Mama Themba provides hope to vulnerable new Mothers in the Western Cape of South Africa by offering them valuable antenatal and breastfeeding education.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

See our latest updates on the new Thembalitsha Foundation blog!

Thank you for being a loyal supporter and friend of Mama Themba and Thembalitsha Foundation! We have recently streamlined all of our blogs into a single website for all of the projects so you can keep up with all things Thembalitsha in one place: If you are interested in following our new combined stream, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your up-to-date e-mail address in the "Follow By E-mail" field. And if you still want to view project-specific content, you can choose a project from the drop-down menu at the top! All of our old posts from this blog have also migrated there as well in a full archives.

We hope that this new platform will be incredibly easy for you to use and also show you the full scope of the exciting happenings here at Thembalitsha! If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at any time - we love hearing from our supporters.

We look forward to sharing more of this journey with you!

Team Themba

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Looking forward to 2015

by Frances Fuchs, Project Manager at Mama Themba

We are well into 2015 and looking forward to a great, exciting year for Mama Themba! We want to start by offering a BIG thank you to Operation Shoebox for the beautiful shoeboxes we received before Christmas. Our volunteers love delivering them over the season. Each gift beautifully wrapped and lovingly put together, we are awed by the generosity and kindness.

With so much going on, we are in urgent need of volunteers. Please contact us if you'd like to find out more about how you can be of assistance!

Coming Up: Mama Themba is hosting a baby shower on 7 March to raise awareness for the project and to thank our supporters from the past nine years! Hear special guest speaker Melanie Novitzkas tell us how it all started. All gifts and proceeds are in aid of our babies born at Helderberg Hospital. Tickets are only R50, and all will receive a soft serve from the Dream Machine ice cream truck! Bring your children along - the event will be picnic style on the beautiful lawns of Winery Road Forest!

Special thanks to Lize Francis who once again allows us to use her gorgeous venue.

Friday, December 5, 2014

2014 in review

Year 9 in the existence of Bosom Buddies has brought some changes and challenges, laughter and tears, new relationships and strengthening of old bonds.

Some of the highlights:
Bosom Buddies becomes Mama Themba! Probably the highlight of the year for us, and a proud moment. The name change has been a while in coming. Our new name signifies our unity with our parent organisation, Thembalitsha Foundation, as well as our increased focus on the MOTHER. We love mothers. Our existence and all our efforts are geared towards the empowerment and education of mothers.
As fellow mothers, we know and understand too well that the intense way in which a mother loves is immeasurable; that our love is without boundaries and can't be counted and compared. That even when we mess up and our children get hurt, the pain is unbearable. This is why we teach mothers how to care for their babies, what we know is best for their babies, while they get confusing and wrong messages from the world around them at a very vulnerable time.

Our beautiful breastfeeding peer counsellors:
Our regular readers and supporters will know about Zoleka's tragedy in which she lost her husband and all three her children in an accident last year December. Hence our year started on a very sad note.
As an update, Zoleka has been back at work since March and is doing well. She is extremely popular and in great demand at all our clinics. Currently she spends full time at Helderberg Hospital in the maternity ward, helping mothers with breastfeeding in the critical first few hours after birth.
We are very proud of her.

Liezl has done very well this year and now covers the following clinics: Sir Lowrys Pass, Eersterivier, Macassar, Fagan street in Strand and Gordon's Bay.

Mama Themba ends 2014 on a high note with 104 shoeboxes donated from Operation Shoebox. Our volunteers LOVE delivering the shoeboxes around Christmas each year. Thanks again Shoeboxers!

We look forward to expanding in 2015, covering a larger area and employing more staff. Many thanks to our supporters. With much love, warm blessings and season's greetings.

Zoleka delivering a shoebox to precious new mom.

#doulafran in action.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Educating teen moms

In South Africa, less than 8% of mothers’ breastfeed exclusively for 6 months after their baby’s birth. Yet our infant mortality rates are alarmingly high. The World Health Organisation in partnership with Unicef is driving a worldwide campaign to increase breastfeeding rates and hence positively impact infant mortality and morbidity. The majority of infant deaths in rural as well as urban South African are from illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, which are 100% preventable through the right breastfeeding practices. The large HIV/Aids rates in SA complicates the matter, and breastfeeding and lactation consultants need specialised training in working with the diverse cultural differences, poverty levels as well as levels of education of the mothers we meet.

Through the interventions of Mama Themba, we assist local hospitals Helderberg Hospital, Macassar Day Hospital as well as Grabouw Day Hospital in achieving Mother Baby Friendly Status, which means that these hospitals comply with the WHO standards of educating and supporting mothers who breastfeed.

During September, we spent a day at Cotlands in Macassar, educating pregnant teen girls on labour and birth, what they can expect when they come to the hospital to deliver their babies and all about breastfeeding. These girls are now forming our teen mums support group, and will get together with us and support each other through their pregnancies and when their babies are still small. Being a teen mum is especially challenging and we encourage them to form friendships and support each other.
Support groups are very effective in teaching women in an informal setting, and also relieves a lot of the fear and pressure that mothers may be feeling. We love support groups and will continue to endeavour to establish more in our communities.

Frances and Liezl with teen mothers in Macassar

Zoleka in action at Helderberg Hospital

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Somerset West was the scene of a roaring convoy from the Tygervalley Harley Davidson club as they drove from Cape Town to the Thembalitsha Foundation offices on Lourensford Road last week. The slub made this special trip to deliver a donation of baby goods to Thembalitsha’s project Mama Themba (formerly known as Bosom Buddies).

