Global Reach: Grantee Partners

Lefika La Phodiso


Young people in Johannesburg’s Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville often live in overcrowded, substandard accommodation and are regularly exposed to high levels of violent contact crime, neglect, poverty and volatile domestic lives. Many are refugees or asylum seekers who had fled conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African countries and have experienced trauma. On average, youth in South Africa, experience 8 ‘highly traumatic’ events each year (compared to the UK/USA average of 4.8 per lifetime). Compounded over time, these could lead to young people in the country developing emotional conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, dysthymia and depression – conditions that compromise their ability to regulate behaviour, engage positively with peers and achieve at school.


Based in Johannesburg’s inner city, Lefika La Phodiso (the rock of holding and healing) facilitates an open studio arts-based programme for children. Where the capacity of parents to provide safety, containment and emotional processing is severely compromised, Lefika’s programme aims to responsively meet the psychosocial needs of the children who attend. Lefika’s after-school groups are thoughtfully considered and curated and the facilitators are skilled at engaging with the children to find the issues that are most pertinent for the group members. Lefika recognises the agency of children who show up at the centre every day, actively seeking out safe spaces after school. They also work on a relational model where building relationships with facilitators and each other is of utmost importance, thereby creating a community of care and an ‘island of safety’ to escape the violence of the inner city. Lefika is responding to the participants’ needs for parental warmth and care through the caring facilitators who the participants perceive as kind, parent-like figures. 

Current Grant:

EMpower's first grant to Lefika La Phodiso will support 200 children and young people (aged 10-24; 45% female) to improve their mental health and resilience, self-esteem and self-expression, and to experience feeling safe and supported. The grant will support 15 of these young people to develop facilitation skills and a deeper understanding of mental health. Lastly, the grant will support Lefika to review and update its MEL framework, safeguarding and HR policies, and contracts.

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