Brushing up on dental health in rural South Africa


Five schools, five days, 1 745 children educated about dental care in Limpopo, with each child receiving a Colgate Dental package, through the Tshemba Foundation.

Over 60% of South African primary school children suffer from dental decay, according to local studies, with 80% of these children remaining untreated. This is in part due to the country’s overstretched and under-resourced oral health system, but also because of poor health-seeking behaviour. The Tshemba Foundation, a medical voluntourism programme in Hoedspruit, organises dental outreach programmes, as part of their commitment to upgrading rural health.

“Poor dental health can greatly impact a child’s life, as oral health is integral to general health,” explains Godfrey Phillips, who co-founded Tshemba in 2014 with Neil Tabatznik. “It can also lead to poor academic performance at school and absenteeism. This is why we partner with brands like Colgate, with the aim to educate one child at a time about dental care. We hope that in doing this, we can make a difference to their life in the long term.”

The Tshemba and Colgate teams, with a highly visible red Colgate truck, visited schools and clinics in the area, to establish community relationships and to educate, treat and deliver dental packages. Working with the teachers at each school, up to 380 pupils were taught about dental care and treated each morning.

The state of rural oral health

“With rural dental care, everything is of great need,” says Phillips. “We need more education about oral health, more people who are committed to providing services, and more dental recovery processes planned for everyone. Our biggest focus must be on upgrading rural health and facilities, to somewhere near their urban counterparts.”

With limited facilities and few dentists available, people living in rural areas have little access to proper oral health care education or solutions. With dental outreach programmes such as those being organised by Tshemba, oral health care services are being provided to some of the most vulnerable communities.

 “It’s incredibly rewarding to see how happy and attentive the children are to learn about dental care, which is why we are already planning our first dental outreach programme for 2019. Our biggest challenge, however, is ensuring that we have enough qualified dental volunteer professionals to support our work.”

A dose of volunteering is just what the doctor ordered


When paediatric dentist Dr Weakley embarked on a health drive with the Tshemba Foundation and the Colgate mobile unit to screen and treat members of the community, she never expected how much more she’d gain from the experience than what she originally thought: “It makes you humble to see how little these wonderful people are able to live with. Our lives are so complicated and hectic – this makes you realise that life is more than just work and the rat race.” 

Dr Weakley’s reflection on her time at Tshemba Foundation reveals the impact volunteering can have on one’s life. When we give to others expecting nothing in return, our brains release hormones like dopamine and serotonin that make you feel all tingly inside. This is referred to as the “helper’s high”.

Besides the positive effects it has on your mood, parallels can be drawn between helping others and improved health. The Volunteering and Health Benefits Study by BMC Public Health suggests that those who volunteer have lower rates of depression, higher self-esteem, improved sense of purpose, and lower mortality rates than those who do not volunteer. This is why Research Scientist Eric Kim believes doctors should tell people about the health benefits of social activities such as volunteering. Kim also points out that to reap the rewards of giving back, your heart needs to be in it – you shouldn’t be doing it just for you. A similar notion was explored in an observational study, Motives for Volunteering are Associated with Mortality Risk, which found that volunteers who did it purely because of “self-oriented motives” rather than for the benefit of the recipients, had a mortality risk that was similar to those who didn’t volunteer.

So, how can you experience the “helper’s high”?

The first step is to identify and enrol in a programme or cause that is meaningful to you and can make a difference in people’s lives. You don’t have to be the next Kingsley Holgate and dedicate your entire life to a specific cause in order to give back. While the modern day explorer’s crusade to stop the scourge of malaria in Africa is admirable, paying it forward can be temporary, short-term or even something you stumble across.

When Tshemba Foundation founder Neil Tabatznik visited a game lodge near Hoedspruit while on holiday, he became aware of the plight of the community members living and working in the region. He cared deeply about the wellbeing of the people, devoting his time to build a school and a clinic. This legacy has enriched his life far more than he could’ve ever imagined, which is why he has championed a volunteer programme through the Tshemba Foundation.

