During the week of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, European Tour Champion Grégory Bourdy and representatives of The European Tour Wives Association took time out to visit the Thembalethu charity development in the nearby Nkomazi region.
Thembalethu Home Based Care was set up in 1999 in response to the AIDS epidemic in the Nkomazi Region in Mpumalanga – just hours from Leopard Creek. It operates directly in 22 villages through 300 field workers with an approximate outreach of 250,000. The project also has an outreach program into Swaziland and Mozambique with whom South Africa shares a border.
The purpose of the organisation is to teach and equip people to care for dying AIDS patients, counsel traumatised families, take care of orphans, engage youth in life changing programs to combat HIV infection and to empower the local community to become self-sufficient.
Two-time European Tour winner Bourdy, and his wife Annabelle, were joined by Karen Horne, Ros Schwartzel, Natasha Fichardt and her sister Natanya Fichardt, Vicky van der Walt and Ashley Maritz in the visit to the development where they interacted with the children and learned more about the care being provided.
Karen Horne, wife of European Tour member Keith, said: “When we got there, there were about ten different houses or areas established on the property all funded by organisations and at any one time they have about 150 people who attend the facility from the age of about three.
“So we went out there to see if we could raise some money for them and see if it was an organisation we could put some money into and to just find out a little bit more about it.
“It was their school holidays and there was a lot of children there. We made hot-dogs for them and gave them party hats and they did some performances. We did some arts and crafts and even though it was bucketing it down we had a great time and the children really seemed to enjoy it.”
Set up by Sally McKibbin, who personally has 20 children living with her, the development also has a computer centre while part of funds being raised are being used to help plant and cultivate 15,000 Moringa trees, also known as ‘Miracle Trees’ – the leaves and bark of which provide source of protein and vitamin C – with the hope it will one day produce a food supply for the community.
“I was practicing in the morning that day so I was free and joined the ladies – they accepted me into the group!” said Bourdy, who fired a six under par 66 to claim the clubhouse lead as the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship reached its conclusion.
“But I enjoyed it very much, we saw the kids and played with them; it’s always nice to see what a good job people are doing trying to help them. And the improvements they have made there, although it’s not Versailles for sure, they have done a lot and given these children a chance to make a better life for themselves.
“We saw a show from the singing group and I even played the drums. I learned a little bit – my girlfriend Annabelle was better than me – but I’m going to practice now!”
Dunhill London, lead sponsors of the tournament, decided to offer a donation to Thembalethu due to its close proximity to the Malelane district, plus the scale and variety of its many-stranded development projects.