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Global Connections

Margie Van Zyl (left) making Global Connections with Debra Rose (2nd from left), Jan Montague (2nd from right) and Rayne Stroebel of GERATEC (right)

Margie van Zyl, Direct of Strategic Partnerships at GERATEC, gave a presentation on Global Connections made to date at the recent IFA conference in Prague.  

The starting point for the Global Connections began in Trondheim, Norway when Margie met with IAHSA’s former Executive Director, Ginger Nuessle, to set up the country support network through IAHSA.  “We started emailing each other sharing ideas and thoughts” recalls Margie.

Following the IAHSA Conference in London in 2009, partnerships began to develop: Staff visited across countries, donated equipment, and supplied one another with training materials.

At the IFA in Prague, Margie made more connections. She is currently working on linking them to organisations in South Africa.  These programs include computer clubs for senior networks in Australia and South Africa, and a project on hope in long-term care in Canada. 

Then there was Jan Montague, President of Whole-Person Wellness Solutions, Inc. and Dr. Debra Rose, professor of Kinesiology Department and director of the Center for Sucessful Aging at California State University, who came to South Africa on holiday early in July.

Margie asked Jan and Debra if they wouldn consider running a workshop for staff in and around Cape Town. They agreed and about 80 nurses, social workers, carers, administrators attended the presentation on 3rd July 2012. Jan presented on Advancing Whole-Person Wellness and Debra on Fall Risk Reduction as a Pathway to Whole-Person Wellness.

They then went to visit Ekuphumleni, an old age home in KwaZulu Natal, and they were able to see first-hand the struggles of South Africa’s ageing.  Jan returned to the U.S. very committed to speaking to people at home to encourage support abroad.

Another successful connection was with Dan Dixon of Guardian Angels of Elk River, whom Margie met in Washington DC.  Volunteers from Elk River had visited Tanzania to work on an elder care project. Dan and Margie have been exchanging ideas and Dan is now raising funds through Rotary and getting matching grants for this project.

“For me the potential is limitless – it just takes passion and commitment!” says Margie. “It is IAHSA that gives the impetus for such global connections.  Thank you IAHSA!”

The Global Connections Program continues to inspire team work.  We look forward to welcoming new connections and international partnerships this year.


“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
― Mother Teresa

Happy birthday to GERATEC (Gerontological Research Training Education and Caring), a member of IAHSA, which just turned “sweet 16”!

Under the direction of Margaret Van Zyl, Director of Strategic Partnerships at GERATEC and board member of IAHSA, the organization is well on its way to re-model long-term care in South Africa. Using values of integrity, innovation and “person-centered care”, they are transforming under-resourced homes in isolated rural areas, in a land with few resources but a huge heart. 

Margie Van Zyl getting to know the residents at Emseni Old Age Home in rural KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Van Zyl is now working on the formation of the South African Care Forum, a not-for-profit, that will build a reputation for quality and best practice in long-term care.  It will influence policy making; be involved in advocacy and lobbying; become a clearinghouse for information, research and best practice; focus on networking and partnerships; and be involved in encouraging research and product development.

A recent success was the transformation of Ekuphumleni Old Age Home in Gugulethu which went from complete lack of maintenance and absence of progress to organized leadership, community involvement and a functional facility.  With the help of the Department of Social Development, GERATEC created a garden, an Eku Boutique, an interactive lounge and personalized living quarters for the residents.

We are very excited about GERATEC’s latest projects: 

  • The establishment of the Eden Alternative South Africa at the end of last year, with Rayne Stroebel, the Eden Alternative SA Coordinator
  • The development of Huis Ina Rens, the first small Green House in South Africa for people living with dementia
  • The ongoing administration and running of Ekuphumleni that was struggling with exploitation, corruption and lack of care.