If you’ve always wanted to embark on a volunteering journey of your own, there’s never been a better time to start. After all, a healthy dose of volunteering is good for doctors too!

Using innovation and dedication to fight cancer in rural South Africa


People around the world focus on breast cancer during October to raise awareness of the disease but, at the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic, it’s a priority every day - especially for Sonja Botha.

Botha is a nurse sonographer with the Tshemba Foundation, the organisation that funded the building of the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic – a pioneering healthcare infrastructure project in Limpopo. Tshemba is dedicated to promoting women’s health and places medical volunteers where they are needed at clinics in the area, including at the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic.

The clinic is the only one of its kind in the region, offering breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatments to local farm workers and their families. The team at the clinic strive to be creative in making their services accessible to all and so, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, they ran a special deal to motivate women to come in for a breast exam, Pap smear or ultrasound screening.

Share the love, bring a friend

“We arranged a two-for-one special, where many women brought a friend, family member or domestic worker to the clinic. We thought it was an innovative way to get women in need to get screened and it actually sparked a pay it forward movement among many members of our community,” says Botha.

In the month of October, the clinic saw 61 patients, ran 78 scans, 58 Pap smears, 49 breast scans, 12 abdominal scans, 6 pelvic scans, 2 4D scans and 9 pregnancy scans. With it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the team also travelled around the region and conducted a total of 355 breast screenings, where they also discussed signs, symptoms, treatment and breast self-examinations.  

But, what makes the clinic so different, is the dedication of the staff. Their involvement doesn’t end with a differential diagnosis, they take patients through the screening process and then in most cases maintain supportive relationships during difficult journeys of biopsies or treatments.

Quality care for everyone

According to Botha, “The Hlokomela staff are all heart and we strive to make each woman who enters the clinic, feel welcome, safe and important. The quality of care, commitment and dedication you receive is not influenced or determined by your race, culture, economic situation, social standing or level of education – every patient receives the exact same level of quality care.”

While the clinic is a beautiful, clean and comfortable space, it does still have its share of challenges. Since it was established in 2017, staff have overcome initial difficulties with referral systems but according to Botha, one of her biggest challenges is not having a formal feedback system in place for ultrasound image interpretation and confirmation. The doctors that images are referred to, work on a voluntary basis and are therefore not always immediately available to assist.


“When I started working for Hlokomela, all the ground work, planning, building, funding and strategising was in place, now we function like a well-oiled engine, where one part cannot work properly if the next one is not pulling its weight,” says Botha. “We are a team here and we always go the extra mile for our patients, so that they leave knowing they received the best possible quality service and care.”


With cases of breast cancer increasing globally, it’s become even more essential to have clinics like Hlokomela in rural communities, to improve knowledge and education, and provide support and regular care, so that women are more aware of breast cancer and the risk factors, and cancer can be detected earlier. These communities also need more medical professionals like Sonja Botha, whose passion is for her patients and whose heart is committed to helping all women.

Time for a jobbymoon?


Newlyweds go on honeymoons and parents-to-be take babymoons. The “moons” are quiet, adjustment periods in which you give yourself time to rest and refresh before fully stepping into your new circumstances.

So why isn’t a jobbymoon seen as normal? Rather than finishing one job on Friday and starting the next on Monday, jobbymoons give people the opportunity to take some time out, to destress and get your work-life balance right.

In the era of all-things digital - when we barely allow ourselves one moment’s respite from the appointments, emails, WhatsApps and tweets - we are desperate for some proper time out. Even more so with medical professionals; working with trauma, often in gruelling and obstacle-ridden conditions, can be emotionally and physically exhausting. 

Tshemba, a medical volunteering foundation, understands the need for medical professionals to have some time out, particularly when they have given of their time and skill to contribute to the community.

Tshemba gives medical professionals (local and abroad) the chance work in Mpumalanga, to give back to the community, to help those in dire need of medical attention, and to find their love of the art of medicine again. 

This medical volunteer programme is one of a kind, where medical specialists and their partners can stay at Tshemba’s luxurious five-star lodge, free of charge on a self-catering basis. The lodge, situated in the bushveld on a game sanctuary, is a perfect doctor’s refuge.

