Dear CHOSA Friends and Supporters, 

As we open the New Year of 2011  – I’d like to look back on our work in 2010 – a historic year for both CHOSA and South Africa – and look ahead to CHOSA in the coming year and beyond.

Before I begin, I want to welcome our new class of alumni into the CHOSA family. They recently finished their semester in South Africa to return to their friends and families back in the States. Some highlights from their semester – among many others – include the 23-page Together Magazine, written and produced by our after-school class of early high-schoolers, a trip to Robben Island, and a wonderful play written and performed by our group of 9-11 year old girls with the help of their after-school volunteers. We hope all our volunteers’ time at Baphumelele and Emasithandane was as meaningful for them as it was for their kids.

The Soccer World Cup this past June shone the biggest international spotlight on South Africa since the end of apartheid. And despite countless warnings from foreign and local naysayers, the people of this beautiful country came together in epic fashion. The sense of South African pride and hospitality was tangible, and for that one month it seemed – at least on the face of things – as if nothing could go wrong. Unfortunately, while the World Cup glee temporarily diverted world attention from the underlying social challenges facing the most vulnerable portion of South Africa’s population, these problems continued unabated. Now that the world’s gaze has shifted away from South Africa, the task of highlighting and seeking to address these problems is left to the people of South Africa and the organizations working to support them.

It is through this knowledge – juxtaposed against a backdrop of a city covered with posters of world-renowned soccer players – that we must recognize who the real heroes of South Africa are: the most extraordinary women and men whose tireless efforts to support the most vulnerable members of their communities are building the foundation of a better future. CHOSA has the great honor of working with and supporting these heroes – many of whom are women – in their daily struggles to make a difference in the lives of the children in their care.

Over the course of 2010, we led and assisted many important developments at the projects we support. At Emasithandane Children’s Organisation, we worked with their management through several major grant proposals, two of which we are still waiting to hear back about. We also helped them to update their website and they now have building plans for their property in nearby Philippi. The second site will include two cluster homes for the kids permanently living at the children’s home. The houses will provide a stable family-style upbringing for these kids, while keeping them as part of the greater Emasi family. We hope to break ground by the New Year!

At the Philani Family Fund, our biggest accomplishment was not the building of three homes, a health clinic, or the granting of six bursaries. Despite the importance of these achievements, 2010 will more likely be remembered as the year that the Philani Family Fund hired Dineo Maliehe, the new program coordinator, who has put in place an improved set of protocols to ensure that our beneficiaries are best served, and that we are able to track our work to understand what we are doing right and how we can improve our services.

Some of our work last year was directed at helping with physical improvements, such as the recently finished renovation of Ilitha Labantwana Place of Safety, while elsewhere the focus was on internal developments and organizational structural support. At Ubuhle Babantwana Educare Centre, founder and principal Pumla Gigi has been working tirelessly toward improving her internal systems to ensure that each child’s educational needs are met, while keeping the program financially sustainable.

2010 also brought a great group of Michigan State University volunteers to CHOSA’s After-School Volunteer Programme, and our first ever summer session of CIEE volunteers. The Michigan State students offered to babysit the kids from Qaqambani Safe Home, Abaphumeleli Children’s Home and Ilitha Labantwana Place of Safety, while I took the Mamas and care-givers to Kirstenbosch Gardens for a child-free picnic (see photo to the right)!  Some of our favorite supporters, Kids First, also come to Cape Town this past year for a three-day site visit. It was an emotional trip for everyone, and meant a lot to the project staff to meet people from across the world who are willing to support them. The trip ended with a delivery of thousands of rands worth of toys, educational supplies, a washing machine, diapers and baby formula… and a few tears.

Now, as we look ahead to this year, there is much to be excited about. At an organizational and personal level, though, 2011 will involve transition. CHOSA has defined my life for the past three years and in many ways has shaped who I have become. But the time has come for me to pass the torch: in March 2011, I will be stepping down as regional director for CHOSA. Sad as this may be for me, the transition will be an exciting process for CHOSA, as I will be replaced by a two-member team comprising a newly created fellowship position and a local coordinator. This team approach will enable us to greatly improve the scope of our services, giving hope to even more of the Children of South Africa.

With love from the Mother City,

Rob Rosenbaum