Residents at the Emseni old age home at Rorkes Drift in KwaZulu Natal

In the weeks leading up to our 8th International Conference in London, an amazing IAHSA story was unfolding in South Africa.    This is a story about the power of community and the passion that people have for caring for the elderly.    The main characters, who come from totally different worlds, are Judy Martin from ThomsonAdsett in Australia, who leads the Australian SAGE (Studying and Advancing Global Eldercare) delegation study tours and Marigold Mncube from Emseni Old Age Home in Kwa-zulu Natal, South Africa.

Here’s the story, in Judy’s own words from an email she sent out just after ‘finding’ the little remote home in the middle of remote South Africa:

Our son is on a year exchange in South Africa so we are visiting him having a holiday there en route London for the IAHSA conference.  We were out in an area called the Drakensberg Mountains and my husband noticed we were near the battlefields area.  He wanted to drive to a place called “Rorkes Drift” where a major battle had occurred in the 1800’s.  Now Rorkes Drift is not just a little town you ‘drop into”.  It is miles from anywhere and the actual drive to the town is on potholed gravel roads through very remote Zulu tribal lands.  It is literally “in the middle of nothing and nowhere”, all the more amazing we found ourselves heading there.

On arrival at Rorkes Drift, where there were a few old British outstation buildings, run down and well used, a few round Zulu huts and a few other buildings scattered amongst the gravel and paddocks, we realized we had reached our destination..  My daughter and I were walking along a gravel road across one of these paddocks toward our car when we passed two Zulu ladies walking in a field.  They said “Hello, how are you?” in Zulu and we began talking.   One lady asked where we were from, and we returned the question.  She then said she was from a town far away and that she was walking to work.  I said “it’s a very small town here, where do you work?” and she pointed to a little group of buildings up the hill a ways away and said, “I work at the old persons home”. Can you believe that!!!

I then told her I also worked with old peoples homes and she asked if I would like to come and look at the home.  Honestly there was hardly a village for miles and here in the middle of nowhere (with not even a store in the town) was an old aged home.   She showed us around! There were 2 small buildings that is home to 67 residents – mainly homeless people they have found living in the bush, one lady they found living under a tree, another in an old derelict shed.

We walked into main room where there were a crowd of about 30 old persons around a little fire heater.  She told them our names and that we were from Australia.  Our guide then mentioned that they had saved and saved and along with help from their friend ‘Margie’ [Margaret van Zyl, CEO, Pietermaritzburg & District Council for the Care of the Aged], their matron was traveling next week for a trip of a lifetime to  an ageing conference in London to talk about their home.   I could not believe it!!!!!!

I told her I was going to an aged care conference in London next week!!! We swapped names, notes, laughing, hugging and organised that I would meet her ‘matron’ in London should we indeed be at the same place. I said I’d email ……… she told me they have no computer!!!

Emseni are not for profit (obviously) and survives on some government grants, pensions and money they can raise – they are all poorly paid, have NO resources, and are in the middle of nowhere (literally).  They have a new little brick building they have just built, and are very proud of.

It made me think what an amazing place the world is and how it came to be we were at Rorkes Drift and I stumbled across a Aged Persons Home when we were there to see Battlefields?? There had to be a reason why I was led there- I must try to do something for this poor little home in the middle of nowhere.  Now let me think how…………………………………” (I had 3 more hours of pot-holed gravel roads then a long flight from Johannesburg- London to think about it!!)

An IAHSA Story

And that is just what Judy and her Aussie friends did.   Marigold Mncube, Judy and the SAGE group DID finally met at the IAHSA conference, where Marigold presented a poster session, charming everyone with her passion and commitment to care for the poor elderly in rural South Africa.

The Aussie SAGE Delegation decided to ‘adopt’ the Emseni Old Age Home and passed the hat raising almost GBP1000. They are now working out how to make this an ongoing link through both donation and support.

IAHSA would like to build on the opportunity presented by this wonderful story by establishing an IAHSA Global Community Program through which our members can link up to help those who are less fortunate across the International Ageing Network.   If you are interested in being part of this special program, in any way,  let us know at

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

Questions? Email us at


Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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