Pumeza Mqhayi: Director of Thembelihle Home

Pumeza Mqhayi in a typical moment at thembelihle home

Pumeza Mqhayi in a typical moment at thembelihle home

During our last visit to Thembelihle Home in March, there was an afternoon when the children were returning from school. That day, their individual school pictures had arrived and each child had proudly returned home with copies in hand. With beaming smiles, each child crowded into the office anxiously awaiting their turn to show off their “shots.” At the end of the line sat Director Pumeza Mqhayi. Seamlessly, she took the time to share in the moment with each child. With a comment of admiration and love, she went one by one. The room was a buzz with pride, excitement, and positiveness. This is the standard at Thembelihle Home. Through Pumeza’s leadership each child is made to feel important, valued, and celebrated. We have watched Pumeza grow and develop into the fearless, heartfilled leader that she is, and wanted to share a little bit of her story with all of you.  

Pumeza’s connection to Thembelihle Home started in 1999 after she completed her Senior Primary Teaching Diploma and was looking for positions. After a few months, Pumeza’s cousin introduced her to Sister Mary Paulé Tacke. On their first meeting, Sister showed Pumeza Bethany Children’s Home and offered the young teacher a volunteer position as a teacher at the nursery school. Later that year, seeing Pumeza’s love for educating and caring for the children at Bethany, Sister offered her a position teaching at Bethany’s partnering home, Thembelihle Home. This move would prove to be an act of fate. In October of 2002, Pumeza was offered a salaried staff position and a few months later she was asked to become Director of Thembelihle Home. Sixteen years on, Pumeza continues to develop and enrich Thembelihle Home to provide a loving, nurturing place for the children that come through its doors.

Between reviewing supply orders, thanking community supporters that had delivered a car full of much needed donations, and reviewing the staffing for the day, Pumeza sat down with us to share a little of her story and how at 16 years on, she still feels as passionate and inspired as her first year.

SMC: What made you interested in this type of career and what has kept you here?

Pumeza: Growing up, I had no idea or understanding of the concept of what a children’s home was or the need behind a place like Bethany or Thembelihle Home. I always have felt a passion and a drive to work with children and to care for people. The first time I ever visited Bethany Children’s Home, I knew I was meant to be fighting everyday for these children. That calling has never left me.

SMC: What did Sister Mary Paulé Tacke’s support mean to you?

Pumeza: I worked very closely with Sister for many years. Sister was not young when I first met her in her late sixties, but I was always amazed that she continued everyday, sometimes with more energy and longer hours than anyone around her. Her dedication inspires me. I often think about her story and how at such a young age she came to South Africa and dedicated her life to helping and empowering so many. If she did all of that, why don’t I give my very best? There is no one that will be at the same level of energy and dedication as Sister, but it is something that keeps me going and trying every single day.

SMC: What is your favorite part of your job?

Pumeza: My favorite part of the job is seeing children smiling, happy, and appreciating all of the tiny things that have been done to provide a safe and happy place for them. It is what inspires me and gives me joy. Many of the children in our care have come from hopeless situations and in turn, come to us hopeless. I remind myself often of the many children who have been in their same place and have moved through it to become strong and positive people. It is my job to help them do just that. I know that any child that comes to Thembelihle Home may find brightness again in their lives.

Thembelihle Home Director, Pumeza Mqhayi and SMC Board member and co-founder, Brenna Riggers

Thembelihle Home Director, Pumeza Mqhayi and SMC Board member and co-founder, Brenna Riggers

SMC: What gives you hope?

Pumeza: In 2005, there was a math teacher position opening in my village. The superintendent approached me and encouraged me to apply. With the promise of more pay, better hours, and being closer to my family, I applied. The next week, the school called me to offer me the position. My family encouraged me to take the position and I spoke with Sister Mary Paulé at length about the opportunity. I don’t believe in destiny or dreams very much, but that night I had a dream and something told me that I was in the place I needed to be. Sometimes what appears to be very good cannot make you truly happy or fulfilled.

If I was a person who was not filled with hope, I don’t think Thembelihle Home would be where it is today. As the Director, it is my job to be hopeful. What gives me the biggest inspiration is my colleague’s dedication, my friends, and my family. My family is the first to support me through the challenging times at Thembelihle Home, of which there are many. They know my work is demanding, and they support me in the long hours and time away from them. It is not uncommon for my siblings to volunteer or visit, and my son, nieces, and nephews also love to visit and play with the friends they have made here. I am grateful that my family loves Thembelihle Home. It is their presence that helps to make Thembelihle a home.  

Pumeza is the epitome of humble, and this is reiterated by anyone that knows her or is familiar with her work. She is seamless in providing credit and gratitude to others and will quickly shift any praise to the mentors and staff that surround her. When we sat down with her, we wanted to shine a light on what has kept her at Thembelihle Home doing this work. Thanks Pumeza!