Tshemba was built for doctors who have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and who want to give back to the community. Doctors giving of their time and energy to help in these rural communities are encouraged to take a jobbymoon and explore Hoedspruit and surroundings, to re-energise, so that they can start the next job with a fresh mindset, ready to tackle new challenges, focused and refreshed.

Find out more about how you can participate and what the Tshemba Foundation offers by calling +27 (64) 507 5527 or visiting

Let's get pink!

October is breast cancer awareness month, where many people choose to wear a pink ribbon to show their support. This annual international health campaign is organised to increase awareness of the disease, and to raise funds for research into its cause, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cure.

At Tshemba, we strive to make a difference in the lives of local farm workers and their families, through the Hlokomela Women’s Centre – a pioneering healthcare infrastructure project. We are exceptionally proud to be part of the clinic, as it is the first of its kind in the region.

Share the love, bring a friend

This October, we encourage you to take advantage of our breast cancer awareness month special. Book an appointment for yourself and when you bring a friend, colleague, domestic worker, farm worker or someone in need - they get their appointment for free.

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Find out more about how you can participate and what the Tshemba Foundation offers by calling +27 (64) 507 5527 or visiting

Meet the Tshemba Foundation Women: Lexi


Lexi has only recently joined Tshemba, but is already making a big impact on the team.

So, what does Lexi have to say?


1.     What do you do at Tshemba?

Project Specialist.


2.     How long have you been there?

Two months.


3.     Why did you decide on Tshemba?

The work is wonderful, the people are amazing and we’re changing lives.


4.     What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

Juggling the various projects to make sure I give maximum time to each one.


5.     As a woman, do you feel safe?



6.     What was the most striking thing you experienced there?

Although there is so much poverty, the people you meet make the best of what they have.


7.     What would you say to doctors, especially women, who are considering a visit?

Just do it! It is an experience that will be most memorable and will enrich your life.


If you would like to join this amazing cause or know of a doctor who would be interested, please visit

Meet the Tshemba Foundation Women: Barbara

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As CEO and director at Tshemba, Barbara McGorian is exceptionally busy. Having spent most of her adult life in the corporate sector focussing on bottom lines, she is inspired by the philanthropic environment at Tshemba, which is without hidden business agendas. With hard workers like Barbara, Tshemba produces tangible results for the community, while offering an inspiring and unique experience for the doctors who volunteer.

So, what does Barbara have to say?

1.     What do you do at Tshemba?

I am the CEO and a director.

2.     How long have you been there?

Since April 2017.

3.     Why did you decide on Tshemba?

For the past three years I have been a director of Tshemba. When I took early retirement from a very demanding job in the corporate world, part of my portfolio, amongst many others, was to manage the CSI for the company. I found this to be the most rewarding part of the job and so when I was approached to come on board as CEO and become far more active in getting Tshemba up and running, I jumped at the chance.

4.     What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

Initially everything! I come from a media background and so getting into a medical and health environment took me completely out of my comfort zone. But because it was such a challenge, I learned very quickly what to do and saw every aspect of my job through new eyes, without the jaded negativity one tends to feel after doing something for too long. Now I am constantly looking for new ways to increase our impact in rural healthcare and I’m loving every minute of it.

5.     As a woman, do you feel safe?

Absolutely. Living in South Africa has taught me to be vigilant and aware, and so it is second nature to me now to feel confident and safe wherever I go.

6.     What would you say is the male to female ratio amongst the volunteers?

Initially we attracted more men volunteers, but we are getting more and more women volunteering. Currently there are more female volunteers at the lodge than men.

7.     What was the most striking thing you experienced there?

The beauty and tranquillity of the doctor’s refuge, juxtaposed with the harsh conditions of the hospital. This is one of the reasons doctors keep coming back. They know they are doing incredible work in the hospital and making a massive difference in changing people’s lives, and then they can unwind at the end of the day in sheer tranquillity.

