The children we support are orphaned or have no adults to support them. They live alone or in family groups and have no income. In South Africa there is no welfare state to support the children apart from grants. Accessing them often involves complex red tape. There is a child benefit grant and a foster care grant for children under 18.

Both grants require documentation which must be presented to a magistrate for approval. This whole system is daunting to a child and Social Welfare workers are overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem. Education is not free.

Although the government has said that vulnerable children should get free education, the reality in the townships is that government money tends not to reach the schools. For all these reasons the project supports children, referred to us, to complete their education.

Food Vouchers are a very important part of the support that we give to these vulnerable children. There is very little social welfare support and many of the orphans do not qualify for grants or find the process of getting them overbearing.

As one child quoted “it’s very difficult to learn when your tummy is empty”. In collaboration with the Spar supermarket, we have a voucher system whereby each sibling group on our list gets a food voucher every 2 weeks to spend on basic necessities. The management at Spar have been incredibly supportive over the 10 years we have worked with them. They notify us if children don’t turn up, have given them Christmas jobs and generally help to keep an eye on things.

They now employ a number of our youngsters who didn’t wish to go onto higher education.

We now have Vine supporters who sponsor individual children in the project. One person is sponsoring uniform for a particular child, one travelling costs to save the 2 mile walk to and from school, one person is sponsoring the travel cost of our university student and another pays for the food vouchers that feed one of our families.

Vine has helped 100s of children over the years

Here are just a few of them:

We were made aware of these 3 sisters in 2016, by one of the teachers who reported that they had been brought into the township by their father after the death of their mother and left hungry and abandoned. Ages 18,17 and 14 they were living in a room in a house owned by a man who was often drunk and frightened them. They were living on 2 grants but he took their food and made them do housework. The teachers were feeding them.

They are all bright girls who are keen to participate and be part of the Vine Family.

The oldest, Nomthandaza, passed her matric at university level and with our help got a place to study Sports Sciences. Simphiwe, the middle sister who is not academically inclined, needed a lot of help to complete her schooling and now has a full time job working in the Spar Supermarket. Zodwa, the youngest, is very bright and was awarded the top prize for the province in 2018. However she is rather frail and has medical and emotional issues.

Since we met them they have had their income supplemented by Vine Food Vouchers and have moved into a single room closer to the township which the Vine Project and a Vine Supporter fund.

Because of the stress that Zodwa was under we talked to them all about the cramped conditions that they were trying to live in. They had 1 double bed that Zodwa and Simphiwe slept on and Nomthandaza slept on the floor. The bed took up more than half the floor space. They admitted that the girls in the bed are always fighting.  Zodwa was not sleeping very well. There is only the door and window for ventilation. They had one cupboard for clothes without any real hanging space. The cooking was done on breeze blocks and a piece of wood. All the studying has to take place on the bed and they also eat sitting on the bed. Far from ideal.

The solution was to buy a pair of wooden bunk beds for the two girls and for Nomthandaza to continue to sleep on her mattress on the floor which is then pushed under the bunks during the day. We then purchased a collapsible table and 3 stacking chairs. This has given them floor space, some where to sit at to eat and study space. The table is closed down at night and the chairs stack and the tubs of rice are put on top. This has made a great difference to them all. The fighting has stopped and they are all sleeping better.

Nomthandaza has got her degree and is carrying on with further studies including, ancillary health and childhood development. Simphiwe is working. Zodwa did not get the marks she needed to study medicine but is doing a degree in Botany and Geography. She is hoping to switch to medicine later.


Cyril is a very bright boy who was referred to us in Jan 2015 by one of the schools as they were concerned that he seemed hungry. We discovered that there were 2 brothers living in the family house having been abandoned by 2 older brothers who had disappeared and taken the means to a Foster Grant with them. These 2 boys therefore had nothing – no means to food , electricity or day to day living essentials. Trying to get help from Social Welfare proved very difficult and complicated.

We put them on our Food Voucher System and helped Cyril fill in his CAO (university application form). He wanted to do medicine but had no money for the application and didn’t know how to apply. He passed his matric at a university level and working with one of the teachers we managed to get him a bursary at Durban University to start a degree in Zoology. He was unfortunately too late to apply for medicine. He needed bedding and everyday living utensils which Vine provided.

With a lot of our help, often paying for a room and filling the gaps when bursaries were not paid for food and books etc, Cyril finished his degree as a “Top Achiever in Zoology”. Because of his high marks he was invited to do an honours degree with a view to moving to Medicine. He recently did a multi-day field trip out at sea collecting samples and using an underwater camera.

2020- He has passed his Honours and has been invited to do a Masters. Thanks to Vine he has a great future ahead of him. 


Ntokozo presented himself at Hlamvana School in February 2012 and told them he was homeless. Ntokozo has 2 other brothers who live in Mandini which is on the outskirts of Durban. As the brothers have all grown there was not enough room for them all to sleep in the small hut that the parents had left them so it was decided Ntokozo should live with his uncle in the Township. Unfortunately, the Uncle was not prepared to support him and denied him food and electricity to study by. The school was able to refer him to the Project as Pat was still working in the township. Maureen was at her wits end because she had a very good student and he deserved to complete his Matric. We discussed the situation with the Deputy Head Mr. Mthimkhuiu. He listened to the story without asking any other questions. Finally, he spoke and he shared with us that he had just lost his dear wife and was finding it very difficult to cope alone. He suggested that Ntokozo should take a room in his house. He said that he could not afford to feed him but he would not charge him rent or electricity. It was agreed that Ntokozo could join the feeding programme with Spar. The project provided him with some new school uniform and the necessary stationery. The arrangement was very satisfactory on both sides. We also learnt that Mr. Mthimkhuiu had a very sick daughter who was in hospital in Pretoria and Ntokozo would be able to house sit while he visited his daughter at the weekends.