Rose Kasumbi: Bethany Children's Home Director

At SMC, we understand that our impact is tied to our partnership with the projects and staff doing the work each day. Rose Kasumbi, Bethany Children’s Home Director, is no exception. Rose is a natural leader, and under her guidance, Bethany Children’s Home has made major strides. Her advocacy, focus on early childhood and staff development, and her constant optimism are just a few of the reasons we love working with Rose. Her path to becoming the Director of Bethany is nothing short of amazing.

Rose Kasumbi, Director of Bethany Children's, Home with her family.

Rose Kasumbi, Director of Bethany Children's, Home with her family.

Rose’s journey to Bethany Home began in 2003 when she and her family immigrated to South Africa from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Amidst political strife that impacted their lives daily, Rose and her husband made the decision to immigrate in the hopes of raising their family in peace. Rose a nurse, and her husband a physician, chose to move to South Africa to provide new opportunity for their growing family.

After time in Pretoria registering with the medical body of South Africa and a stent at a rural hospital in the Eastern Cape, Rose's husband accepted a position in Mthatha in 2006. It was shortly after their move to Mthatha that Rose and her husband welcomed their third child into their young family. With her husband’s advancing career as a physician, Rose continued to focus on their children, home life, and settling in to their new community.

Rose with U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard at Bethany Children's Home. 

Rose with U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard at Bethany Children's Home. 

 In September of 2009, Rose was invited by a friend to visit Bethany Children's Home. Rose still describes her first day at Bethany with vivid detail. “It was just so impressive, so many children caught up in difficult situations but still so happy and full of energy and love.” It was at the end of this visit that the Director approached Rose offering her a position as a nurse. With her young family in mind, Rose first declined the staff position but soon after agreed to working four hours per day. In December 2013, after losing their director, Bethany’s board approached Rose hoping she would act as Interim.

It is now Rose’s fourth year as Director of Bethany Children’s Home. During her tenure, Rose has provided leadership that has supported new and exciting development. She has implemented a wellness program focusing on nutrition and health, made early childhood education and development the cornerstone of Bethany, and has empowered and supported staff in furthering their education. Bethany is a place where each child has a brighter future because of Rose’s passion and leadership. When asked to describe Bethany's ongoing mission and being an SMC Partnering Project Rose summed it up beautifully.

Bethany Home programs have successfully and positively impacted children’s lives with innumerable benefits. When disadvantaged children receive early high-quality care, the return on investment is huge for the community. These advantages appear immediately, last a lifetime, and even have an effect on other generations. The support received from funders such as Sister Mary’s Children makes Bethany home even more resolute to keep moving forward despite the challenges that come with this work.

 Rose, we couldn't agree more.


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Introducing SMC Partnerships

Sister Mary’s Children is built on the fundamental idea of community. It is our belief that through each individual's talents, skills and passions, we each bring something unique to the SMC mission. From our board members, donors, and our partnering project’s directors, social workers and staff, we want to share with you some of the many amazing people that make up the SMC community.

In this vein, we are excited to announce our first such partnership with friend of SMC, Kirstie Meldrum.


Marathon Runner Kirstie Meldrum

Kirstie Meldrum met Sister Mary Paulé in 1993 as a Project Trust Volunteer while working at St. Barnabas’ Hospital near Mthatha, South Africa. Part of her volunteer cohort was based at the Ikwhezi Lokusa School under the direction of Sister Mary Paulé Tacke. Much of Kirstie’s free time away from the Hospital was spent with the group based in Mthatha. It was during these visits that Kirstie grew to know the work of Sister and her projects.

Kirstie fell in love with this area of South Africa and its’ people. She found the local community’s happiness infectious especially in the face of such comparable poverty. Kirstie describes her year of volunteering in South Africa as one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. In 2001, she returned to visit the place and people that had left an indelible mark on her life. During this visit, Kirstie made a promise to help support and champion the work being done with the projects developed by Sister.

Now, 16 years later, with the support of her friends, community and family including her children, Jessica (7) and Fynn (3), Kirstie is championing the work of Sister Mary’s Children. Kirstie’s passion for long distance running has provided the framework for her to support SMC while doing something she loves. On October 29, Kirstie will be participating in the Lucerne, Switzerland Marathon. This will be only her second marathon, and while the training is grueling, she is finding motivation knowing that each step is in support of SMC. With just 2 months left of training, 93% of Kirstie’s target fundraising goal has been met. Thank you for all that have donated!


Support Kirstie!

To support Kirstie’s efforts, check out her JustGiving page or donate directly through the SMC Website

Follow along as Kirstie prepares for the Lucerne Marathon via her Instagram account @motivate_me_2.

