Philile Khumalo

National Donor Services Co-ordinator SOS Children's Villages in Swaziland 

We are all important

As a sponsorship coordinator, my main function is to ensure that sponsorship standards are followed and complied with and to build a professional and effective sponsorship team. It started in 1995 when I joined the organisation, and then I was the sponsorship secretary. There was one village in Mbabane.

There was however no one in my position so I was expected to set up the sponsorship office. First, I needed to familiarise myself with the function and it involved working with the village. I set up a familiarisation tour to the village to get an idea how it [=> what? the child sponsorship process?] was happening before. More than 90% of the children in the village had sponsors which meant they were receiving money gift. During my tour I got a lot of information about child sponsorship. I was also told that children received part of the money gift in cash to the equivalent of about 10 USD sent by a sponsor each time it was sent.

After my findings were discussed with the national director and it transpired that the cash gifts needed to be stopped because all money gift must be saved for use by the children and young person when they finally leave the village. You can imagine the reaction of the recipient when they heard this. As somebody responsible for this function I had to be the bearer of the bad news. A meeting for the village team was convened and SOS mothers were represented. “What is change”? I asked and one SOS mother responded. “Change is something different from what it was and is not easy.” “Yes” I said and I continued to discuss what it meant regarding the cash money gifts with the support of the village team and supporting documents from the international office. I must say that it was not an easy meeting. A lot of questions were asked. It took a long time to convince the team but with a lot of education on what the international sponsorship stands for in the organisation and what we as a national association are expected to do, they eventually understood.

That was not the end as another meeting for the children and young people had to be convened as they are the direct beneficiaries of the international sponsorship. After receiving the money gift, children and young people had to write thank-you letters to their sponsors. Now I asked myself: “How do I write a thank-you letter for something I have not received?” This question bothered me for some time in my mind each time I thought about the meeting with the children and young people.

Indeed the day of the meeting came. SOS mothers and other staff members were in the meeting and children were anxiously waiting to hear even though some already knew what it was about from their SOS mothers. “If you were told that you will no longer going to receive money from now on, how would you react?” One young person stood up. “What a difficult question!” is all he said. Their concern was answered after a detailed explanation. “We understand, but we will not write the thank-you letters. How do you thank someone for something you have not received,” said one of them. Again after some long discussion with the help of the SOS mother and the staff, they agreed they will continue to write the letters. I must say it was a pleasant breakthrough. After a year one young person was integrated and with his money gift he bought furniture for his new home. He was so excited and shared his joy with brother and sisters in the village and youth facility. They remembered the meeting about money gifts and it became a reality.

All this would not have happened the way it did if the whole village team was not involved. Who knows, it would have even taken longer than it did. Everyone’s contribution mattered and was needed. As I am writing the story, Swaziland has three big sponsorship teams in all three villages and each member of the team has a vital role to play. They are all important! 

Philile Khumalo

works as National Donor Services Co-ordinator at SOS Children's Villages in Swaziland. 

My professional background is in teaching and communications. I worked for nine years with the organisation Save the Children, as information officer. Part of my job portfolio then was the production of a weekly radio programme.
Twenty years ago, I joined SOS Children’s Villages Swaziland. I started up as the sponsorship public relations secretary, once acted as the secretary to the national director and now I am the national coordinator.
My family and my loved ones are to me great sources of inspiration. I have two sisters and three brothers, and with our mother, we together enjoy wonderful moments. The death of my husband fifteen years ago did leave an inevitable gap. However, I am today quite happy that I did gird up my loins, for and with my boys, embraced life. Happier I am today, that, my boys are doing well in life and we share an inspiring relationship. 
As a member of society I do take time to visit the sick, both in their homes and in the hospital. I do the best I can to support the needy within my reach. Children in my society are indeed close to my heart and their concerns and future are for me, virtuous fields for action. These social duties of work agree with my understanding of the Catholic practice of Christian faith. I am a member of the Catholic women group, and for many years now, a board member of Cheshire Homes, Swaziland.
In my leisure time, I enjoy travelling, cooking, reading magazines, going to church, being with my boys and socializing with friends. I love music and dancing, but as I age, I don’t dance often again. My bones seem to be getting a bit tired!!!