We are Happy. We are Thankful. We are Family.

On the 15th of May, around the globe, we celebrate International Day of Families, a day in which one reflects on the importance of families, people, societies as well as culture. This year's theme focuses on “Families and inclusive societies”. This rings true to our values here at Thembalitsha, we are a family of all shapes and sizes, we have no boundaries or limitations, and as a family, our collective intention is to restore hope, offer a hand up rather than a handout and transform the lives of those we serve.

This year we wish to honour and celebrate an incredible family within the foundation. They are best described as loving, caring and fun. If you haven't had the privilege of spending some time with them, you are most certainly missing out, because they are truly awesome!  If you haven't guessed it already, we are talking about the Erwin family.

When asked what family means to them, Susie’s response embodied her families true being; that family is everything, it is one’s place of sanctuary, a safe haven where one lives life to the fullest. There are good days, bad days, squabbles and peace yet in the midst of it all there is unconditional love. Family in its simplistic term is what you are born into, but for the Erwins, there is a broader scope. Their family has grown and the boundaries of this word have no limit; those they love and cherish back home in Texas as well as the new relationships they have built in South Africa, both in church and through the projects. They have learnt so much from those they surround themselves with and have opened their hearts to others, that their circle has grown into such a diverse group and created this internal bond that defies the natural blood relationships of family because, in the end, it is so much bigger than that.

In 2009, Susie was introduced to Thembalitsha when she came out on a church mission trip. From the moment she arrived in South Africa, she felt something within her come alive for the first time. She had been specifically involved in the Grabouw area with ThembaCare Grabouw and Village of Hope, and left South Africa knowing there was so much more to it, and that she wished to share with the rest of her family. This, of course, was not her first and only visit, there had been numerous occasions, but in 2016, Susie returned with 3 of her children, who all wanted to be a part of Thembalitsha because of all they had experienced and loved.

We sat down with Erwin's and asked them some questions, this is what they had to say!
Who are we?
We are a missionary family from Texas, there are 5 of us, but 4 of us are here in South Africa.
- Susie, mother
- Alyssa, daughter
- James and John, twin brothers

Words that best describe the Erwins
Loving, caring and fun.
We laugh together, a lot and we love big
We tell people all the time, we'd rather be driven crazy by our family than kept sane by anybody else.

Pet peeves
This is what the boys had to say:
  • The constant cleaning from Mom and Alyssa getting ready. 
This is what the ladies had to say:
  • Their constant time playing Playstation and their dirty room, to which they claim is simply organised chaos.
When asked what they miss most about Texas.
The boys really miss Mexican food, it really just isn’t the same in South Africa, but we did advise them on a few Mexican favourites in the Cape Town area which they are now determined to try. Of course one misses all things food and good about Texas, but amongst the most important is their eldest sister, family, friends and their church community.

Family traditions
Most are at Thanksgiving and Christmas time. Thanksgiving consists of watching the Thanksgiving day parade, the football game and eating as much as they want in the feast that follows. Each and every year they go the Candlelight service at Christmas, then at home they get comfy in their pj’s with hot chocolate and gather to read the Christmas story, watch Charlie Browns Christmas and thereafter get to open one Christmas present that evening and the next morning they can open the rest once everybody has woken up.

Favourite family activities
Being out in nature as they are so spoilt for choice with the incredible combination of both mountains and sea, not to mention the flora and fauna. They enjoy hikes up the Helderberg mountain or Lion’s head; seeing their surroundings up high from 360° and spend the day on Pringle Bay beach. For Susie, the mountains are her favourite with how they change with the clouds and the sun and how they just come alive.

Cultural adjustments
Of course Texas and South Africa are worlds apart, but the family as a whole decided to limit comparisons, be all in, embrace and adapt. There are of course cultural differences which they needed to get used to in figuring out the taxis, goats roaming the N2, various languages and the way certain things are approached, but they learnt to adapt and find humour within it, because…Africa. This isn’t a condemnation, it’s simply their way of embracing it all because it is part of South Africa’s culture.

They’re a family that don’t feel the need of fame or to have their name put up in lights is not what it is all about. They just want to know they have made a difference and been involved in changing the communities for the better and with the children, seeing progression and an improvement in one’s quality of life. Susie knows that in some point in time they might all be in different parts of the world, but they will continue the work they are doing.  


From the bottom of her hearts, we are so thankful to the Erwin family, for all they have done and for all they will continue to do. We have seen the way in which they have connected with the lives we serve and this has been such a joy. Today, we celebrate the Erwin family, and although we know they don’t like the attention, glitz and glam, we think they are extraordinary, and having a day to honour them sounds just about right!

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