supporting rural development projects in northern KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

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Helwel Hike - September 2019

Helwel supporters gathered on Ranmore Common in the beautiful Surrey Hills near Dorking for the 2019 Hike. This was the 30th year of Helwel hikes and there may even have been earlier ones that we've forgotten about!

Many thanks go to Amanda Arthurton for choosing this very scenic route, for arranging our pub lunch, and for welcoming some last-minute arrivals.

The proceeds of donations or sponsorship raised from the hike will be going to one of our core programmes, the training of pre-school teachers which is delivered by TREE (Training and Resources in Early Education). We are currently funding practitioner training in the Nkandla area.

Another Helwel group visit to KwaZulu! - February 2019

This was the fourth time that a group of Helwel Trust supporters had visited the partner charities and projects that we support in the rural areas of Nqutu and Nkandla in KwaZulu. There were thirteen of us. Some had been several times before but for three of us it was the first time to do such a trip. Despite all the regular reports that we receive, nothing can compare with first hand experience. The fact-finding, the warmth of welcome, including singing and dancing, and the knowledge that our friendship and support means so much to the recipients was thrilling.


We started with a visit to TREE headquarters in Durban followed by one to ACAT headquarters in Lidgetton. It was both essential and fascinating to be updated on the national polices of these two non-profit organisations, through whom our money is channelled, and to meet the senior management teams, both of whom gave us excellent presentations.

The Helwel group at TREE headquarters in Durban

The Jungle Gym at uKhanye creche

Helwel visitors enjoying playing with the children

Then three nights at the excellent Lennox Farm near Dundee gave us a much-loved base for visits to Ukhanye Community Care Centre (near Nqutu), Pre-schools with teachers trained by TREE (near Nkandla) and community gardens and other small business ventures overseen by ACAT (Nqutu area.)

Handcrafts at the eGubaze ACAT group


There was time for some relaxation and historical site visits too, including Anglo Boer war battle sites at Spion Kop, Ladysmith and Talana, plus Anglo Zulu war battle sites at Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana, where we had the bonus of seeing the WowZulu coffee shop and museum shop which Helwel has supported.


Enormous thanks go to Gavin and Betty Wiseman from Eshowe, long-time friends of Helwel, who accompanied us for three days and regaled us with battle stories from the past.

The garden of the Siyenza ACAT group

At the KwaNzimela Diocesan Centre

A night at KwaNzimela Diocesan Conference Centre is a regular feature of our visits. We were delighted to find it very well used and with improved facilities. Unfortunately, our old friends Rev Cyprian Mncwango and his wife Boni were unable to join us because of a family funeral but we had the pleasure of meeting Cyprian's son Vezi and some of the sisters from the convent.


We all enjoyed the beautiful drive down to Eshowe where the wonderful Wisemans were our hosts. We were warmly welcomed at the Cathedral service on Sunday morning but all too soon the group part of the trip was over. Four stayed on in KwaZulu to enjoy the game reserves and nine flew on to the Port Elizabeth for holiday adventures in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces.

Helwel Hike - Wye Valley
June 2018


Helwel supporters did a most enjoyable hike in the Wye Valley to raise money for fencing to protect crops in the rural areas of KwaZulu Natal.

Maisemore gig 2017

A very good evening was had by all at Maisemore, Gloucestershire on 30th September. Za Ellis had some Zulu friends to join us and with their help we had a go at singing "Shosholoza" - here's Bill Foster leading the Band for their rendition of some classic dance tunes and songs.

Mike Ellis did a brilliant job as auctioneer of an original painting of Madiba which he and Za very kindly donated to raise money for Helwel Trust.

We're not sure whether expenditure of calories on the dance floor exceeded the intake from all the good food, but it would have been a close call! Many thanks to Mike and Za for arranging the Dinner and dance event. We will update you all when the funds have been counted!

