2023 – A year of taking new ground

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2023 – A year of taking new ground

At the end of each year, we have found it healthy to pause and reflect on what made the year unique. To explore themes, learnings, successes, and challenges, and look to the future with a sense of context. 2023 is no different. It was a year filled with ‘firsts’ and we are encouraged by the new ground we have taken in our programmes and reach.

With stage 6 loadshedding at the beginning of the year, many of our Zoom-based events became inaccessible for many as their data connections dropped. This was forced new innovation within the team to find ways to effectively reach, train and support churches.

This year we developed a WhatsApp learning journey for events, removing the challenge of loadshedding. We also travelled to run events in Tsakane, Soweto, Gqeberha, Mthatha, Worcester and Khayelitsha. We also had hybrid events in Nkomazi and Bloemfontein.

Sikunye is relentlessly determined to spread the big idea of the first thousand days, and what the church can be doing. We do this through The Church & Early Life events. Through Zoom, WhatsApp, in-person and hybrid events, we saw 811 people complete the programme in 36 events. One highlight was seeing an encouraging growth in the number of churches from the Free State attending these events.

This year we started with the goal of growing the network to a total of 1000 churches caring for families in the first thousand days. At the time of writing, we saw 356 new churches commit themselves to caring for families. These are churches across the country (and beyond!), across denominations and all are taking steps to invest in young lives by caring for families. And while this did not take us to our total of 1000, we are celebrating the total network of churches being 941.

The next step that churches take is to be informed on how to put things into practice. These ‘How to be a First Thousand Day Friendly Church’ Workshops also moved to WhatsApp and we saw 231 churches complete the training, across 19 events.

A new programme that was developed this year is called Khathalela. This is empowering volunteers to visit families and share important information and skills at key moments in the First Thousand Days. We are very excited about the impact that this is already having in families and young children.

“This training really helps a lot. It gives directions then it’s easier to assist the people” Feedback from a participant

We also ran our first Sikunye Indaba in August. With the rapid growth of the network in Gauteng last year, we wanted to re-engage and inspire church leaders. The Sikunye team hosted a one-day in-person event in Tsakane to encourage, empower and equip churches to take their next steps. This proved fruitful and we are looking to having more of these kinds of events in 2024.

The Concerned Clergy of the Western Cape approached Sikunye to host a conference addressing the big topic of Violence Against Children. In November, the in-person conference saw 110 church leaders being inspired and equipped to engage with this issue. One of the big goals of sikunye is to connect church leaders to service providers in their communities to better reach and serve families. Part of this event included 28 organizations attending and promoting their work.

This year, with funding support from Innovation Edge, we developed a new programme focusing on Fatherhood in the First Thousand Days. We developed a manual, ran several pilots and are gearing up to take this programme to more churches in 2024.

The training has made significant changes in terms of perception, fatherhood ideologies and how to better oneself. I have accepted that there may be issues in the past which I could not change, but I am in control and healed” Feedback from a participant

This year we continued to strengthen the network in practical topics, like How to Support caregivers who are not the biological parents of children in the FTD. We had 8 monthly coaching moments and a powerful Sikunye Gathering. We journeyed with churches to help them make a plan and review it. These and other events are all aimed at deepening a church’s care and support of families.

The work of Sikunye is not possible without key partners and allies. We want to thank and acknowledge Little Seeds, The Do More Foundation, Innovation Edge, Thembalethu Nkomazi, the Worcester FTD forum and the many people who have spread the word. In particular, we want to thank our community mobilisers, who have taken the big idea to many church leaders and drawn them into our events. Thank you!

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  • Roselina Mokoena Reply

    I’m really thankful for taking part in this journey with sikunye, my people skills have improved because of home visit and I have learned to be compassiinate and understanding.

    14/12/2023 at 13:24

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