8.     What is the one thing about this experience you’ll remember forever?

The incredible generosity volunteers have with their time and expertise. It is a wonderful equalizer. All medical volunteers, whether top specialists, nurses, GPs or allied services, have one common goal - to uplift healthcare in these dire conditions.

9.     What would you say to doctors, especially women, who are considering a visit?

Come, come, come! You will change lives – including your own. But beware, volunteering at Tshemba is addictive!

If you would like to join this amazing cause or know of a doctor who would be interested, please visit

Meet the Tshemba Foundation women: Katherine

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Katherine Mathias is an inspiring young woman, who’s been with Tshemba since the very start in April 2017. She runs the everyday workings of the lodge, offers behind-the-scenes support to the volunteers and assists in making the volunteers’ stay as enjoyable as possible. It’s thanks to Katherine’s hard work and commitment that the doctor’s refuge is just that for the volunteers – a place to rest and recuperate.

So, what does Katherine have to say?

1.     Why did you decide on Tshemba?

I have a great love of the bush and wildlife; something that I’ve been passionate about since my first experience working in the Serengeti in 2015. The fact that I could work on a project that is based on a humanitarian scope was the cherry on top. I find great purpose in supporting the work of people who heal and provide healthcare in any way.

2.     What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

The challenges I face are both mental and physical such as learning patience and sometimes having to carry heavy 25-litre bottles of water around. After growing up in a first-world country and having worked in fast-pace companies for most of my life, slowing my “get things done efficiently in record-breaking time” way of thinking has been diluted slightly to accommodate the flow of my surroundings.

Running a farm/lodge as a woman is incredibly rewarding and takes a huge amount of energy, physically as well as mentally. Learning the skills of how to run an operation from eco-friendly maintenance to being cost-effective with as little impact on the natural environment are some of my challenges, but it’s most exciting!

3.     As a woman, do you feel safe?

Being on a Big 5 (no buffalo’s so really 4) estate and having the animals around me gives me a greater feeling of security in terms of potential crime. Crime is not a huge occurrence in the area (knock on wood); I personally prefer to live in a rural area as opposed to a city environment as it is calmer here. Running into a lion or an elephant is one’s biggest concern – if that, kidding but kind of not kidding. :)

4.     What would you say is the male to female ratio amongst the volunteers?

I speculate that it is pretty even numbered, to be honest with you. I think that having the moral value of care is not dependent on gender, race or sexual preference from my personal experience. I am so grateful to be surrounded by people who share the same values as I do.

5.     What was the most striking thing you’ve experienced at Tshemba?

During the day, I work in supporting healthcare, but in my off time, my extra-curricular activities include K9 anti-poaching training and learning about wildlife conservation. Being involved with people within the area who are actively contributing to the welfare of wildlife and conserving our natural habitats are a huge inspiration to me. I have striking moments more than not from their stories and my excitement around how I can potentially, in the near future, lend myself towards those needs in whatever small or big ways.

6.     What is the one thing about this experience you’ll remember forever?

There is not one event, it's a constant feeling of gratitude to be supporting health practitioners. If I can give you an example, it would be working with the women in the Tintswalo hospital on special projects that have been a game changer for me.

My Ouma (grandmother) worked in South African healthcare institutions her whole life, always contributing her time to people in need. I would never have imagined that I would ever work in a healthcare type of scenario and to be a part of it is such a privilege, you can count that as a continuous experience.

7.     What would you say to doctors, especially women, who are considering a visit?

This undertaking does not only benefit the patients you see but also yourself. The way of life you learn in this environment, not just at the hospital, but also here on the farm is incredibly empowering. An almost sixth sense arises as there are so many elements around you at all times. One becomes more connected to being present, listening to all the sounds, watching how your surrounds interact with one another and having the peace to find yourself. It’s sometimes overwhelming, but fantastic for the soul.

The importance of imparting knowledge and skills

Name: Dr Bashir Bulbulia

Area of specialisation: Anaesthetist

Family: A wife and two children

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Looking back on life, we’re all faced with certain realities. There are regrets, achievements, moments of joy, bliss and pride; some of us are even blessed by leaving a legacy behind. So, when examining his life, Dr Bashir Bulbulia decided it was time to share the professional knowledge and skills he has gathered during his career.

