Sandy Levenstein from Humans of South Africa approached Cyndy requesting to do an interview regarding lockdown and Lebone Village. This was published on their Facebook page on 20 April 2020:
Cyndy, Lebone Village – Things are going to get worse after COVID-19!
Situated just outside Bloemfontein in the Free State, Lebone Village is the Sotho word for light. And that is what they are all about – bringing light to those in the darkness and without Hope.
Hi Cyndy, please tell us about Lebone Village?
Lebone Village has been operational since 2000. Our main mission is striving to put God’s love into action by giving vulnerable children, youth and our community hope!
As Lebone has grown over the years, so have our aims and areas of assistance that we bring to the surrounding community. Firstly, we identify children in need and provide them with essentials; we provide a setting which resembles that of a family (when there is no family). We ensure their development by providing a healthy, balanced lifestyle to nurture their development in all areas to become successful adults. We provide the children with access to education and life skills, aiming to give them opportunities for a self-sustainable future.
In other areas; we providing care, support, social assistance, skills transfer, training to the disadvantaged, facilitate community-based care by transferring skills and training families/volunteers. We train and assist people to survive – teaching them interdependence rather than dependence through our skills development section.
What is your role?
Jack of all trades! Seriously, at the moment I do and help where I am needed. My big passion and love are the children so whenever I can sneak away to spend time with them, that is where you will find me. I do all of the digital marketing and social media, assist with fundraising campaigns and the food programmes. I am a qualified accountant and management consultant as well as a registered and accredited facilitator, assessor, moderator and skill development facilitator. I’m also the SDF here and do all the management and staff training that is needed.
Have you always been involved in the NGO world?
Yes and no. My mom, Avril Snyman, started Lebone Village in 2000 so I have always been involved, I suppose you could say I was bred for involvement in the NPO work. I have always had a yearning and life goal to make a difference in this world, no matter how small.
What are Lebone’s six offerings which are an answer to the needs of your community?
1. House Care Centre (16 staff and volunteers)
Care centre and home for children affected/ infected by HIV/AIDS. Orphans (live on the property) and vulnerable children from surrounding communities receive care.
2. Edu-Centre (5 staff and volunteers)
There are three classes for pre-primary education and afternoon classes for children attending primary school, as well as a day care for babies (mostly our staff and our volunteer’s children). We also have children from the community who are unable to access education due to poverty. They are day scholars who enjoy all of the benefits of Lebone House children – 3 meals a day, clothing, medication, .etc.
3. Agricultural Food Production and Nursery (8 staff and volunteers)
We have 11 hectare of land, five tunnels and a suspension net of 2500sqm under fruit & vegetables, from which we fed 1504 children and 343 families per month in the last year in partnership with KFC Add Hope. We are also able to generate a small income. Our nursery produces seedlings for our vegetable production and to sell; we also help our trainees to start vegetable gardens at home. We raise Broiler chicks; get eggs from laying hens. We have a piggery and a bakery for our personal use as well as to generate income.
4.Skills Development Centre (5 staff and volunteers)
This programme has different sections where 24 – 50 people p/a are not only empowered with a skill but uplifted, giving them back their self-worth and dignity, enabling them to generate an income.
5. Lebone Social Support, Training & Counselling Centre (2 staff)
This section provides basic HIV/AIDS education, home-based care, community-based orphan care and support. We do pastoral, bereavement, grief, pre- and post-test counselling. Food and clothing banks support this program and provide social support in the form of assisting the community with applications for ID documents, birth certificates, pensions and grants from the Department of Home Affairs.
6. Self-Worth Centre: Care of the Aged (3 staff)
After we conducted an assessment to evaluate the needs of the community, poverty being the overarching factor. We found that most of the households in the surrounding location depend on the pension fund of older people as well as child support grants which are not enough to take good care of a family. Most of the older people don’t have any day-to-day duties apart from taking care of their grandchildren. Lebone Village is in the process of developing the self-worth centre, where older people will have a place called “home away from home”. Most of them are retired domestic workers who haven’t been doing anything since their retirement.
Currently, because of COVID-19, you are running on skeleton staff; please tell us about your brave volunteers who put themselves at risk to help?
All of our staff and volunteers have been amazing during this time. We received the mandate of an essential service from Social Services. As you can imagine, we have 35 resident children that we care for; this is their home. We also have to keep running all the food production projects such as our eggs, chickens, pigs, vegetable tunnels.
We have certain house mothers, volunteers and staff who have stepped up and offered to work and stay on the property during the entire lockdown to minimise movement. Apart from minimising movement, we need to keep the children’s exposure to an absolute minimum to ensure their health and safety. This seemed like the most sensible and responsible option.
We have taken all necessary precautions to protect the children and staff on the property and keep outside contact to the absolute minimum. Our children have all pitched in and have daily chores to do, cleaning and sweeping after mealtimes, the older children helping with activities for the younger children, etc. It’s so special to see the true family love and caring that exists among them.
When it comes to asking for assistance from the public, you ask people to choose compassion over indifference; please extend on this thinking?
Apathy is a numbness to feeling, a type of shutting down and protection from pain; it is a wall to block the anguish, to stop feeling when life just becomes too hard and too taxing. In an article in Psychology Today “The Curse of Apathy: Sources and Solutions” they describe this as “curiously ’emotionless’ emotion”… it’s accepted science that you must experience feelings about something if you’re to take personally meaningful action.
Without any compelling emotion to direct your behaviour, you just aren’t sufficiently stimulated to do much. Empathy is crucial for our interconnectivity. One possible way to counteract apathy and indifference is to take one small and meaningful action.
How can people help?
We have many needs, and there is always more we can do. However, we don’t just want to ask for money or handouts. Our most significant appeal is for people and their time (post-COVID). We want people to get involved and to become part of our rewarding journey.
Anything to add?
The need out there is enormous, and I know it is only going to get worse from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hard for a lot of people to imagine children going to school so hungry that they cannot concentrate on anything. It’s also hard to imagine the amount of child abuse, emotional, physical and mental, that happens daily in households.
A lot of people think that they cannot make a difference or have an impact or that they do not have any resources to make a difference. I have seen people cry from joy, gratitude and relief when given one bag of maize meal. I want to tell everyone that every little action makes a difference – a smile, a listening ear or just one slice of bread means the world to a large number of people but trust me, the most significant difference it makes, is to that person contributing. Nothing brings greater joy than the act of giving. Together, all our small actions and contributions make up a considerable difference.