Who and Why

Zisize in South Africa began with one volunteer, Niki Lee (right). Her one year career break in Ingwavuma (1998-1999) led to two more and has now become a commitment that sees her spending up to half of each year working full time voluntarily in South Africa. Yet she is never off duty, even when in UK, and is always willing to talk to groups and encourage others to support Zisize’s children.



Her father Heaton Lee (left) was an enormous influence on her. The charity is named in his memory. Heaton was born in South Africa and worked as a surveyor in a goldmine there as a young man, where he witnessed the racial inequalities at close quarters. This incensed him and led to many years of political activism. From the age of 21, Heaton lived in self-imposed exile from his homeland, refusing to return even to visit family because of the Apartheid regime and its treatment of the black population. He sadly died in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales in 1978 without having seen the demise of Apartheid. He was always moved to tears when he heard African music, which has a similar effect on his daughter, who feels fortunate to be able to experience life in a democratic South Africa.




Niki says that  Zisize would not have progressed to the level it has today were it not for her close friend and ‘sister’ Hlengiwe (above right), who also gave her time voluntarily until 2007 when she became Zisize's Director. Hlengiwe has the respect of the whole community and has superb motivational qualities. If you want something to be done - ask Hleng! The first Zisize committee comprised these two women and Zanele Dlamini (below left) who sadly died in 2002. Joining Niki and Hlengiwe as trustees in 2003, when Zisize in South Africa became an Educational Trust and was registered in the High Court, was Bridget Swift née Walters (below right). Bridget is an exceptional young woman who came to Ingwavuma after graduating and worked at the local high school, then jointly set up an English medium primary school. She speaks Zulu fluently and has a passion for education. She and Niki met in Cape Town in 1997 and this led to Niki's volunteering in Ingwavuma.


Zisize - The Heaton Lee Memorial Trust has five trustees: Jeff - an accountant who manages all financial matters and correspondence; Karyl - a Guardian ad litem; Menna - a teacher; Dave - a social worker and David - Director of Lumus 360. All give their services voluntarily.

Most employees in Zisize (Ingwavuma) also began as volunteers and volunteering is central to the functioning and ethos of the charity.

Nothing could have been achieved without the generous help of  individuals, families and groups from the UK who have supported Zisize. Everyone who has given anything, from a second hand jigsaw to a brand new LCD projector; from an individual 4 year old giving the contents of his piggy bank to organisations such as the Soroptimists, Jephcott Charitable Trust, French Huguenot Trust, RCT UNISON, other UNISON branches and regions, and Victoria & Adam Freudenheim, who have all made substantial donations; Unitarian churches and High St Baptist church and Maesgwyn Special School who have regular collections for us; every volunteer who has given their time and their energy, has made a vital contribution to Zisize’s work and made it the vibrant organisation it is today.


Why start Zisize and subsequently the Heaton Lee Memorial Trust?

Early days
In 1998 Niki Lee had gone to Ingwavuma as a volunteer at the English medium school but worked one day a week at Zulu medium schools and saw an extreme level of deprivation first hand. Inspired by teachers such as Hlengiwe Mthimkhulu, Zodwa Kabini, Pretty Mahlangu and the late Zanele Dlamini, who were dedicated to their pupils, but operating in appalling conditions with no books, insufficient classrooms, no water or toilets, she was motivated to do something to assist them. She began by begging the cast offs of more fortunate members of South African society - books, educational toys etc. She then approached Port of Natal Round Table and NBS, who jointly funded a photocopying machine, and the British Consulate which gave £2,000 worth of materials, equipment and books. This facilitated the creation of Zisize Teachers’ Resource Centre in a tiny room at Buqothobesizwe Hall in May 1999. Simple beginnings have led, twelve years later, to several projects, all geared at improving children’s lives, access to and benefit from education. (see www.zisize.org for detailed information).

Reasons for the creation of the UK Charity

Problems in South Africa are immense and widespread. The competition for funds from within South Africa is therefore very keen. Businesses like to support projects near their area of operation, so rural areas, where there is no industry, lose out both in terms of job opportunities and grant aid. Niki was concerned that the projects she had started should be sustained and further developed when she returned to the UK and so sought the help of friends to donate monthly and the UK charity was created in 2001. Small beginnings have led to a wide circle of supporters from all over the UK and thanks to Zisize's connection with Goodenough College, which is home to international post graduate students, support for Zisize exists in many countries in the world.

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