Behind the scenes of the Rivers Foundation – an inspirational look at what a few dedicated people are doing to make a difference in so many people`s lives
The Rivers Foundation was founded by the Senior Pastors of Rivers Church and registered as a NPO, Section 21 Company and a Section 18(A) Public Benefit Organization, in 2006. The foundation has grown from being a very small and humble entity to being one of the most impactful NGO’s in the different areas we support. The Foundation’s success stems from being built on the foundation of values of honesty, transparency, integrity, accountability and sound governance.
The Foundation was established, as an avenue to create partnerships with businesses and individuals to donate finances, services and any other contributions to the various projects. Our focus is to support, empower & uplift underprivileged communities from our society.
Rivers church is a blessing to the foundation as it takes care of all the Rivers foundation operational costs including salaries. This enables the Foundation to use 100 % of funds donated to go directly to our beneficiaries.
Our focus and some of the initiatives we are involved in:
We often wondered why children from poor and remote areas usually don’t do well at school. From our own research we got to know that some of children from remote and farm areas were underfed. Because the parents struggled to find sustainable jobs as they were unskilled and unemployable. They survived on piece work in and around their areas.
The children often went to schools without breakfast some were lucky to get a meal once or twice a week from school. Sadly, after school they would go back home to no meals at all or get staple food like porridge (pap) without vegetables or a protein. These children have to brave the entire day at school with hunger pains , talking and doing whatever it takes to keep their minds off their starving tummies , this in turn has a negative effect as they don’t concentrate on what the teacher is saying and obviously missing out on the day’s lesson.
Most of the children from these areas walk long distances from home (without shoes or wear broken shoes) to school. This already sets them back as they get to school tired and hungry. How will they ever do better at school under these circumstances?
The good news is that some schools feed them once or twice a week. The children know the days where there meals are supplied; they therefore only attend school on those days.
Our leaders and founders of Rivers Foundation are sensitive to the needs of the school children from such areas; they then asked the social arm of the church, to look for those schools to support with food and other necessities.
After a long search, we were introduced by a friend of the Foundation to some schools in Lanseria. Most of the school children around Lanseria live in informal areas with houses built from tin sheets and plastic covers as a roof.
We arranged a visit to one of the families we had been supporting from this community; this family had 3 boys who attended the school in Lanseria. We arrived at this home around 5.30am while the 3 boys were still sleeping. The mum woke them up and heated water in a primus (paraffin) stove. Each of the boys was given about 2 litres of warm water in a plastic tub to freshen up before going to school. In about 15 minutes the boys were dressed up and ready to go to school (it was a winter day and still dark outside) – we noticed that the boys did not have breakfast before going to school.
We had pre-arranged with the parents to walk with the boys to school. It took us about 20 minutes to get to school but we were made aware that some kids walk for about an 1hour or more (if they miss the school bus).
We spoke to the school principal about the plight of their school children and were told that, on good days, the children were given soft porridge for breakfast (without milk). The school did not have enough bowls to cater for all the children at one time they also did not have spoons.
The children ate their soft porridge with their hands, some of these children’s hands were not clean– I wondered how many of these children missed school because of ill health as they ate with their hands without washing them first.
We were also told that often the children were sent home due to water shortage in the area. The school typically collected water in plastic buckets to ensure they have “fresh” drinking water and water to flush toilets and wash the porridge bowls.
We knew there was a long list of needs but we also understood that the first need to be looked at was feeding. We began supplying lunch packs to the school children on a daily basis.
After a few months, we were told that since we launched the feeding scheme at our beneficiary schools the school attendance was positively impacted as school children were guaranteed a fresh meal at school. We were also told that fewer children were getting sick since we started the feeding program; however the greatest news was the improvement of pass rate at the schools as the children could concentrate better during the school lessons.
In the beginning we launched our feeding at two schools and two ECD centres, we later grew to 8 schools, and two ECD’s, we also supplied fortified meals to a nearby church that was looking after 200 HIV/AIDS infected/affected families.
We were made aware of a few gogos (the grandmothers), who were struggling to take care of their grandchildren who were at the schools we were supporting. We began providing monthly food supplies/ groceries to those gogos to provide meals for their little ones.
On a daily bases on our way to schools we pass job seekers on street corners. However, when we return in the afternoons some of these Job seekers are still there, hoping for an opportunity to do a day’s work and be able to provide for their families. We then provide lunch packs to theses job seekers to encourage them not to lose hope.
Last year we provided over 2 million meals to school children, gogos and their grandchildren, job-seekers, the homeless, as well as people whose homes were destroyed by fire or by floods.
In 2013, some high school students from Soweto made us aware of the plight of teen girls who miss school during their monthly menstrual cycle because they cannot afford to purchase sanitary napkins. We were told that some girls (with a longer monthly cycle), miss up to 100 days a year. This really bothered us and we spoke to our leaders who agreed for us to support the school girls with toiletry packs. In fact our Sister’s Ministry at Rivers Church took this opportunity with both hands, where ladies donate toiletries (including soap, body cream, a pack of sanitary napkins and an under arm deodorant.
This gave the teen girls confidence and dignity to attend school even during their monthly cycle. The teen girls were now able to participate in sports activities even during their cycle. Now that their attendance and confidence has increased we have seen their end of the year results significantly improve as they had no reason to miss school anymore. To date we supplied toiletry packs to 9 schools on a monthly basis.
In our daily activities, we meet a number of unemployed or unemployable people due to lack of skills. We carefully thought of quick wins to skill people so they could sustain themselves by finding work or starting a small business to sustain them. We also provide opportunities to improve lives of people through skills development and ccontribute to reduction of unemployment through Skills and Enterprise Development.
We trained a few groups of people on sewing, beading, Waterless Car Wash initiatives as well as furniture upholstery, craft work etc.
To date we have already trained more than 800 people on financial literacy, 10 ladies on Beauty and Spa treatment, 30 people on Waterless Car Wash, 30 people on upholstery and up to 50 gogos on crocheting.
We also trained a few teens and mums on the SHINE programs (a life skill workshop that “awakens” women that they STRENGTH, WORTH, and PURPOSE in life). We have seen so many teens and adult females SHINE after the 9 module by removing layers of insecurities and low self-esteem issues. We also run a male version of the SHINE program called STRENGTH, similarly, teen boys have been made aware of their STRENGTH as a male and to use that strength to empower themselves, . They are also taught to respect, protect and support women in their Journey of manhood.
Rivers Foundation is blessed to have a great pool of volunteers – these volunteers consist of educated people, experienced people, businessman and women, artisans, students, unskilled and unemployed people. Our volunteers help us to achieve so much with very little effort from everyone. We use their skills, time, resources and financial donations to support communities that have lost their homes through fire or natural disasters (hurricanes or floods).
We have been able to donate thousands of mattresses, blankets, furniture, clothing, toiletries to give a new lease for the survivors of these disasters. To-date we have refurbished a total of 11 homes , 2 crèches and we have helped and improved 8 schools with , desks, painting of class rooms planting of gardens and cleaning of their school play grounds. We are empowered to help as many people as possible through the generous giving of our partners. Their giving has been through physical contribution of resources and materials, their time and skills.
If you would like to help us to make a difference, we would love to talk to you. You can contact Nuska Zwane firstname.lastname@example.org