
- Alex and Michael are still involved as fundraisers and as advisers
It was difficult for the female staff to learn to break and overcome the old traditions of males being superior. But the women proved to be committed and strong and eager to learn to become leaders!
Patheka, managing director of Ikhaya Loxolo, says: “ My biggest success is that Alex and Michael handed over responsibility for Ikhaya Loxolo to me”
I am Patheka Mhlatyelwa, born in 1989. I grew up with my grand mother, who cared for me as best as she could, though being very poor living in a mud hut on my child grant of R 80 per month at that time. Now my grandmother is old and a care-patient, unable to walk or help in the household, I am her care-giver. I hope and try to look after her as well as she did look after me, she even managed to put me through school.
When Ikhaya Loxolo arrived in this poverty stricken rural area in 2004, I was 16 years old and still at school. When Ikhaya Loxolo could financially afford it, they allowed me to work in their gardens on weekends as well as school holidays, to uplift my standard of living and complete schooling. Ikhaya Loxolo was itself just in process of establishing itself at that time, and I am in awe seeing Ikhaya Loxolo grow and change from 2005 to now!
When I matriculated in 2008 Ikhaya Loxolo had just opened its home and farm for children with special needs. Having had already three years of garden experience from working at Ikhaya Loxolo, I now started to be trained in care giving and teaching children and youth with special needs. We have an ongoing weekly training course, as the children and youth need individual care and understanding.
Since 2008 Ikhaya went from accommodating six mentally impaired children to now accommodating 18 – 20 children and youth. From three staff we went to a team of 22 local care-givers. From planting 600 vegetable seedlings per month we went to now 8000 vegetable seedlings per month, every month! From being a student helping out after hours and in holidays I went to become member of management at Ikhaya Loxolo.
At Ikhaya Loxolo out of 22 local staff only five (including me) have a completed school education. If it wasn’t for Ikhaya Loxolo I would never have been able to complete my school education, I would not have been able to find a job in the area so that I can care for my grand-mother and provide for a better future for my son. Without this job, I would sit at home, without income, looking after the household and be frustrated, as are so many others.
Without me and the others who look after our mentally impaired children and youths these vulnerable children would still live at risk of neglect and abuse. Many of Ikhaya Loxolo’s residents have previously been sexually abused or raped and almost all of their families have withheld the governmental Disability Grants from them.
Ikhaya Loxolo is those children’s first encounter with love, respect, sufficient care and meeting of needs in all regards; this makes our work as care givers incredibly valuable and we wish to carry on.