“The hospital where we worked, Tinstwalo, reminded me of my student years when I worked at a hospital in the Eastern Cape. Not a lot has been done in terms of progress,” says Dr Bulbulia.

He pointed out that medical care within rural areas is not on par with what’s happening in the private sector. The basic equipment, drugs and services are available to patients, but things can be improved.  

“There is a lot that needs to be done in rural hospitals, hospital services, infrastructure and manpower, especially with young doctors doing community service. They need guidance and a bit of supervision. The patients are very trusting, and it’s the responsibility of doctors to ensure they can fulfil this trust and do things without endangering or harming patients. Without honed skills, you could harm somebody.”

Dr Bulbulia advises that volunteers need to consider what skills they want to impart when they join Tshemba. It varies within industries, for instance, an orthopaedic surgeon may need to spend a lot more time teaching. Anaesthesia is slightly different; it’s not a question of trying to do work, but rather one on how to get the young doctors to learn how to do things correctly.

“I believe my biggest contribution there would be to train the young doctors to improve their skills. We saw some patients and performed procedures during my stay there, which enabled me to show them how things should be done. It was really just to improve their skills and teach the young doctors safe anaesthesia; teach them hands-on skills,” says Dr Bulbulia.

Medicine is a difficult field. Doctors in community service may know a lot in theory, but practical skills are different as it can be lifesaving or not. It’s a principle that’s embraced by Tshemba; where volunteers not only assist in the field but also impart their skills and knowledge, helping the people grow who are left behind. In return for their services, volunteers can enjoy a luxurious stay at the doctor’s refuge.

“The lodge where we stayed was superb, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There is a nice camaraderie with the other doctors and the people from the environment. We had an evening where we all sat around the Boma to chat and braai. That interaction is something that will stay in my mind,” he notes.

Although he was only there for a week, he believes he can contribute a lot more and will definitely be back when he has space in his schedule.   

“All that’s really needed is your time.”

The story behind Tshemba Foundation, a doctor’s refuge

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Johannesburg, March – To say, speaking to Neil Tabatznik, founder of Tshemba Foundation, is inspirational is a vast understatement. Not only has he led an incredible life, but he is also dedicated to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

“Tshemba was started about three years ago, and the concept was to bring medical practitioners to the most underserved areas in South Africa. The idea is not so much to build structures, as our experience of building structures has led us to Tshemba. Structures are not what’s needed, it’s the personnel. The shortage of doctors and medical practitioners in these rural areas is bordering on obscene,” says Neil.

The road to Tshemba started with a visit to a game lodge in the Hoedspruit area. Neil and a friend were on a game drive when the ranger asked Neil to build a school for his children. The community, at that point, already built a room and found a headmaster but it was nowhere near a proper school. Neil built the school, which is flourishing, and sat down with the area Chief to find out what the “real” need is. A clinic, the Chief responded.

It was during the research to build a clinic that Neil realised that the infrastructure was partly in place. They visited a beautiful clinic with full dental suites, but they were unused – there were no dentists.

“It the most tragic thing. Imagine someone gets sick and dies of something that if it had been in an urban area, it would not have occurred to anybody that their lives might be at risk.”

Hence, the Tshemba Foundation, a refuge for doctors, was built.

“It’s built for doctors who have a wealth of knowledge and experience; this is their chance to give back. We built this stunningly beautiful and comfortable lodge in a big five conservation area where doctors can rest, relax and take in the peaceful wonders around them while being safe. Our idea is to provide doctors with a refuge after they’ve spent the day working in gruelling and obstacle-ridden conditions. Practising medicine without the necessary equipment is much more challenging than what they are used to,” comments Neil.

“We have an MOU with the Mpumalanga Department of Health who allows us to place our doctors and nurses in their hospitals and clinics. However, we must stay cognisant of the number of volunteers we accept at a time as the Tintswalo Hospital only has six permanent staff doctors. Hence, we look at what we do as organised volunteering that you don’t have to pay for to attend,” he continues.

