James Gillespies High School


The James Gillespie’s High School Global Citizenship Project

James Gillespie’s South Africa Project aims to provide a substantial link with Zwelibanzi High School in Umlazi township, Durban.  Zwelibanzi is an urban school in KwaZulu-Natal with around 1300 pupils.  JGHS students have been involved in fundraising for a number of projects in Zwelibanzi in recent years and there is now an annual visit by Gillespie’s students and staff to our partner school in Durban so students can see at first hand the projects they support.  This cultural and educational exchange is proving extremely popular with 6th years with approximately 70 visiting South Africa in February 2009 and around 100 signed up for next year.  Some teachers and students from Zwelibanzi have also been able to travel to Edinburgh to visit us. 

South African Recipes to try at home

2011 South Africa Sponsorship Newsletter

Sponsor a Pupil in Zwelibanzi, South Africa.................!
Help by sponsoring a pupil in our partner school Zwelibanzi High School S.A. Through Gift Aid we are able to increase your sponsorship by 28p in the pound. Click below to download a word file to print and return to JGHS.
Zwelibanzi Pupil Sponsor Form >

JGHS / Zwelibanzi 2009

'we left as a year in parts and came back as a whole'

The Benefits of Global Citizenship

James Gillespie's link with Zwelibanzi School is a model for others to follow, enriching young people in Edinburgh and in South Africa for more than a decade.  Desmond Tutu


In an ever shrinking world we are all global citizens and this valuable link is of huge benefit to our young people.  The global citizenship programme:

  • provides an opportunity for students to explore different cultures, reflect on their own attitudes and values, celebrate shared interests and understand differences

  • enables students to link global and local issues and consider their own place in the international community so they can make informed choices about the world’s resources

  • encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning and enhances their personal and professional development, helping them to grow in self-esteem and confidence

  • gives students skills to combat injustice, prejudice and discrimination and to promote social responsibility and cohesive communities

  • shows students they can make a difference

  •  creates lasting friendships

A relationship built on mutual love and respect


'we have made friends in Zwelibanzi that will last forever'

Student Sponsorship

The sponsorship programme is one of the biggest success stories of the partnership with Zwelibanzi.  It is targeted at raising funds to allow the most needy Zwelibanzi students to attend school.  Many families cannot afford to pay for the school fees and uniform which are a requirement for students.

  • So far for this academic year JGHS has raised about £4000 for student sponsorship.  This will increase by another £1000 once the Gift Aid is recouped.

  • The level of support JGHS is giving these young people is acknowledged by the Umlazi community to be of vital importance and many families are actively sending their children to Zwelibanzi to ensure the highest quality of education and the best start in life. 

  •  The recent visit by JGHS staff and students allowed them to meet about 50 of the sponsored Zwelibanzi students. 

“My most vivid memory was finding the girl I had been writing to for the past 5/6 years”

“when we were together the atmosphere was magical”

“we felt equal not like a charity .. we had admiration for each other”

Education is a powerful tool and learning is taken very seriously in South Africa


'I have realised how much we take for granted'

'we must use the education we have'

The Soup Kitchen

The Soup Kitchen was officially opened in February 2008.  JGHS were supported in this venture by the Lodge Abbotsford which donated money to the building of a new room to prepare and serve food to the poorest Zwelibanzi students.  This support came about when one of their members visited the school whilst on a working trip to South Africa. He was so impressed with the young people he reported back to the Lodge which then spent the year raising money for the project. The soup kitchen has made a huge impact on the lives of many of the Zwelibanzi students.

  • It has reduced the truancy rate dramatically – previously some very poor youngsters were just too hungry and weak to attend school.

  • Attainment levels of many students have improved as they now receive some nourishment and can attend classes and concentrate on their studies without falling asleep.

  • It costs around £30-40 to feed a student at the Soup Kitchen for a year

  • There are currently about 150 students who benefit from the daily Soup Kitchen

  • There are still a large number of students who need support from the Soup Kitchen and we hope to be feeding 200 per day in the future

  • Future developments will be to resurface the area outside the Soup Kitchen and erect a canopy so students can sit out of the sun while they eat.


