Monday, 22 July 2019

Mamma Zamma - Changing Lives

The name “Mamma Zamma” means to try hard to change the circumstances for your children and this is exactly what Child Welfare Tshwane envisaged when we developed this development programme for mothers and children.

We often find mothers who did not reach their full potential, owing to the limitations of the milieu in which they grew up, and they in turn are not equipped to develop the potential of their own children.  

Parents often do not know how to “switch on” their developing child’s brain and respond to the toddler’s natural curiosity with harsh control or lack of interest.

The goal of Mamma Zamma is to bring elements of enjoyment and involvement back into the parent/child relationship. Parenting is hard work, with lots of repetition and little short-term satisfaction for the parent. Many parents and primary care-givers “tune-out” when children attempt to get the adults involved in their activities and play.

Their lack of response, however, means that parents miss out on a lot of valuable experiences with their children that will be stimulating for the child and will strengthen the relationship between the parent and the child.

The programme consists of sessions  aimed at developing the relationship between the parent and the child during the development phase of 3-6 years.  The aspects covered include cognitive stimulation (encouraging the child to think), child and parental guidance and support and developing and strengthening the bond between the primary care-giver.

Bonding is facilitated through three input levels, namely touch, trust, and feeling. Touch activities develop appropriate physical and emotional closeness between the mother and the child; trust activities develop the experiential value of the parent/child relationship  through deepening the level of trust between them (the child fosters the feeling that the “parent will be there for them”); and tell activities develop the parent’s level of comprehension of the child’s needs and accomplishments by encouraging positive verbal praise and warm emotional comments.

Bonding is the relationship glue between the child and parent or primary care-giver.  It keeps families together and by building a strong relationship with your child, you create more glue to make this bond stronger.  This gives the child the assurance that even is he or she makes mistakes, they will be loved for who they are.   Children who feel loved and have a strong sense of belonging will bounce back and try again if they make mistakes. 

The personal growth of the mothers and children are measured mostly through self-evaluation, but the facilitator also keep process notes and reflection on which parts of the session worked and which not. Often support-groups form in communities so that care-givers and children who have completed the programme can continue to give support to each other.

The programme is offered in the community so that the mothers and children are not inconvenienced through travel and we try as far as possible to use everyday items and materials for activities, thus making it easy for everybody to participate. Lessons also contain three segments, namely an activation (including basic numeracy, colours, shapes and concepts), relate (activities to develop the bond between mother/carer and child which includes touch, trust and tell) and empower (a section in which parental guidance and support is facilitated within the metaphor of building a Kid-safe house).

Anomalies are used to explain somewhat challenging concepts like responsibility, independence, support, structure, socialisation and a safe environment.  A house is for example used in this instance where the floor is the basic needs and love a child can expect.  The walls are the discipline and structure, support and engagement and the roof represent the responsibility.

By explaining it this way we also assist parents to meet the basic needs of their children, which are food, shelter, clothing and care. Children are totally dependent on their parents and care-givers for their wellbeing and safety.  They need balanced meals to develop and grow healthy and strong and parents are taught what balanced and healthy meals consist of.  Good hygiene is very important so that children don’t get sick. The parent and child are taught the importance of keeping their bodies and the environment clean.  During this process, the facilitator also follow-up on the immunisation status of the child and make sure that clinic appointments are kept.

The safety of children is also emphasised.  The programme highlights safety in the house and specifically refers to the storage of dangerous chemicals, cleaning material and other harmful items. Parents are encouraged to also share their fears about the safety of their children and the facilitator then assist them with a plan to make the home environment safer. 

Mamma Zamma is also aimed at increasing the parent’s involvement with the child. Parents need to understand that they are their children’s favourite toy – they will much rather spend time with the parent than with anything or anybody else.  Children perceive their own worth as good when their parents spend time with them and are involved in their lives.  When a parent is interacting emotionally, physically and on a thinking level with the child, the child will experience this as engagement.  When a parent engages with the child, the child will be fully responsive to the parent or care-giver. We often see this when an only child spends a lot of time in the company of the parent(s) or other adult company and thrives on the attention and inclusion. 

Parents are also assisted to be mindful of their own level of frustration and are encouraged to cool off before disciplining the child. When you are too angry it is difficult to stay in control of the situation and someone might get hurt. To manage frustrations, the facilitator will encourage the mammas to set a basic routine in the house, get the children to help with age-appropriate chores and to set rules in the house.  This helps to create a peaceful and harmonious home in which children will respond positively to predictable routine and structure.  This all makes a child feel safe!

The programme also assists parents with the skill of talking with their children rather than to their children.  Communication is a two-way street which requires listening and responding and it is important that both the parent and the child can do so.   We encourage parents to share with children what they are thinking and feeling – in a language that the child will understand. In this process children learn social and emotional behaviour and the skill of effective communication.

Mamma Zamma is available to all people who are interested to develop the relationship between themselves and their children and we have found that it works best in groups as people share experiences and form support groups to monitor each other as well.  All of this is aimed at creating better circumstances for children to live in, so they can grow and develop to their full potential. 

