Impande started in 2005. It was during that time that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was hitting KwaZulu-Natal at its worst. An entire generation of adults was infected, and the development of medicine against this disease had not yet been developed. Everything seemed hopeless for an entire population.
Two families, Olsen and Engebu, were on a visit to the area.
Anna Grethe, Knut Engebu and Marianne Olsen Alpers in conversation with principal Machi on the site of the nursery that would be built in 2005.
The families were invited out into the countryside to see the realities in their own eyes. Among other things, a parent couple in their last days of life asked directly, “can you take care of our five little children?
The school principal at Mlonde High School and priest at the Gamalake Baptist Church, Christopher Machi, asked modestly if the visitoring families could consider supporting them with 30 000 Rand to build a small nursery for orphaned children.
The families Olsen & Engebu took the challenge and started out with a fundraising action: Give your birthday gift to Gamalakhe!
This township has about 15 000 inhabitants. 6 000 are from very poor conditions and 9 000 are from the emerging middle class in South Africa. The name Gamalakhe derives from the local chief named Gamalakhe. The township likely became a inhabited after Norwegians in the 1880’s drove the black population there when they took their land. But the township first grew great in the fifties. In that period, the aparheid regime drove many black people from the coast far into the country.
The township offered greater challenges than building a small shed for a kindergarten. Ideas on building a community centre, kindergarten, church and development center emerged.
The plan for building the Gamalakhe Development Center had three phases:
2006-2009: Building a community center/church. Gamalakhe Development Center
2009-2010: Deployment of training programs, kindergartens, and other aid programs.
2010-2012: Growth and accountability. The program would be evaluated at the end of 2012.
The approach to development work was based on three factors:
Training, accountability and development of attitudes/good habits
Gamalakhe Township is located about 120 km south of Durban and about 6 km inland from the attractive small towns, Margate and Ramsgate, with its villa area on the coast of the Indian Ocean.
The site is connected to Norway. 230 Norwegian settlers travelled to South Africa and took land in Port Shepstone in 1882. They were called the Marburger Setters. The blacks, formerly living on the designated areas of the settlers, were displaced to less fertile areas in a ridge outside the settler farms, what today is called Gamalakhe. The township received this name in 1969 and is named after the local chief in the area.
15 000 people reside in Gamalakhe Township. The vast majority of them are Zulus. An additional 50 000 people live in the nearby Zulu areas. The four southern municipalities, which comprise the region, have 250 000 inhabitants. There are a total of approximately 70 elementary schools and 150 kindergartens in the region.
With regards to socio-economic and demographic factors, the region has the same challenges as other parts of South Africa. There is a lot of poverty. 30% of the population are illiterate and 30% of working persons between 20 and 35 years are unemployed.
HIV/AIDS is widespread. This region of KwaZulu Natal is the epicenter for HIV/AIDS in the world. It is estimated that over half of the population is infected. Many children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. For example, 50% of the children at the nearest local elementary school in Gamalakhe are either orphaned or only dependent on an adult. In other words, the intermediate generation is dying. In addition, many children are themselves infected with HIV/AIDS.
There are also major social differences among those living in Gamalakhe. A middle class has emerged in the township. They work with fixed incomes, they are filled with hope and are building a future for themselves. The local board of directors of the Gamalakhe Development Center has been recruited from this middle class.
However, there are still many large pockets of extreme poverty in the township. The Gamalakhe Development Center is located in one of these poor areas, which is a good starting point for helping those who have the most need.