Tshmeba Foundation is not only about servicing less fortunate people in dire need of medical attention, but also about helping doctors find their love for medicine again and pass their legacies on to the next generation.

Pledge your services to the Tshemba Foundation and help both those in need and yourself. Call +27 (64) 507 5527 or visit for more information or to schedule your visit.

The story about a doctor and diabetics.

Name: Dr Hennie Nortje

Speciality: Diabetologist

Area of specialisation: Diabetes Mellitus and associated metabolic syndrome 

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Johannesburg, February – Dr Hennie Nortje is passionate about helping people, not just in his professional career, but also in his personal capacity. Hence, when he heard about a medical volunteer programme in the middle of the bushveld, he knew he had to go.

“The mission of Tshemba is empowerment. I only spent one week at Tshemba, but it was an experience that touched me deeply.” Dr Nortje’s visit was welcomed by all and highly successful, as diabetes and nontransferable diseases are a crux within rural communities. Oftentimes, these diseases go unnoticed and untreated due to limited medical staff and equipment as well as lack of patient and practitioner knowledge.

During his visit, Dr Nortje discussed clinical cases, presented lectures to the Clinical Associate Students, and identified personnel to be trained as diabetes educators. He was able, through the sponsorship of the CDE Foundation, to send Mrs Mara Khosa, a dietician at Tintswalo Hospital, and Mrs Kgomotso Khosa, a nursing sister at Hlokomela Clinic, to Johannesburg to attend the advanced diabetes education course.

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But this is not where Dr Nortje’s assistance ended. He continues to provide off-site support and played a crucial role in organising an AccuCheck active meter for a 5-year-old suffering from diabetes, which was delivered within 24-hours, as well as an additional twenty meters for Tintswalo Hospital.

“Although the staff is completely overwhelmed by the amount of work, they are hungry for knowledge and incredibly friendly. Even the patients are humble, friendly and unbelievably grateful. The whole experience left me in awe. I am thrilled to return, not only because of the lavish accommodation and the breathtakingly beautiful lowveld but also to continue working with the amazing people that are so desperate to learn and care for those in need.”

Dr Nortje and his wife will return in March; “I’m excited to see how the new diabetic educators are doing and my wife is keen to be involved in teaching at the preschool at Hlokomela.” When asked why medical professionals should participate in the Tshemba Foundation, he replied: “To quote Godfrey Phillips, a Tshemba Foundation director; Hennie, remember, whatever you do here will make a difference.

Join Dr Nortje on the journey to make a difference in people’s lives who are in such need of medical care. Call +27 (64) 507 5527 or visit to find out more about the Tshemba Foundation.

Dentistry for everyone

Name: Dr Maria Pestana

Area of specialisation: General Dentist  

Family: Married for 27 years and has twins.

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Loads of people might be scared of visiting the dentist, but if you don’t have access to one, it’s a whole different ballgame. Dr Maria Pestana recently spent six nights at Tshemba Foundation to aid children with just that problem.

As an avid volunteer, joining the Tshemba Foundation was inevitable for Dr Pestana. “I feel very blessed to be able to help people. So, when I saw the article, I knew Tshemba might offer a very different experience; to both be able to help people in rural areas and enjoy a little bit of the bush. It’s a balance between the beauty of nature and the reality of life,” she said.

“The juxtaposition between the lodge and the medical situation was vivid; the lodge is breathtakingly beautiful while the conditions at Tintswalo Hospital are challenging. That being said, the staff was amazing; they are young and enthusiastic,” she continued.

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Because of the limitations at Tintswalo Hospital, it’s difficult to see patients and provide the services they need. Often patients can’t be seen to and are left waiting. However, at a nearby clinic, there is beautiful and unused dental equipment and two operating rooms, but no personnel trained to do restorative treatment, only extractions.

