The Story of STHOBELA Community

The community of Sthobela is surrounded by mountainous hills and is situated alongside the South Africa/Swaziland border. Many of the residents have come from Swaziland seeking a better life, but without proper identification papers children are not able to finish their education and therefore are unable to get jobs. Not only are they unable to finish their education, most of them are continually chased from the local schools and not allowed back. Within these beautiful, grassy rolling hills, it is often cold and windy creating a further hardship for the many families who are unable to afford suitable clothing or blankets. 

Children currently supported: 50

Number of Care Workers: 7

Coordinator Name: Lilly

Distance from oSHOEK Local Office: 15 KM

Basic Services Started: 2014


In 2014 a Care Worker, Anita, from Oshoek Community Based Organisation (CBO) recognised the desperation in Sthobela. With the help of Hands at Work, Anita and other community volunteers from Sthobela came together to help identify the most vulnerable children in their community. Anita became the first coordinator of Sthobela CBO and because of her passion for caring for the most vulnerable, is now a part of the Oshoek Service Centre Team. She is a brilliant light in recruiting Care Workers and raising leaders who connect well with children. One of the new Care Workers in Sthobela was a child who Anita had regularly visited in her home.

Lilly is now the coordinator and helps to encourage and support the other Care Workers as they all sacrifice their time and energy to bring parental love and care to the children. Today, 50 children attend the Care Point where they receive the 3 Essential Services that Hands at Work aims to provide: a hot, nutritious meal, access to education and basic health care. They also receive love and support from the Care Workers and are visited regularly in their own homes by them. 

Three churches in the area are also helping to support the community by visiting the CBO occasionally and praying with them. At the beginning of 2016, the community Chief in Sthobela officially gave Hands at Work ownership of a piece of land for the CBO. This has been a huge encouragement and help to the CBO as they can now call it their own. Over the past year, the shack that was used at the Care Point for cooking has turned into a proper building, complete with toilets and benches for the children to sit on. Currently water harvesting projects are taking place; drilling boreholes and putting up a tank with gutters to collect water.

In 2019, due to a change in Government policy, children who do not have proper legal documentation to attend school will no longer be permitted. The Hands at Work local office teams in Hazyview and Oshoek are working hard to make plans for the children and families this will directly affect. Hands at Work is seeking to understand the increased vulnerability our children face, not only due to the lack of education and regular routine, but in their day-to-day living. Hands at Work sees the Life Centre in each community as an opportunity to facilitate the growth and development for each child affected. Programs to facilitate learning, skills and development will be introduced at our Life Centres over the course of the first few months of 2019, allowing each child to have a place where they feel loved and a sense of belonging.

Meet Nhlanhla

Nhlanhla* lives with an elderly woman who is not related to him, because his stepmother is not allowing him to stay in her home. Nhlanhla has struggled with his health for many years which has caused him to miss a lot of school and be behind in schoolwork. The Care Workers care deeply about Nhlanhla’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and are supporting him in the best way they can.

The Hands at Work office in Oshoek currently supports six Community Based Organisations, which exist to care for the most vulnerable in their communities. The office provides training, networking, and encouragement to those Community Based Organisations like Sthobela. It also gives administrative support, including helping with funding proposals, monitoring and evaluation, bookkeeping and reporting to donors.