Our latest project is creating a garden ‘Jamesbanzi’ within Zwelibanzi High School to enable students to grow vegetables to help sustain the Soup Kitchen in the future.  Our 6th Year students and their Zwelibanzi buddies were working hard digging the beds for planting during their visit in February.


Umthombo Street Kids

 Thousands of children live on South Africa’s city streets.  The numbers of children on the streets has grown over the last five years and HIV/AIDS is compounding the crisis.  Umthombo, based in Durban, is a voice from the streets. It is a unique South African street children organisation led predominantly by former street children. Umthombo aims to change the way that society perceives and treats street children through educating society as to the realities of the street child experience and through developing and implementing informed, working strategies to address the issue in South African cities. 

  • JGHS has helped equip a safe room for children under threat - SAFESPACE is the first-ever therapeutic drop-in centre for street children in Durban. Based in the Point area of Durban, it operates a range of services and programmes, designed by Umthombo’s team of social workers, that empower children to be able to leave street-life.

  • In February JGHS students performed for the Street Kids at Umthombo and learnt about the project from four former JGHS students who are spending two months volunteering with Umthombo.

  “Rich people are so poor, all they have is money”     Umlazi quote


The Library

Zwelibanzi High School library was built using funds raised by JGHS students and is housed in the James Gillespie’s wing, named in honour of our school.   We have been able to provide security, shelving, a photocopier, TV and video, DVD, a music centre, music CD’s, books and filing cabinets.  Gillespie’s has also helped provide equipment for the Music, Drama, Home Economics, IT and PE departments to enable teaching staff and students to work more effectively.


“You have made a huge difference in our lives.  You brought joy to everyone at Zwelibanzi.  Today we are going to have a high-class library because of your love, kindness and generosity. Thank you for taking Zwelibanzi into your hearts.  Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!! From all of us at Zwelibanzi.”

The Gillespie’s students find their visit to South Africa a challenging, but life-changing experience

Here are just a few of their memories....

  • “The transition from city to township was shocking”
  • “My buddy telling me 3 members of her family had died from AIDS on the same day”
  • “A street child being chased by security with a baton”
  • “Being asked if I knew celebrities”
  • “Getting Zulu homework”
  • “Being called ‘mum’ at Charles Memorial”
  • “My buddy’s arms around me”
  • “Giving and receiving love and friendship”

and what they gained...

  • “A greater sense of perspective”
  • “A sharper focus on what I want to do with my life”
  • “That happiness doesn’t have to be bought”
  • “To judge people on their morals, integrity and kindness and to ignore material possessions”
  • “I know much more about myself as a person ... I am much stronger...I went to pieces but I pulled the pieces back together”

Sharing our cultures

Please click images above and left for more details of
Our South African visitors / the Soweto Choir / Linking Hands for Africa >

The James Gillespie Library, Zwelibanzi High School

I have just returned from a short trip to South Africa. I was invited there to take part in Zwelibanzi High School’s “30 Years of Excellence” celebrations, part of which was to formally open the library which was built using funds raised by our students. This is housed in the James Gillespie’s wing, named in honour of our school.

It was a wonderful trip which also allowed me to set up a food fund using money donated by one of our parents, secure photographs of the sixty young people now being sponsored by parents and staff at JGHS, and to make connections with two other schools, Ogwini H.S. and Hillview P.S. for Gracemount and Sciennes who have agreed to partner them.

I also visited CIDA City Campus, a “free” university for disadvantaged black students and secured a place for a student from Zwelibanzi whom we will sponsor.
I can assure you our project is doing an enormous amount to develop our partner school and is admired greatly by a wide cross section of the S.A. community.
We must sustain it and widen its scope. Thank you to all who have contributed.

In February I will return with members of the School Board and the PTA to meet with the governing body in Umlazi and in April Mrs. Chetty will lead a trip with staff and possibly 30 students to visit, as part of our Enterprise and Citizenship Programme.