While there Dr Pestana, her son Andrea Giuricich (who is a second-year dentistry student at UP) and nurse Rosy Ribane, spent time at nearby crèches screening children between the ages of three and five. They saw about 460 children and approximately 80% of them desperately need restorative dental work. “These children have no hope of having any kind of surgical dentistry done on their teeth because there is no system for that anywhere nearby,” she commented. 

These issues prompted Dr Pestana and her fellow dental volunteers into action. They are looking to set up a dental facility or mobile clinic manned by volunteers. Christine du Preez, Hlokomela Women’s Clinic founder, has offered a room in her clinic for dental work. The dental project will require equipment, material and qualified dentists who can provide the restorative dental work so sorely needed in the area.

Dr Pestana has donated an amalgam mixing machine and is speaking to some of her colleagues about more donations. But this is not where she stopped. She contacted Colgate and asked for their assistance, and together with equipment donated from The Dental Warehouse, the Tshemba Foundation will have two fully-equipped mobile dental units from 28 May to 10 June. The aim is to screen about 2 500 children and as many adults as possible during this time.

Dental services are almost non-existent, making this opportunity a vital intervention. Resources regarding personnel and equipment are dire; thus, to make this visit successful, Tshemba is calling on volunteer dentists to assist screening children in the mornings at schools and adults in the afternoons at various clinics.

Upon stating what stood out the most for her, Dr Pestana said: “I will always remember the elephants and being stuck in an elephant-traffic jam; but most of all, the children at the crèche and their beautiful songs of thanks and anti-poaching.”

When you join the Tshemba Foundation, you will both enrich your own life and those of others. Should you like to volunteer, especially between 28 May and 10 June 2018, or want to find out more about the Tshemba Foundation, call +27 (64) 507 5527 or visit

A ray of sunshine in a depleted medical world

Name: Sonja Botha

Area of specialisation: Sonographer

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Johannesburg, April – About two years ago, Sister Sonja Botha moved to Hoedspruit, and with her she brought hope.

“I started speaking to Christine [Hlokomela Women’s Clinic founder] about how I can help, even before the clinic was completed,” comments Sister Botha.

Since she started at Hlokomela Women’s Clinic, she’s not only aided women with their health issues but also hosted educational workshops for women to raise awareness of healthcare and self-examinations. Her main daily tasks consist of pap smears, blood collections and ultrasounds, and she sees on average about 60 patients per month.


“One of the biggest issues we currently face is our referral system,” she says. “I can identify pathology, but in our immediate surrounding environment, we only have government hospitals that are challenged regarding the available staff and equipment. It’s a huge problem as about 99% of the patients I find things with need to go for biopsies.”

“Having a GP, surgeon or gynaecologist on call, even just one day a week, to help with biopsies will make the world of difference to these women. In addition, we need to work with referral hospitals close by. Currently, we’re sending women to Helen Joseph, but it’s such an immense financial burden on their already strained economic situation that it’s not viable. But, the best solution really would be to have a gynaecologist who comes through once a month or so.”

Sister Botha continues to improve her skills as she’s completed a breast ultrasound course and she attended training for abdominal scanning in March of this year. By identifying needs within the community, she is able to expand how she can assist, not just the female patients but everyone.

She continues, “It’s heart-breaking. Cancer is diagnosed and then what; there is no help for after the diagnosis. For many people it feels like a death sentence.”


The Breast Foundation Clinic at Helen Joseph was able to open slots for two ladies in whom possible malignant cells were found. And although this is a tremendous help and support, it is six hours away, which leads to unforeseen costs. This is why it is so important that a trustworthy referral system or financial aid enabling referrals are in place. 

Suffering from cancer or experiencing a cancer scare is frightening, even more so when the support system is lacking. Join the Tshemba Foundation and help ease the suffering of those in need. Our programme is set up in such a way that you can spend your nights at a luxury 5-star lodge and bring your family along with you to share in this experience.