Have an idea?

It is through such collaborations that Sister Mary’s Children is able to grow our work. Let us know if you have ideas for partnering with SMC in the growth of hope, education and empowerment! We would love to hear from you.

Spring Updates

We wanted to pass along some new updates and happenings from SMC’s partnering projects on the ground in South Africa. Your support continues to grow and develop the important work happening there everyday.

Bethany Children’s Home:

Bethany Children’s Home staff recently attended first aide training. This important training has given caregivers the knowledge to help out when necessary and keep children as well as staff a little safer.  Thanks to the Bethany Home staff and administration for their dedication to fulfilling this important training!

The Bethany Children’s Home administration also shared that next week their staff will be participating in staff performance assessments. We wish all staff a constructive and inspiring review!

Thembelihle Home:

Thembelihle Home continues work on expansion as the original space of Thembelihle Home has been outgrown. The new expansion will provide much needed room and space for the children and staff. As the physical building continues to be remodeled and expanded, Thembelihle is also in the process of hiring more staff to support their growth. SMC excited to partner and support Thembelihle Home during this important time of growth and development.

Ikwhezi Lokusa Rehabilitation and Development Society:

After what sounds to be a very busy first quarter of 2017, Ikhwezi  Lokusa welcomed 28 new admissions. The welcoming of the new trainees helped to solidify maximum occupancy for the training programs and residencies. Along with very full training programs, This Spring has seen record long power shortages. SMC’s funding of on-site generators helped to support the trainees and staff during the rolling power cuts.

Thank You!

Sister Mary’s Children, Inc, 501(c)3 Non-Profit’s Fundraiser was an Astounding Success!

This time of year brings much gratitude, and Sister Mary's Children is full of thanks. We wanted to provide a short recap of our first fundraiser. Enkosi is the word for thank you in Xhosa which is the native language spoken in Mthatha, South Africa.


The night was filled with wonderful people, good food, and an amazing sound from The Swing Notes. We want to thank the many volunteers and those who donated items. Without you the night would not have been such a success. Thank you feels so inadequate, but THANK YOU from the Children, Sister Maria Corda (Director Ikwezi Lokusa Rehabilitation and Development Society), Rose Kasubi (Direcector Bethany Home), Pumeza Mqhayi (Director Thembilihle Home), Sister Mary’s Children, Inc. Board:  Joan Riggers, Mary Lytle, Steve Tacke, Brenna Riggers, Sue Tacke, and Joan Brown. 

You contributed $20,000.00 to benefit the lives of some extra special children! It far exceeded our wildest dreams. Your contributions allow the current needs and wishes from the projects funded by Sister Mary’s Children, Inc. 501(c)3 to be filled:

 Bethany: Yearly salary for Bethany’s on-site staff nurse, shoes and clothing for the children and paving of the Bethany Home playground.

 Thembelihle Home: School supplies for the on site school for 40 children, college fees for two Thembelihle Home graduates entering year 3 of their bachelor’s degrees at Rhodes University, Georgetown, SA., and replacement of two broken wood stoves and firewood for the winter.

Ikwezi Lokusa Rehab and Development: Generators for the workshops to allow for training during power shortages,one month of meals for one trainee, and one year salary for a workshop instructor.

In addition to the funding of the above needs, the children will receive a very special Christmas celebration this year.  Sister’s idea of a celebration for the children was to purchase meat for their meal and a sweet treat for the children.  Both are items that are only included in their meals on special occasions. Thank you for helping to carrying on this tradition loved by Sister to provide a little extra during this special time of year.

Mark Tacke, Sister Mary Paule’ Tacke’s brother, asked that we include in this article his speech on the night of the Fundraiser. It was hard for some people to hear and it is a message he would like to be sure to spread.  He would like everyone to know the history of Sister Mary’s Children, Inc. 501(c)3.

It all began when Joan Riggers was teaching at Prairie Elementary and Maxine Tacke, wife of Mark, became her volunteer.  They became friends and when Mark and his son, Steve, visited Sister in 2006, Joan and Maxine spent time together.  When Mark returned, Joan invited the Tacke’s for Easter Dinner.  Mark told about his recent trip.  It was this interaction that resulted in Brenna Riggers, daughter of Steve & Joan Riggers to volunteer for Sister Mary for 9 months in 2006/2007. 

Brenna returned with Joan for a month in 2008. Joan was amazed at how remarkable Sister was and saw all that she had accomplished to better the lives of children. It was then that Sister Mary and Joan became friends.  Joan and Brenna returned to the US determined to assist Sister financially.  Their campaign started with articles in the paper and requests at Christmas. 