Staff and students from Zwelibanzi will visit for “Diversecity” but this year the project widens to include a visit from the Principals of Ogwini and Hillview.
Alex Wallace, Headteacher JGHS
“Live, Love and Learn”


During the Easter Break 9 students, 7 teachers and 1 parent visited Zwelibanzi High School in Umlazi Township, Durban, South Africa.

We took out an enormous amount of donations such as football strips, track suits, recorders, books, pencils, football boots etc. and while we were there we used the £7000 we had raised to do the following:

- for the Music Dept we bought stands, music and instruments

-  for Home Economics we bought a sewing machine, blenders, crockery, cutlery and other basic equipment

- for Drama we bought costumes and props.

- for PE we bought a basketball hoop, a netball hoop, balls, frisbees etc. and we paid for the school to employ a sports coach for two months and set up a sports fund

- for Admin we bought a fax machine, a photocopier and “harassed” the Authority so that they have promised internet connections

- for the Guidance centre we bought a bed and pillow etc. so that sick children have somewhere to rest

- for general equipment we bought CD players, fans and stationery

- for the Library which prior to our visit did not exist we paid for security, shelving, a photocopier, TV and video, DVD, a music centre, music CD’s, books and filing cabinets

- we set up a Student Council and gave it a budget

- for the staff we bought two refrigerators, a microwave, two fans and storage facilities

- we purchased some repair equipment such as a drill

- in Ogwini a nearby comprehensive we set up a fund to enable 20 students from the informal settlements (similar to a shanty town) to attend school for a year

- in Hillview, an Indian and Black Primary we gave enough money for 10 children to do likewise

- we provided enough money for a young African man associated with the school, to receive medical attention for Aids

We also brought 2 staff and 2 students from Zwelibanzi to Diversecity.

The visit was received with an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm and gratitude.  I have copied overleaf a letter from all at Zwelibanzi to all of us and some excerpts from the countless letters we were given.  Our staff and students gained enormously in emotional intelligence, empathy and global awareness.

This project is making a huge difference.  It must continue

Alex Wallace
Head Teacher                

Marie Chetty
DHT, Project Leader

During the past three years Freemasons from the Edinburgh area have contributed £10,000 to the Zwelibanzi Fund. This money has been used for a variety of purposes including facility development.

The latest donation has been given by Lodge Abbotsford which has spent the past year raising money to build a room specifically for the ‘soup kitchen’. A £3,000 cheque was received recently by Mr. Wallace which is more than enough to pay for the building work. Quotations have already been received from Zwelibanzi and they have been given the go ahead to start the work.

It is hoped that the work will be completed by the start of next year when the school returns after their summer holidays.

1. Mr. Wallace with the members of Lodge Abbotsford.

2. Mr. Wallace receiving the cheque from Stuart Clark and Sandy Cleland.


To Everyone at Gillespie’s

Nothing is more important than love and love is strengthened by knowledge.  With love comes growth and prosperity.  Love leads to the death of prejudice and conflict. Love conquers all barriers.  It is love that has built and strengthened the relationship between James Gillespie’s High School and Zwelibanzi.

You have made a huge difference in our lives.  You brought joy to everyone at Zwelibanzi.  We will be eternally grateful to each and everyone attached with James Gillespie’s for every item you bought us.  Today we are going to have a high-class library because of your love, kindness and generosity.  Thank you for taking Zwelibanzi into your hearts.  We will miss every one of you who thought it was noble for him or her to leave his/her family, his/her beautiful country and chose to visit our school.  Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!! From all of us at Zwelibanzi.

I never thought that a white person would sacrifice their money, time, for just people like us.  Thank you.  You are the gift from God all what I believe and what you believe is great.  I learnt that in life you not only have to give but love and cheer all the time.  From every thing you gave us, it’s our duty to take care.  Thank you.

You are the GIVER and we are the RECEIVER and the giving hand is more blessed than the receiving hand, so you are more blessed than us.

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