Find out more about how you can participate and what the Tshemba Foundation offers by calling

+27 (64) 507 5527 or visiting

A nurse of gold

Name: Maureen Dunnett

Area of specialisation: Trained Nurse, specialising in Midwifery

Family: Married and has four sons and six grandchildren

Johannesburg, February – Since she can remember Sister Dunnett wanted to care for people in need. She has travelled widely to England, USA, India and Africa, and finally, she’s visited the Tshemba Foundation. Although this was a reconnaissance trip to the Tshemba Foundation programme and Hlokomela Clinic, her visit left an impression on the foundation and vice versa. In fact, she loved it so much that she’s returning for two weeks this February. “I was welcomed to the Tshemba Moditlo Lodge by Katherine, and my stay was amazing,” said Sister Dunnett.



She was guided through the daily working programmes, which enabled her to assist wherever possible. “I was absolutely blown away by the staff. Every patient was treated with dignity and respect. It was a very special, humbling and unique experience.”

Based on her work for SAALED (Southern African Association for Learning and Educational Differences) and her experience in basic health education and project work in rural areas, Sister Dunnett is well-placed to help establish the nurses’ sector in the Tshemba Foundation programme. “Specialists can easily be used in the hospital and surrounding areas, whereas the foundation is not sure yet how to maximise the use of volunteer nurses.”



“During my stay, I did not visit the hospital but instead travelled with the hardworking Hlokomela Clinic staff to the farms and clinics. Every day was a different experience for me. The time spent around HIV-testing and treating was highly informative.”

Sister Dunnett explored every possible way in which she could assist. From being involved with sex and farm workers’ health assistance to helping ladies knit and sew, she came to understand some of the issues needed.



“I was able to visit places I wouldn’t normally. In one of the last villages we visited, the people had to wait in long queues for hours to collect water from a JoJo tank. I saw dear old ladies walking distances pushing wheelbarrows with containers to collect their water. Many folks have electricity but no sanitation,” she noted.

“It all depends on how involved you would like to be. There is a great need around Hoedspruit, Acornhoek and the Timbavati regions. The more frequently my husband and I visit, the more insight we’ll have as to where our services will be needed and then stay for a longer period,” Sister Dunnett concludes.

Add your voice to Sister Dunnett’s and help those in need. Bring your partner along to share in the giving during the day, while you spend your nights at a luxurious five-star lodge in the Limpopo bush. Contact the Tshemba Foundation on +27 (64) 507 5527 or visit

Tshemba Foundation teams up with Stratitude to provide new horizons for medical volunteers


Johannesburg – An innovative local foundation is marrying the appeal of luxury accommodation and an African bush experience, with the opportunity to make a difference, to attract a different kind of visitor; one that will roll up their sleeves and work in under-resourced rural hospitals and clinics.

The Tshemba Foundation has a mission: to improve access to healthcare in low-income communities in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, while enriching the lives of the qualified medical professionals who join their volunteer programme. Integrated agency Stratitude has been appointed to handle all PR and social media requirements, and they will be working closely with the foundation to actively change the perception of medical volunteering or voluntourism.

“When done correctly, voluntourism provides communities with much-needed help, by carefully placing volunteers who have crucial skills, expertise and knowledge,” says Sylvia Schutte, managing director of Stratitude. “The Tshemba Foundation has taken a different approach to medical volunteering and their programme is planned and run by highly-qualified medical professionals. We are excited to be part of a team that is creating positive change in communities that need it the most.”

The Tshemba Foundation has combined a luxury African bush experience with a volunteer programme that is attracting doctors and healthcare professionals from South Africa and around the world. While these volunteers provide essential medical care at community hospitals and clinics, they are also expected to upskill local healthcare providers.

A unique aspect of the programme is that it provides the volunteers with a stimulating and challenging learning environment. This is because all the medical professionals are housed in the newly built, luxurious Tshemba Volunteer Centre in the Moditlo Game Reserve. It’s a tranquil, beautiful space where the volunteers can unwind, share ideas, enhance their own skills and collaborate on healthcare obstacles they encounter.

The Tshemba Foundation is changing the face of voluntourism, by giving their volunteers the opportunity to teach and learn, while treating patients and positively contributing to change in rural Limpopo and Mpumalanga.