Mama Themba serves our local hospital, Helderberg Hospital, by delivering baby bags to new mothers who give birth here. Each mom receives a bag with baby clothes, nappies, a blanket, sanitary towels and whatever else mom may need for baby’s first day. Each bag is hand delivered by this volunteer-driven project.

Mama Themba further impacts infant mortality and morbidity by giving antenatal and breastfeeding education and support to all feeder clinics, spanning as far as Grabouw to Kleinvlei.

The project was also joined by representatives from Truworths’ fashion department, who brought goods they had collected as a part of their Mandela Day initiative.

All contributions go directly to support mothers in desperate need via the Mama Themba project.

If you are interested in volunteering or would like to assist Mama Themba by donating gently used baby clothes, nappies or sanitary towels, email Thembalitsha at or call them on 021 852 3425.

Thembalitsha staff and members of the Tygerberg Harley Davidson Club.

Frances with representatives from Truworths.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What's in a name? The launch of MAMA THEMBA

Bosom Buddies has evolved greatly in the eight years since its conception. My good friend and mentor, Melanie Novitzkas founded BB in 2006 while she was training to be a doula. During her practicals at our local hospital, she realised that many mothers go to hospital to give birth without having the necessary essentials for themselves and their babies. Melanie fervently started collecting and making bags for new moms. She grew Bosom Buddies and got integrated into the Thembalitsha Foundation; when I took over as manager in 2010 the BB volunteers visited 2 hospitals and produced 400 bags per month with three full time employees. Such tremendous growth speaks volume of this determined and lovingly generous founder. Melanie treasured the time she spent with the mothers, focusing on the spiritual and praying life and love over each mother and baby. With boundless compassion and empathy, Melanie grew Bosom Buddies to a well-known and much loved organisation in our area.

I was excited and inspired to continue this project with the simple aim of loving mothers. My passion as a teacher and campaigner for women’s rights led me to investigate why we experience so many stillbirths here. And why is the infant mortality rate so high in SA, but more importantly, here in our area? I loathe the fact that the poorest of the poor, women who have given birth six hours previously, have to walk 3km down a steep hill, through one of the most affluent areas in SA, to get into a taxi that will take her home to an RDP house or shack, possibly without running water or electricity. I did not understand why the women give birth alone, why they are so unempowered as to not know their rights to ask questions, but simply to ‘allow’ or accept things to happen to them or be done to them. Now, 4 years later, I have even more questions, but I also have a lot more understanding of the life of the average South African woman. She has many faces, but my heart is with the one who lives in the township or our poorer urban communities. I understand her struggles to raise her children in the gang-driven and drugs-prone Cape landscape. I understand (yet will never ever accept) why so many families have absent fathers, why we fall victim to too many teenage pregnancies, why the HIV rates are so high here, and how women constantly search for love and acceptance, for something beautiful amidst a life that is particularly hard.

As the supporters of Bosom Buddies know, we have expanded our services and now offer breastfeeding education and support at most clinics that feed into our hospital, Helderberg Hospital.
The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding are too vast to explain in this post, and I will explain in more detail in a next newsletter. Appropriate antenatal education is vital and a focus of our new direction.

So why change our name? I wanted a name in line with the Thembalitsha Foundation, something with ‘hope’ or ‘themba’ in the title. I love our foundation and that I don’t feel isolated in my work and am extremely proud of all our projects. I wanted a name that displays who we work with – mothers, and that is also not yet taken. Hence, the birth of MAMA THEMBA.

Proudly and excitedly looking to the future of changing lives and developing people to a point of self-reliance.


 At our recent launch of MAMA Themba.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In the absence of a father

In celebrating father’s day with my own family this past weekend, I was completely aware that the majority of mothers we meet raise their children without husbands, that many children grow up without fathers. It saddens me to think that so many families are broken and that there is this huge gap of influence for too many children.
As a part of our information gathering, we keep statistics of every mother we meet. One of our questions are whether she is married. I’m afraid to say that the vast majority are not. Granted, being married does not mean the children are without a father, but what it means is that the children grow up without a PRESENT father.

Sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, is one of the pioneers of the relatively young field of research into fathers and fatherhood. "Fathers are far more than just 'second adults' in the home," he says. "Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring."¹

Sadly, especially when meeting teenage moms, it is hard to convince them of the importance of having a father present. In the society in which we live and work, it has become acceptable and the norm for grandmothers to raise children of their teen daughters. There is a sad state of affairs which can almost be described as a lack of ambition, a feeling of ‘if it was ok for me, it is ok for my child’. I often wonder why more people don’t want more for their children, better than what we had?
Our mothers are isolated and alone and frequently driven to extremely heart-breaking and desperate decisions, often feeling so overwhelmed and depressed that they might see no other way than to abandon their babies. Over 500 babies are abandoned in Cape Town alone each year.

In instances of extreme poverty and unemployment, desperation soars and abuse is often a part of daily living. Women are abused and a sense of acquiescence allows it to continue. 

“One of the most important influences a father can have on his child is indirect—fathers influence their children in large part through the quality of their relationship with the mother of their children. A father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier. Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children's father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a better mother. Indeed, the quality of the relationship affects the parenting behaviour of both parents.”¹

At Bosom Buddies we are investigating a holistic approach in supporting mothers through the first 1000 days of their baby’s lives. We anticipate meeting the mother in the first trimester of pregnancy, and walking alongside her until her child enters preschool at age 2. Our empowerment will include topics such as health, safety, nutrition, stimulation, discipline, positive parenting and more. We hope to initiate a pilot programme to this effect in Grabouw from early next year. We encourage support groups within the community, where women form bonds of sisterhood and friendship and support, because at the end of the day our counsellors go home to their own families and the mothers go home alone and we all know that a hand to hold and a heart to understand is sometimes all that we need. And often all that we have to offer.