Stellumthombo was created to cultivate hope and uplift communities that are excluded from the opportunities to be successful in South Africa. Their strategic approach strengthens the roots of the community, specifically parents and their infants. The team works hard to create a platform from where individuals have access to opportunities that could help them flourish.

Ruben Scheepers, a trained pastor who completed his masters in Divinity and MBA, has dedicated his time to serving God in any capacity. In working with people from every corner of South Africa and abroad, Ruben has learned how to aid a community, compassionately and patiently. In our discussion, we find out why Stellumthombo focusses on early childhood intervention instead of alleviating symptoms of a disjointed society and how they make a difference.

South Africa’s diverse communities make it essential to address each within its context.  

“In Stellenbosch we have many people saying the same thing, but in their own way and this brings about its own set of problems. In the community, there is a lack of skills and quality education and there is a correlation between income and the level of education.

That is where we try to come in and focus on families. Firstly, we help them understand what is needed for their children to succeed in this very complex world and how education is becoming vital for children to be role players in the future.

If we give children the tools to become role players in the economy, then many problems will get solved. Helping parents understand how important education is in the first place is a big issue. Getting the support of parents is a struggle.”

Working towards a brighter tomorrow takes time. Stellumthombo started as a ministry for homeless people but after implementing different strategies and reviewing their results, they turned to early childhood intervention.

“Our initial model was based on providing homeless individuals with homes. But after the first two years, we realised that it wasn’t working. People we gave Wendy houses to either gave them up for collateral, for money loaning, or to get the next fix.

We adjusted our approach to focus on primary school children instead, to keep them from ending up on the street. That’s how our ‘Becoming Kids’ initiative started. But in working with these children we noticed that difficulty in learning is a result of kids not being intellectually and physically stimulated from an early age. Broken familial ties also had a profound impact on these children. We started a parenting programme to help build stronger family relationships. We taught parents basic skills and principles which they could implement at home – especially how to discipline children and work constructively with their children. If children are not stimulated enough as babies or toddlers, they don’t reach their developmental goals in time. It puts so many barriers in their lives as they grow older.

We work with parents who are either pregnant or have a baby of three months old. We give them the tools to bond with their children, the basics of how to be a parent, and how to stimulate the child at home. All of this is to ensure kids reach their developmental goals so that they are where they need to be when they go to school.

To help the community and individual households, we give parents a business model where they work with children. They can start a playgroup and stimulate their and other people’s children. This is part of our vision going forward, to teach people within the community to facilitate the programme. We’re gearing for training more people and working on a larger scale to help these kids.”

Children need an external facility where they can open up and not be pressured by gangs or bullies.

“In the community, kids are bullied by people that are affiliated with gangs. There are many invisible walls and barriers at home that kept on depressing them. As soon as they aren’t in that environment, kids can come out of their shells and just play – just be kids.”

In such a disharmonious state, we need guidance to move towards harmony.

“Communication is key. There are a lot of issues in this country that stem from misperception. People may think they understand what someone else is saying, but within their context, they interpret it in a completely different way. Harmony can only come from good communication and really wanting to understand the other person and really wanting to listen.”

Hope is essential to the future of South Africa.

“Working in an NGO you’re in a flux of hope and despair. You realise how naïve you are, but hope is essential in making a difference. If you have lost hope, just keep on going. If one person makes you feel disillusioned, you will meet another that raises your spirits and makes you hope once more. It can give you enough to believe in humanity again.

Hope comes with perseverance but it also lies in people, in relationships that you form. You grow hope when you see what people can to do.”

Find out more about Stellumthombo, donate or get involved via their website here