Families trapped in survival mode can learn how to enjoy the relationship with their children, be better parents and see that their children develop despite the challenges they face.  It helps to keep families together as there are structure and routine in the home.  And it means that children will not be abandoned, but loved and nurtured.

For more information, please contact Child Welfare Tshwane on 012-4609236 or email 

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving ― Mother Teresa

During winter time you sense that many people are extremely aware of poverty, children and youth suffering of hunger and cold as well as different charities and the work we do.  People reach out in numbers to support the various causes with donations and labor – all in the good name of Mandela Day and the 67 minutes of your time campaign.  And as a charity we are excited to welcome the kind and caring citizens into our circle as we appreciate the money and the time they donate to us, to help us improve our service or our facility. The goodwill of people outnumbers those who turn a blind eye.

Unfortunately, once the excitement is over many of these kind donors and volunteers return to their normal business, only to forget that the service of welfare is rendered all year round and that the needs of the charity remains the same.  We do however get people that ask how they can get involved on a more permanent basis.

Volunteerism is a service by a person or a group, that benefits others. At Child Welfare Tshwane, where we work with the most vulnerable members of society, namely the children, we rely on the support and active involvement of volunteers on various levels.  We have tutors helping with homework, we have legal and financial people assisting us with guidance and processes and we have (mostly ladies) helping us with fundraising.  People that give of themselves (time and money) to help us meet the needs and alleviate the poverty and hardship in the community.

Should this be something you are considering, remember to select a charity that is close to your heart., and portray your passion. If you care deeply for the cause, working as a volunteer will be so much easier for you to do and be rewarding. You will also recognise and identify opportunities for your cause if it is something dear to you. You also need to decide if you want to do a good deed, once off, or if you would prefer to be part of a process at the cause and then sign up for a longer-term commitment and see the change that your efforts bring about. 

At Child Welfare Tshwane, we prefer that tutors, for instance, commit for at least one year as children need time to bond with the tutor and we do not want to introduce a new tutor every few months as this disrupts the continuity in the child’s academic support process.

It is important that you be clear on the impact you want to have with your volunteer or charity work.  It may be that you want to bring immediate relief against the cold and therefore decide to distribute blankets, beanies or jerseys in the community.  Or maybe you want to have a lingering impact and therefore decide to donate a fixed amount per month, to be used for food for children who often receive only one hot meal a day.

“Where do I start?”, you may ask. You can contact Child Welfare Tshwane, so we can get your personal details, a copy of your ID and SAPS clearance (if you wish to work with the children).  Then we do a short orientation session with you and see where best we can use your skills and energy in our Organisation.

“What do I have to offer?”, you may ask.  Well, sharing your knowledge, skills and time with others is important.  You may teach a child to read or use your professional skill and e.g. help us with marketing.  You may be able to fix and maintain the property or help to transport children to sport or medical appointments.  But we all have certain unique skills that can add value to the cause we support.

Our children need to have positive examples of people who are making a valuable contribution in their communities. They need positive role models – people who can inspire them to greatness!

Volunteerism will also give you a new perspective on life. Maybe you think all people who are dependent on welfare support are strugglers with no dreams and hopes. Yet, when you meet some of these people you may find that despite the blows life has given them, they are still proud people.  People who want to be in a different position but who simply do not have the means to change their unfortunate circumstances.

You will learn what humility means and how a simple gesture can be significant!  A beanie, a jersey, a hot cup of soup in the winter or maybe some products to help restore the dignity of a woman may change a perception, may lift someone’s spirit and may save a life!  To use a changed version of the famous words of Neil Armstrong: “One small gesture of love by man, one giant contribution to uplifting the community”.  No support, no effort is too small.

The rewards of volunteerism last longer than a cash reward. The warm feeling you get when you see the smile of a child, accepting a new jersey or blanket is priceless.  The happiness you see when you help a child read their first words cannot easily be matched.

We have volunteers that have been helping some of the children in Bramley Child & Youth Care Centre with homework and the results we have seen are amazing.  We realise that the hour a week they spend with these children have helped the children to grow in confidence and to master certain skills.  We have seen the difference having a weekend family (also volunteers) to visit bring in the lives of children – they get to experience family life as it should be.

Our fundraising events, like golf days and gala dinners, are very successful, because volunteers run with these projects.  The commitment and dedication of a group of mostly ladies have been astonishing and we are so grateful that these ladies have taken on the task of raising funds for our Organisation.

Our Board of Management, Financial and Risk Committee and Bramley Specialised Committee also consists of volunteers – people who decided to devote their time and skills to helping with the management of the Organisation. So, there is really a place for every person who wants to do some volunteer work.

We want to ask every person out there to consider getting involved in some or other volunteer project. Do good to others.  Offer your time and skills not only your money.  You will be surprised at the difference it will bring to your life!

For more information on volunteering at Child Welfare Tshwane, contact Hanlie, Mongezi or Yolandah on 012-4609236.  You can also visit or email