Ntokozo worked very hard and Sonia was able to help him register for further education in the September. His goal is to be a pilot.

The Matric Examination results were to be published on the first Thursday of January 2013 and Pat was able to be with Ntokozo and the other Matric students on that day.

He became very excited when he received a text message from the Zulu Land University in Durban inviting him to attend for an interview. The project gave him the bus fare plus a little extra to cover food. He stood in line to register with all the other students over many days not daring to move so he slept where he stood. He was offered a place for Environmental Studies and Geography. He accepted it and was asked for R300 to secure the place. The project covered this for him but when he took the R300 he was told that he would need another R1500 before they could give him his students cards. The project is not in a position to cover such amounts of money so after many days of him asking for a bursary and being refused Pat joined him in Durban and between them they were able to get to the section of the Students Union who could help. We queued for many hours but eventually we managed to secure a bursary for the fist years studies including free accommodation and transport. The project continues to support him with food vouchers and we have messages of progress from time to time from him. The latest is “I just wish to thank the Vine Project for what you have done for me. May your mission keep on succeeding now and then. I love you guys so much for what you have done for our country. Thank you! May the Lord we love bless you in many ways”

In 2015 Ntokozo got his degree in Geography and the Environment. Having passed his degree and worked a year in an unpaid internship at Eshowe he is now following his dreams. He applied for a bursary to study to be a pilot and was successful. He is now based in Durban, has got his private pilot’s licence and is studying for a commercial licence, while supporting himself by working in temporary jobs. A very determined young man!


Lucky Mxolisi Shabangu (known as Lucky).

Lucky never knew his father and his mother died in 2008. She never sent him to school until he was 9.

When she died the pastor took him in but only had a very small hut. The kitchen area was Lucky’s bedroom with his books stacked high. He did not qualify for a foster care grant because of his age, so no money.

He was at Khula School when he was introduced to the Vine Project. We helped him with School uniform and to make the house waterproof.

When the pastor moved Lucky was left alone and had to find his own accommodation. At one point he moved into a 2 room hut and was sharing a put-you-up sofa with 3 others.

Despite all his setbacks, Lucky never gave up. He worked hard, attended church and was always grateful for what little he had. With Vine support we helped him to find a single room and paid his rent as well as providing food through our feeding programme. In all this time he found work wherever he could, painting and doing jobs to get a bit of money.

He passed his matric and applied for a place at Durban. Heard nothing and in the meantime went onto the internet and found a place at Richtech doing mechanical engineering – fitting and turning. Vine helped again with his ever increasing transport costs. When he was introduced to Bell, a local company distributing construction machinery, I think they saw in him a very hard working and determined young man. In June 2012 they offered him a WBE and then an internship. Subsequently, The Bell Company employed him on a 3 year artisans contract. All his hard work has paid off and he is on course for a secure and happy future.

Although he works long hours Lucky tries to attend all our youth club meetings and is a great role model for our younger children.


The Vine Family

As many of the youngsters live in remote areas outside the township we feel that it is important that they know that they are part of a family. We at the Vine project try to provide a sense of togetherness and show that people care.

During the visits made by Pat and Sonia and other committee members we collect the children together as often as possible to encourage this family feeling. Every Friday afternoon after school the children attend a Youth Group meeting in the Community centre where they chat, play and have fun. We have workshops and discussion sessions where they can talk about any problems and general concerns. We provide refreshments and the opportunity for a private conversation and most importantly encourage them to make friends. We arrange an annual outing, either a visit to the cinema or a night away at an environmental centre where the children can relax and enjoy themselves. For our 10th Anniversary we took a large group away for a weekend of fun. The photos speak for themselves.


When we set up the Vine project in 2008 we did not envisage there were so many bright youngsters who would need support through University. We soon discovered that many of these young people just needed the opportunity to prove their ability and with hard work to open up the opportunities that a university degree could provide for them.

As orphans and lone children many are entitled to a bursary. Vine supports them with guidance, money to register and help with the paperwork needed for their applications. None of this is easy to obtain. Once accepted at University most need furnishings for their rooms, including things like bedding and pots and pans for cooking. In practise grants and bursaries are often paid late or not at all for extended periods. Vine supports our students to enable them to carry on studying.

These are just some of the graduation photos. They have obtained degrees in such subjects as – Geography and the Environment, Town Planning., Social Welfare, Education and Sports Science, IT and business studies and some have graduated with honours.

We are so proud of them all for their achievements.


Much of our funding comes from regular donations by standing order from individual supporters. This has been particularly important during the pandemic. In addition we give talks and run special fundraising events.

We give regular talks at local societies and church groups to raise awareness of the project, find new supporters and raise funds. We also sell authentic Zulu jewellery made by locals in the township. This gives the makers a fair trade income and the profits go to the project. We also run special fundraising events such as race evenings, afternoon teas and quizzes. However our ability to raise funds in these ways has been much curtailed by the impact of lockdown.

If you are interested in supporting The Vine Project please get in touch / 07900 273774

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