Soon Chaelena Wimer, daughter of Marv and Molly Wimer, volunteered for Sister Mary for several months.  While she was there the Wimer family visited in South Africa.  The Wimer family continues to support Sister Mary Paule’ Tacke’s projects.

In June of 2014, we lost our beloved Sister Mary Paule’ Tacke.  Joan and Brenna along with their husbands traveled to South Africa in November of 2014 to visit with the directors and boards of Sister’s Projects.  Upon their return the decision was made to apply for non-profit status.  The Board was thrilled to be awarded non-profit status in June of 2016 just 1 1/2 months after applyingWe, the Board, credit the assistance of Ambassador Gaspard, US Ambassador to South Africa. He has visited tMthatha and Sister Mary’s Projects.  He was quite impressed and wrote to the SMC Board encouraging us to continue to support the projects. 

Joan Brown, SMC Board member and past volunteer for Sister Mary, has visited Mthatha, South Africa at least once a year to meet with the Boards and Directors there.  She returns with financial statements and information from the Boards of the Projects. 

Fast forward to Saturday, November 5, 2016.  Our very first SMC fundraising event.  What an amazing night because of all of you and your generosity.  Sister Mary Paule’ Tacke would be so humbled by the love and support of her communities.

Love and Blessings to you All,

The Sister Mary’s Children, Inc. Board:

Joan Riggers, Mary Lytle, Steve Tacke, Brenna Riggers, Sue Tacke, and Joan Brown. 




To Fill A Need

In the past few months, our Sister Mary’s Children board has had the privilege to begin to dig deep into our mission and goals. Something that came from this work is the concept of to “Fill A Need.” Fundamentally, this is the reason SMC was born. We were driven to fill a need when it became clear that the vital work of Sister Mary Paulé needed to continue, even in her absence.

Now, we would like to take the concept of filling a need a step further. It has always been vital to our mission to be as transparent as possible with funds, and it seems only natural to partner with you, the SMC community, to decide how we can best support our partnering projects. Below are some opportunities that have been provided directly from the directors of our three partnering projects loved by Sister Mary Paulé.

These needs will be highlighted at our first ever event on November 5th, but we invite all of the SMC community to help move the needle on these vital projects.

Bethany Home:

  • Yearly salary for Bethany’s on-site staff nurse ($4,300)
  • Security guard for Bethany Home grounds ($150/month)
  • Paving of the Bethany Home playground ($715)

Ikwezi Lokusa Rehab:

  • Generators for the Workshops to allow for training during power shortages ($680)
  • One month of meals for one trainee ($65)
  • One year salary for a workshop instructor ($650)

Thembelihle Home:

  • School supplies for the on site school for 40 children ($1500)
  • College fees for two Thembelihle Home graduates entering year 3 of their bachelor’s degrees ($1700)
  • Replacement of two broken wood stoves and firewood for the winter ($1500)

While we wish that you could all join us at the event November 5th, we know Sister Mary’s community is spread across the globe. For those of you that are unable to attend, you can help fill these needs by clicking the “donate now” link that appears on the right of this page. We are forever grateful for your ongoing support and generosity, and we look forward to partnering with you to continue to fill a need.

Let's Celebrate!

We are beyond excited to announce our FIRST official fundraiser as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and it is time to celebrate!  Our first event will fittingly be held in Sister's (stateside) home community, just a few miles from where Sister was born and raised.

We hope this will be the first of many successful fundraisers to support the growth of hope, education and empowerment for the children and community loved by Sister Mary Paulé Tacke. Wether you are here in person or here in spirit, we thank you for your continued support as we embark on this journey together!

SMC Gains Non-Profit Status!

It has been awhile since you have heard from us, but we have been far from letting the time pass by. Two years have passed since the dream of Sister Mary’s Children burst into reality. Our team has been tirelessly working to bring life to this dream.  With that, we have our biggest news yet to share with you!

On June 14, Sister Mary’s Children received notice from the United States Department of The Treasury of our acceptance as a public charity and non-profit status with exemption from federal income tax. What this really means is, Sister Mary’s Children is now a recognized charity with tax deduction for donations! The work of Sister Mary’s Children board members and supporters has made this possible. A process that can often take more than 3 years to come to completion was fully realized in a matter of months due to sheer determination, incredible mentorship, and the support of all of you. We could not be more ecstatic to share this incredible news with you, our supporters. 

So what’s next? We have some pretty amazing things in the works and are excited to share. Keep an eye out for project updates from the Sister Mary’s Children partners on sistermaryschildren.org and the Sister Mary’s Children Facebook. And as great as letters and social media are, we are anxious to provide an opportunity for all of our supporters to come together and celebrate the last two years and the amazing things ahead! Plans are in the works…

Thank you again for all of your support. You energize our efforts and fuel the future of Sister Mary’s Children.