Behind the scenes at the After School Programs


Smiling kids. Plates of food. Fun activities. All of these things paint the well-known picture of the After School Programs that we help facilitate in Clau Clau and Embonisweni. But providing a place where children feel safe, receive a nutritious meal, and have space to learn and grow starts long before they set foot in the care centers. A lesser known fact is that there are hours of preparation that go into every single program. It starts with a group of dedicated women, a lot of prayer, and a grey Condor.


In Clau Clau, After School Programs are held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


In Embonisweni, programs are held on Tuesday and Thursday.


One of the first steps is making sure that we have all the needed supplies. Food is a large part of the programs, but it doesn’t fall from the sky. Lennon, one of our staff, does a procurement trip to White River on Monday and to Nelspruit on Tuesday. Some items, such as vegetables and occasionally meat, are donated by local stores, and the other items are purchased from the funds given towards the After School Program. This food is then loaded into “The Grey Condor” and delivered to the care centers where the programs are held.


In both Embonisweni and Clau Clau, there is a group of women who are dedicated to loving and serving the children in their communities. These ladies come to the care center early in the morning to begin preparing the food.


In Embonisweni, Vusile stirs the pap that will later be served with beans and veggies. This is started first thing in the morning, even though the kids won’t arrive until school gets out for the day.


Investing in these women who lead the programs is just as important as investing in the children who come. At least once a week in both communities, we do “Tea Time.” This time of encouragement seeks to pour into these ladies who freely give so much of themselves. It’s also a time to pray for the program and the kids that will be coming.


The After School Programs are so much more than just a feeding program. We believe it’s important to also provide opportunities for growth and development. All activities and lesson plans have to be prepared ahead of time so that they are ready to go once the kids arrive.


The kids begin arriving around 2:30, and Bukiwe takes attendance at the Clau Clau program. Having records of the kids who come to each program is important to keep things running smoothly long-term.


After checking in, it’s play time! When you put a lot of kids and some energetic volunteers in one place, games and activities generate themselves. Even on the hottest of days, soccer is a popular sport.


The first planned activity is a large group time. This includes songs, a Bible lesson, and perhaps a skit, if we have a team who is visiting.


After all the children gather together, there’s an activity for a specific age group. These are rotated every week so that each group gets a turn.


These activities are a highlight of the program as it’s planned to be age specific and focus on skills that are helpful for that group. For the younger children, it may be a motor-skill activity, coloring pages, or a simple craft, whereas for the older ones, interactive games and hands-on activities are popular.


Meanwhile, the other age groups take turns washing up and getting in line for food. After playing hard, you also have to take some time to scrub the dirt off your hands!


Often times, our short-term volunteers help with serving food. These amazing people are great at jumping in and helping wherever is needed.


Serving meals is a well-known part of the program, but it takes hours of prep to get there!


Lots of chatter and laughter can be heard as the kids sit with their friends for a meal. It’s important to provide a safe environment where they can build social skills by having healthy interaction with each other, adults, and volunteers from other countries and cultures.


Once they have finished their food, the kids help out by rinsing off their plate before bringing it to be washed.


Before heading home after a long day, there’s still clean-up to do. Doris works on washing the pile of dishes that has quickly accumulated. Washing dishes, cleaning floors, and putting supplies away are all a part of the day’s work.


The After School Program doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work for each program to run smoothly. It takes a team of women who are committed to investing in the children of their communities. It takes businesses generously giving of their resources to help provide food. It takes people from around the world linking arms with these programs financially and through prayer. It takes the energy and excitement of short-term volunteers and teams. And yet every part of the process is worth it, because it’s an opportunity to build hope and home, showing God’s love in tangible ways.


We are so thankful for everyone who partners with us to make these programs possible. From the ladies who run the programs, to our short term volunteers, to the local businesses who donate food, to those who give financially, to those who faithfully join us in prayer – all of you are so very vital in building HOPE and HOME for these precious kids. Thank you for investing in the next generation of world-changers!



photography & captions by Rebekah Ness