Dr Hugo Tempelman. Picture: SUPPLIED
Dr Hugo Tempelman. Picture: SUPPLIED

Tell me about your work at the Ndlovu Care Group (NCG).

It is all based on compassion and to assist to prove that those community members are much richer than we expect: there are raw diamonds who need to be polished and assisted. If you show them excellence, they become excellence. It is all about trust, faith and “help to self-help”.

People want to go forward but often do not know how and where to get the assistance.

The Ndlovu Youth Choir is an example but hundreds of individuals who found their way out of poverty through NCG’s programmes are as successful.

What kinds of health issues do you treat at the clinic?

The Ndlovu Medical Centre, which was started in 1994, treats all medical conditions that come to our place to the best of our capabilities.

We were one of the first community health centres to start an antiretroviral clinic in 2003, directing all services to community level.

Preventative care is better than curative care. You can treat the 20% of the population who are HIV-positive but it is even more important to keep the other 80% negative. That is only reached through community work.

Our slogan — “every Aids patient is a system failure” — still stands. It should have been prevented, found earlier and started treatment earlier.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your work and the manner in which you work?

Completely. We split the clinic into an infectious and noninfectious part. We screen patients coming in by the gate. We are all in protective clothing, have infection control measures in place and are braced to assist, [and] when the Covid-19 storm comes, we want to contribute to public healthcare outcomes in our community.

We adapted our research laboratory and are ready to provide Covid-19 PCR testing as well. We hope to get an international donor on board to assist the health department, National Health Laboratory Service and National Institute for Communicable Diseases with providing testing in our part of Limpopo.

We had to close all our childcare activities and reinvent ourselves to continue to provide life-saving services to the underprivileged families

We have a food parcel programme for more than 2,000 people to whom we deliver food parcels at home, every household screened, and delivery GPS controlled, fully accountable and secured. Food parcels are not a one-off but a two-weekly event. Enormous logistics but very rewarding and humbling.

We are in constant dialogue with all our workers, though at home, and they assist enthusiastically with all activities on the ground.

SA is so excited about the Ndlovu Youth Choir. Tell me about it and how it became a global sensation.

The choir started as a healing and support programme for orphans and vulnerable children and slowly matured into a professional choir because of 10 years’ support by diverse donors and the perseverance of the conductor Ralf Schmitt and all choristers.

After a rehearsal, the conductor went home but the children stayed in the miracle, their “place of safety and joy”,  and continued rehearsing;  if it was the singing or the dancing, it did not matter, they just continued. In 2018 we took the step from childcare programme to youth employment programme.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

Happy. And I finally decided to become a doctor

I was the youngest of nine and the only one who went to university. All my brothers and sisters started a working life after secondary school.

I have always said that I do not want to serve in the developed world where a medical doctor is God and there is little to contribute to. I wanted to work where 60% or more of the population do not have access to proper care

I came to SA to learn and study and never left.

You have been nominated for the Sponsors of Brave campaign. What does this mean for you and the choir? 

It is very humbling to be nominated and I still do not know by whom. It is called the Brave Challenge but when I see the videos of all the other candidates I do not want “to challenge” but to support.

It makes me realise how many beautiful people there are in this country, who altruistically want to contribute — many politicians can learn from those Brave Hearts.