Helwel Hike - September 2017


More than thirty Helwel supporters and six dogs had a most enjoyable hike on Dartmoor at the beginning of September, blessed by fine weather and nourished by a good lunch in the New Inn at Widdecombe. It was wonderful to have children and also new supporters from nearby parts of Devon.

We will have raised about £2,000 in sponsorship to purchase toys and educational equipment for the creche at the Ukhanye Community Care Centre near Nqutu and Isandlwana in rural KwaZulu Natal.

Fundraising news 2017

On 23rd April Lisa Mills ran her first marathon in London for Helwel Trust. It was a perfect cool but bright day for runners and spectators alike, and Lisa enjoyed every minute of the 26.2 mile route around London's great landmarks, starting and finishing with a smile! So far Lisa's marathon has raised just over £2,000 and there is still time to donate at

On 16th April John Sharp (7), inspired by his trip to TREE pre-schools in South Africa last October, undertook a heroic 44mile sponsored cycle ride at The Devon Dirt Bicycle Event. John is raising funds to train another pre-school teacher (£1000 raised to date!) and you can show your support at

Visit to UKhanye (UCCC) by Carolyn and Howard Mowbray - March 2017

Our friends at UKhanye Community Care Centre were delighted to welcome us, only five months after the group visit in 2016. We were on holiday in South Africa which is rather like a second home country for us as we lived there between 1969 and 1975, at the Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital at Nqutu and in Nongoma.

An additional building donated by Corobricks is well used for the new creche and the feeding of the 80 or so orphans and vulnerable children. Both buildings are well used for activities for the elderly, a farmers' association, a well baby clinic with immunisations and by the church. And there are plans for a youth club. Helwel has recently paid for new VIP toilets, computer for the office, deep freeze, safe, water tank, fencing and other garden equipment. We do not pay any salaries. Everyone there and here are volunteers.

Helwel also supports the two year training of Nompilo Magubane, the teacher in the crèche, so it was particularly good to see her with 30 pre-school children having their lunch, supplied with funding from KFC and some vegetables from the Mothers Union garden. We were concerned by the lack of toys in the creche so this will be the focus of fundraising for our next sponsored hike in September.

Let us pass on a quote from our visit:
"Other donors come and go but Helwel Trust is unique in the length of its commitment and friendship"

Cyprian and Boni Mncwango with Carolyn
at the uMgungundlovu Monument in
the Valley of the Ancient Zulu Kings

The crèche at Ukhanye, near
St Augustine's, Nqutu area

The senior staff of Ukhanye with Howard and
Carolyn outside the Barker Memorial building

Howard with Gavin and Betty Wiseman and
daughter Ruth, long-term friends, supporters
and hosts of Helwel at their house in Eshowe

An exciting families and friends group visit to KwaZulu - October 2016

Thirteen Helwel Trust supporters, including four children, had a wonderful and informative two week visit to Zululand in October to visit the projects we support through our partner charities. The photos are representative of what they saw. Africa Ignite is a new partnership for us. It includes "Wow Zulu", an enterprise selling handcrafts to tourists at Isandlwana and also Dundee Action Desk where young people run an embryonic citizens' advice bureau.

The Creches which were visited were all in the deprived Nkandla area. Helwel has paid for the training of the pre-school teachers through TREE (Training and Resources in Early Education). In the Nqutu area it was a particular thrill to see the new Toy Library, joint funded by us with Breadline Africa. This is already well used and looks very attractive. Thembi Ndondo, well known to us from previous group visits, is the Field Officer for ACAT (Africa Co-operative Action Trust) in the Nqutu area. He took the group to see vegetable gardens and small business enterprises which have been launched from the "platform" of groups of 5 people trained by ACAT in these poor rural communities - "G5s".

Drought is currently a major problem. It is always a highlight to visit our UKhanye friends at the settlement of Ngonini near Nqutu where we support community care, particularly of the AIDS orphans. The Barker building, funded initially by Helwel from the Anthony and Maggie Barker legacy, continues to be improved by our funding. The local firm Corobricks has recently erected an additional building for the feeding scheme.

