Bethany Foster

Soaring for a Cause: A Skydive to Support Tshemba Charitable Foundation

November 2023
Volunteer story

I want to share a remarkable journey that unfolded over the past three months, as I became a volunteer for the Tshemba Charitable Foundation. Nestled in the heart of South Africa's rural northeast, this non-profit organization tirelessly works towards the vision of providing fair and equal healthcare to all. My role involved contributing to maintenance projects and volunteering clinically, all centered around supporting Tintswalo Hospital in the township of Acornhoek.

As fate would have it, I found myself in the midst of a 420-bed acute hospital in the province of Mpumalanga. My days were filled with meaningful work in the hospital's outpatient department, family planning, and pediatrics. The healthcare landscape here was vastly different from anything I, or many of my fellow volunteers, had ever experienced.

Tintswalo Hospital, despite being government-funded, grappled with limited financial resources and the last three months provided a firsthand experience of the challenges faced in this demanding environment. The patients, gracious and appreciative, showcased the profound impact of the medical care provided by the hospital. The local staff, too, expressed their gratitude for the support offered by volunteers and the innovative projects introduced by the Tshemba Foundation.

Yet, amidst the gratitude, the hospital faced numerous challenges. There were instances when the water supply ran dry, leaving us unable to wash our hands properly or provide patients with essential drinking water. The absence of proper disposal facilities for sanitary products and used needles posed health risks in an area where diseases like HIV and hepatitis were relatively common.

Structural issues within the hospital added to the complexity. Broken flooring, leaky ceilings, and the absence of curtains in hospital wards impacted both patient privacy and dignity. Limited medical equipment, such as blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, and oxygen saturation probes, hindered the ability to provide comprehensive care. The shortage of doctors and senior support within the hospital further highlighted the need for external assistance.

In the face of these challenges, the Tshemba Foundation emerged as a beacon of hope. Currently, over 12 volunteers, including doctors from diverse specialties and countries, are actively contributing to the hospital's endeavors. Local 'nurse communicators' bridge language gaps, facilitating communication between volunteers and patients. This not only enhances the quality of care but also provides valuable work experience for local nurses.

As my time in this beautiful South African community comes to a close, I am moved to take action. To support the Tshemba Foundation in its noble cause, I have decided to embark on a skydiving adventure. Yes, a skydive! All funds raised through this endeavor will be directed towards the Tshemba Foundation, specifically for replacing mattresses, acquiring essential medical equipment, and addressing basic infrastructure needs within Tintswalo Hospital.

I extend an invitation to each of you to be part of this narrative. Your support, no matter how modest, will contribute significantly to the lives of those who rely on Tintswalo Hospital for their healthcare needs. Let's weave together the story of ensuring that quality and dignified healthcare reaches every corner of our global community.


Story by Bethany Foster

General Practitioner, United Kingdom