Eastern Cape|Port Elizabeth

Nelson Mandela Bay, the metropole on the South Coast of Africa, includes the city of Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch. The population is approximately 1,3 million and most of the townships in the area have little public and private infrastructure with a general shortage of essential basic services. Access to adequate nutrition, sanitation, health care, housing and educational facilities remain a challenge for most children growing up in our communities.

During the apartheid struggle, township communities around Port Elizabeth were renowned for their deep engagement in the struggle, organizing through strong grassroots community structures. The region has a proud history as home to many of South Africa's most famous anti-apartheid leaders. Today, the townships in the metropole remain haunted by the legacy of systemic impoverishment and destabilization of apartheid and are reeling from the devastation wreaked by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

 The Eastern Cape, where Port Elizabeth is located, is one of South Africa's poorest provinces, with the highest infant mortality rate in the country. Approximately 80% of the population is unemployed and household income is derived through the informal sector and social grants. The local economy is based primarily on the automotive industry with multinational companies historically establishing factories within the townships to exploit cheap, unskilled labor. While progress continues in housing development, more than one-third of the population lives in informal settlements, made up of tightly clustered shacks, with the remaining living in overcrowded brick matchbox homes.

With a 34.5% HIV prevalence rate in the area, every person in our target communities is affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Although general HIV/AIDS knowledge and awareness is high, the majority do not know their HIV status. The first time most  discover their status is when they have already progressed to AIDS. Life expectancy is 46.9 years for men and 51.3 years for women. Young women in the townships are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection; HIV prevalence in girls and young women is more than double that of their male peers. High teenage pregnancy rates point to the incidence of unsafe sexual practices. Gender-based violence is both a cause and consequence of HIV infection and sexual assaults disproportionately affect young girls.

The Port Elizabeth OLIVE LEAF Foundation started in 1996, focusing initially on feeding schemes for the homeless, orphanage visits and HIV/AIDS prevention rallies. These activities relied heavily on the commitment of volunteers mainly from the Port Elizabeth Church of Christ. In 1999 two support groups were PLWHA’s (People Living With HIV/AIDS) were adopted. A vegetable garden started in Walmer with the Parks Department providing many seedlings and education on how to have a successful garden. The Thembilihle Children’s Home, became one of the Orphanages supported with HIV/AIDS education and emotional support.

By 2000 the organization had grown in impact, and was now involved with seven HIV/AIDS support groups in different areas in Port Elizabeth. On a weekly basis, the OLIVE LEAF Foundation volunteers assisted PLWHA’s through the provision of food parcels, clothing, toys and emotional support. A programme started in Walmer Township involving the children of PLWHA's and children who have been orphaned as a result of the disease.  Networks and close working relationship developed with other organisations active in the HIV/AIDS field in Port Elizabeth. These include ATICC (AIDS Training and Counseling Centre), the DOH (Department of Health) and NAPWA (National Association for People with AIDS). The OLIVE LEAF Foundation  was also involved in the Port Elizabeth HIV/AIDS Intersectoral Forum which led to increased networks with other CBO's (Community Based Organisations and NGOs. Local branches from Shoprite Checkers and OK supported programmes in the form of regular food donations and some financial assistance.

In 2001 the first staff members in Port Elizabeth were appointed with three full-time staff and two volunteers. This was made possible as the PEPFAR initiative (Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) engaged in a funding relationship with the OLIVE LEAF Foundation. The OLIVE LEAF Foundation  Port Elizabeth focus efforts in three areas, namely, Motherwell, Veeplaas and Soweto-on-Sea and the team in Port Elizabeth grew to 9 with some Volunteers appointed as full- time staff and others receiving incentives as Volunteers. PACT funded a vehicle to assist with service delivery .

Currently the OLIVE LEAF Foundation in Port Elizabeth  employs 48 full time staff members and local programmes have developed and grown in impact . As of 2008 HWSA Port Elizabeth is primarily active in 6 communities in Port Elizabeth, namely Motherwell, Zwide, Veeplaas, Soweto-on-Sea, New Brighton and Helenvale.

South Africa snapshot

  • Date of independence: 1910
  • Capital: Pretoria
  • Population: 44 million
  • GDP per person: $10600
  • For more information: www.gov.za

A day in the life of...


An update on the Board of Directors

An update on the Board of Directors

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay up to date with the work we do by receiving our newsletter.