A stay at the Diocesan Conference Centre at KwaNzimela enabled the visitors to meet up with Rev Cyprian Mncwango and his wife Boni who had been our guests in the UK last year. The nuns of the Convent of the Holy Name were also delighted to be visited. The Sharp family went on to see again the pre-school at Ntambanana, named and funded in memory of their dear Chloe. Of course, there were plenty of holiday opportunities along the way and the children were never bored. Game reserves, Shaka-Land and the Indian ocean were visited. The Wiseman family in Eshowe were generous hosts as usual and hosted a meeting with Bishop Monument.

The visit of Cyprian and Boni Mncwango to the UK, June - July 2015

Retired Head Teacher and non-stipendiary priest Cyprian Mncwango and his wife Bonisile visited the UK for 3 weeks this summer. Their visit was a great success in every way, reviving old friendships and links and forging new ones. Cyprian was on the Board of Helwel in Zululand in past years and has recently been to see both old and new Helwel-related projects. Addressing supporters who came on the annual Helwel Hike, he gave an inspiring and upbeat assessment of what we have achieved over 40 years.

Their visit started with a week with Howard and Carolyn Mowbray near Fareham, followed by stays of several days with Andrew and Tessa Pemberton near Stroud, Liz and Owen Williams near Monmouth, and David and Katherine May near Shrewsbury. Then there was a visit to the Diocese of Carlisle which is linked with the Diocese of Zululand, staying in the Bishop's house in Keswick. Cyprian is chaplain to the nuns of the Convent of the Holy Name at KwaMagwaza in Zululand so they were welcomed next at the Mother House in Derby. Finally, on to London to stay with Catherine Budgett-Meakin for some sight-seeing and the Helwel Hike on Hampstead Heath.

Helwel Hike 2015

The Helwel Hike on July 11th on Hampstead Heath was a very special event as Cyprian and Bonisile Mncwango from Ulundi in KwaZulu Natal were with us at the end of their three week visit to the UK. We started with a sandwich lunch in the rooms of the HIghgate Society, accompanied by a powerpoint presentation by Catherine Budgett-Meakin's neighbour, Richard Webber, about the Heath and its history. Then we caught a bus to the start of the walk, so beautiful on that hot sunny day, expertly led by Richard. Back in Highgate we found that some more "old friends" had arrived so the enthusiastic reunions continued over tea and cakes. Finally, and very fittingly, Cyprian spoke movingly about the "Seeds" that Helwel Trust has planted in Zululand over the past 39 years. There have been some that fell on stony ground but most have grown and flowered, some in unexpected ways and places. He praised us for our efforts, loyalty and determination. A fuller version of his talk will be in the Next Helwel Newsletter.

The Hike raised money for the provision of a new Container "Toy Library", more accurately described as an "Early Years Resource Library" which will be sited near a TREE pre-school at Nkandla. We are very hopeful of obtaining joint funding for it with Breadline Africa, thanks to links forged by Helwel supporter Claire Brisby.

Leo and Pauline Aylen's visit to KwaZulu Natal, August 2014

Long-term Helwel members Leo and Pauline Aylen visited South Africa in August 2014. They were able to see several of the projects which we support. They saw the tragedy of the poverty and AIDS stricken rural areas but also the warm hospitality of the Zulu people. Leo's father was Bishop of Zululand so he has many associations with the area. These can be experienced in his poetry. Some of Leo's photos can be seen on the Gallery page.

Helwel Hike 2014

The Helwel Hike took place in Dorset on June 14th, following the Lawrence of Arabia Trail from the Bovington Tank Museum. The weather was perfect and the walk suited most people in that it easily allowed people to come for part of the time. The "Lawrence of Arabia trail" gave a lot of added interest, and visiting TE Lawrence's grave at Moreton and his cottage at Cloud's Hill. Moreton church had magnificent windows etched by Lawrence Whistler. We got into the church just in advance of a wedding and were delighted that a volunteer guide could tell us all about it.

