The Sisonke “Now or Never” group is a community networking forum of dedicated people who are mostly social workers but also some teachers from Mpophomeni, Howick and Mooi River. Anyone dealing with social issues in their communities is welcome to be part of this network and attend the meetings.

Sisonke, funded by THATU has been in operation since 2015 and is headed by Zinhle Msimango, a Student Social worker from the Midlands Meander Education Project (MMEP) Zinhle also runs the SuperBug Club in Mpophomeni. She teaches life skills and how to deal with trauma.

Sisonke means together and together this network of people helps each other when referring children and families in need to organisations which can best provide urgent help. They believe that working together this group will be strong.

The Sisonke network. Pic: Jeannette Stewart

The Sisonke network.
Pic: Jeannette Stewart

Meetings at Sisonke are like coming home – making sure you have everything you need. Sisonke mobilises resources, shares skills, knowledge and resources and advice to those in need and provides points of referral. The group looks at training needs for individuals and their work on the ground and how to intervene in traumatic and stressful situations. Sisonke provides advocacy work and lobbying with government to uphold children’s rights. They talk about issues, build partnerships and provide interventions – for example overcoming language barriers in certain communities to open a space for people of those communities to talk. The group need to know what communities really want and want to open lines of communication in a non-threatening way so that people do not feel intimidated, exposed and scared when revealing their needs.

The Sisonke network acknowledges that the people within the network are the first who need help and support – only once reassurance and confidence is established are they able to assist those in their communities.

People attending the meeting deal with rape, domestic violence, do home and school visits, provide emotional support, provision of food parcels, visiting the elderly at their homes and monitor HIV/AIDS patients. A lot of work is done with orphaned children, child-headed families and grannies looking after children. The teachers attending this meeting wished to find support and advice when teaching Life Skills in schools.

One of the people attending this meeting for the first time said she saw the words “Now or Never” and decided she should attend now as she did not want to lose out on the help she may obtain and provide what she may offer.

At the previous meeting the need was seen for basic training of people as Community Care Givers (CCG’s) and they are still working on the logistics of this training. Sisonke are looking for more young people to become involved in order to hear their voices. The group feel they need to be more creative and intentional in their actions in order to involve the busy minds of young people.
The meetings take place at the old Afton Restaurant, in Bell Street, Howick. The chair and minute taker are on a rotational basis which provides the entire group with a sense of responsibility.
To find out more about Sisonke and the network please contact Zinhle Msimango on 072 293 3386.
Article written by Jeanette Stewart.