37 supporters of all ages plus 7 dogs joined in the hike

Helwel Gig 2014

A good time was had by all at the Helwel Gig in Gloucestershire on 26th April. £850 was raised, and a few calories lost in the dancing!

Bill and Justine Foster made it all possible. The village hall bar staff could be seen boogy-ing behind the bar and want us to come again.

A big thank you to Bill and the other members of Mal Practice and the Sick Notes, who did a great job (and enjoyed themselves!).


South Africa 2014

Twelve supporters of Helwel Trust visited our partner projects, TREE, ACAT and Ukhanye in KwaZulu Natal in February 2014.

A most productive, instructive and enjoyable time was had. You will be able to read all about it in the Newsletter soon.

Part 1 | Part 2

The Grizzly

On 9th March 2014 Cathie and Adrian Lowe ran the Grizzly fell race in Devon. This involved 20 miles of shingle beach, steep cliff paths and endless amounts of bog. They did this partly because they enjoy running but also in memory of their dear friend, Russ Sharp. They were out with Russ on Dartmoor when he collapsed and died. Cathie's last words to him were promising to run the Grizzly. Russ had been closely involved with Helwel for many years. So far they have raised over £400 for Helwel.

Catherine and Adrian Lowe ran
the Grizzly to support Helwel

Bournemouth Marathon 2013

Sally Walker missed out on running the the Bournemouth half marathon in
October due to a bad dose of flu. Instead, Sally did her own version of the
run in November, from Sandbanks to Southbourne and back, following the
lovely curved route along the gorgeous promenade of the Bournemouth


Well done on raising £777 for Helwel Trust, supported by Chris (on rollarbades) and Ewan (in his pushchair)!

Helwel Hike 2013

I confess to being a little daunted when I learnt that we'd picked the same weekend for our annual hike as the Silverstone Formula 1 Grand Prix with its start venue only about three miles away! However, I was committed to do my bit to raise much needed funds for ACAT's adult educational materials, so there was no backing out!

We left there and walked the short distance to Weston Hall, the home of the Sitwell family, where we were supplied with sandwiches which we ate in the drawing room looked on by portraits of earlier members of the Sitwell family. After lunch George, the great nephew of Edith Sitwell, gave us a fascinating conducted tour of his family home and then provided us with tea and cake before waving us off on our return journey across fields to Claire and John's home … and yet more tea and cake!

I need not have worried, and what a wonderful day we had. Our hosts Claire and John Brisby laid on a wonderful day of walking over gentle undulating countryside steeped in history, past a castellated gatehouse, to the redundant church of St John the Baptist, Plumpton. Although officially redundant, it is beautifully cared for by a group of Trustees who also ensure that there are services held there at all the major festivals.

Besides all the interesting things we saw, it was the walk and talk that was, as ever, such a wonderful part of the day. It is always so good to meet up with friends some of whom we rarely see. We don't yet know how much money was raised to purchase educational materials for ACAT but we certainly had a very good day. Thank you Claire and John for all that you gave us.

Liz Sharp

We are sad to record the death of
Sir Patrick Nairne, Sponsor of Helwel Trust

Sir Patrick has been a Sponsor of Helwel Trust giving us support from the earliest days of our Trust. It was italic writing that led to a strong friendship with our founders Anthony and Maggie Barker, Sir Patrick having been chairman of the Italic Writing Society.

The war interrupted his Oxford studies and he served in the army in North Africa, Italy and France. His distinguished front-line involvement led to the award of the Military Cross. Resuming his studies after the war he gained a first class history degree which gave him entry to the civil service. For many years he held extremely senior positions in the Ministry of Defence before moving to a key role in the Cabinet Office. From there he was asked to be head of the huge conglomerate Department of Health and Social Security as the Permanent Secretary.

Knighted GCB on retirement in 1981, he then became Master of St Catherine's College, Oxford. He was also invited to become a member of the Privy Council and Chancellor of Essex University. In a very active "retirement" he participated in, or headed, many other distinguished councils and organisations which reflected respect for his wide knowledge and experience. He loved art, particularly watercolour, and exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Sir Patrick Nairne, GCB,MC,
born 15th August 1921,
died 4th June 2013.

Full obituaries in The Times,
The Telegraph and The Guardian

Presentation to Howard Mowbray by our
incoming Chairman, Andrew Pemberton

Africa Calling 2012    £ 23,000 raised for Helwel!

An amazing evening was spent at the extraordinary venue of the Shaka Zulu Restaurant and Lounge in Camden on the 19th November. Our long time supporter Claire Brisby came together with Louise Seligman of Breadline Africa and the Rhodes University Trust to host a fundraising evening so that the three charities would benefit equally from the money raised.

A Silent Auction of prestigious donated items and a raffle plus donations from those unable to attend all contributed to the hugely impressive total sum raised. Siyabonga kakhulu Claire!!

Helwel Trust was well represented amongst the 450 people who came to enjoy the African food, music and ambience.

The advice to "dress for Africa" set the tone for whacky experience of being surrounded by giant-sized African figures and walls of carved wooden animals. Even the wash basins were "crocodile skin"!

Helwel Hike 2012

A brave bishop and a bamboo cross link Cambridge with Zululand

This year the intrepid Helwel hikers followed in the footsteps of Charles Mackenzie who, when chaplain to Gonville and Caius College, walked each Sunday to assist the elderly curate in Haslingfield. Later, inspired by David Livingstone, he went to Africa and became Bishop of Malawi in 1860. Tragically he succumbed within six months to malaria but in his memory his sister gave the family fortune to the Archbishop of Cape Town to found the Diocese of Zululand.

The round trip of over 10 miles was generously sponsored by friends of Helwel so that we have raised over £2600 towards fencing of vegetable plots in Zululand.

Our struggle was against only the wind to our lunch at the pub in Haslingfield from where we went on to the church to see the fine stained glass window dedicated to Bishop MacKenzie. There we saw depicted the bamboo cross that David Livingstone placed on his grave and which now forms part of the badge of the Diocese of Zululand.

Lizzy and Rob Rhodes drive 1000 miles from John o' Groats to
Lands End in a vintage Austin 7 raising funds for Helwel Trust

Lizzy writes on her donation website -

"Last year,my husband Rob asked me to join him on an epic journey - to be his co-driver from John O Groats to Lands End in an 82 year old 1930's Austin 7 with no roof, doors or windscreen wipers! I agreed to it , but wanted to raise money for a good cause at the same time, as I think it'll be one of the most challenging things I've done!

As many of you know, I grew up in South Africa, and having been back there for our honeymoon last Christmas, it reignited the love I have for it. We grew up in a liberal community, my parents and their friends fighting against the regime that existed. It was awesome to return and see the progress the country has made. Yet nearly a quarter of the population are unemployed, and the poverty in many areas is still heartbreaking and concerning. I've learnt recently what superb community development work The Helwel Trust have done and are doing in rural areas of Kwa Zulu Natal."

Afterwards Lizzy says -

"Well, I knew it would be hard, hence the sponsorship, but my's a long way....! We're both dead chuffed to have completed the challenge though and have a new list of places we'd like to visit - mainly in Scotland and Cornwall...! So we started on Easter Saturday morning, leaving a rather grey, dull and cold John O' Groats around 10am. The hood remained down for the next 2 days despite on and off drizzle - our longest day was the second when we travelled from Pitlochry to Wigan - 283 miles - leaving Pitlochry at 9am and arriving in Wigan at 10pm....! We got to Lands End on Tuesday at 6.50pm, and then spent Wednesday morning welcoming in a few more cars, and driving back home to Bridport. There were no major car issues - in fact, we were both super impressed with how well the little car went - quite amazing really!"

Registered with the Charity Commission (Reg. number 271713 )