BEFSA co-founder receives MBE

Catherine Borien –co founder and long standing trustee of BEFSA – received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List (2017) for services to schools in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

After retiring from a highly successful teaching career, Catherine has worked tirelessly to improve the lives and life chances of South African children and rural women who live in one of the poorest areas of South Africa.

Above all Catherine has been truly effective in bringing people together wherever they might be in the UK and South Africa. Her selfless approach to working with others, be it in organising fundraising, managing communication between two countries or providing support and advice over the everyday problems faced by schools and by women endeavouring to start new micro businesses are the reasons why she was nominated for and received her MBE.

To all this work, Catherine has brought an indefatigable energy, great good humour and an unquenchable optimism.  She has provided encouragement and challenge to school staff, acted as mentor and sometimes surrogate parent to young volunteers on placement in the Eastern Cape and filled the roles of secretary, treasurer and fundraiser.

This long-term voluntary service has entailed sacrifice and commitment on her part. Through Catherine’s efforts the lives of many South Africans – young and old – have improved. Her work has also done much to enhance the understanding of students and teachers working in UK schools around the global citizenship themes of human rights, sustainable living and social injustice.

To have achieved so much in the last 11 years with limited financial resources is an extraordinary achievement, which wholly deserves the recognition she has received.

All of us at BEFSA are very proud of Catherine’s achievements.

We congratulate her on her prestigious award which is so richly deserved.


Masambe women tell their story

70% of the population in the Amathole District live below the poverty line, according to the Integrated Development Plan Review for 2008/09. The situation is aggravated further by low levels of productivity amongst those who are in employment, low levels of literacy and high crime rates. Unemployment rates in the rural areas are high, being at or above70 %.

In areas where the majority of the households are headed by women, BEFSA’s focus has been on working with and empowering disadvantaged women to support their families and the community at large. Through the professional advice and support provided by a UK microcredit specialist and through the expertise held by our project worker, BEFSA has been able to help many women to start and sustain new businesses.


The messages which follow are from some of the women in the current Masambe Programme. They were compiled by Cynthia Mancotywa, BEFSA’s project worker in April 2017.

Philiswa sells frozen meat and soft drinks in her local village. She says, “Please tell BEFSA not to ever leave us. Instead, we are prepared to recruit other women to come and join us in our village.”

Thembakazi sells sweets, crisps and biscuits. She says, “Thank you Masambe, without you I wouldn’t have managed all this. Ever since I joined Masambe all things are possible for me.”

Mhiza sells meat and tracksuits. She says, “Please tell them we love them and we still need them in our lives. There are so many villages that want Masambe and we wish they could get more funding for the people of South Africa, especially this part of the country where it is filled with [people] who do not care about the well-being of poor communities.”


Nolulamo rears and sells pigs and vegetables. She says, “Thank you for coming to our village because we used to hear about Masambe from far away, and when we were finally members of Masambe we now agree with the people that said Masambe changed their lives for the better. I am even more vocal now and I even stand in front of other people and talk development. My self-esteem has been boosted by Masambe.”

Nomathemba sells chickens. She says, “I wouldn’t afford all this if it were not because of Masambe, and I thank Philiswa for inviting me to come to the first meeting and hear about this programme myself. It’s like a dream but believe you me this time around, it is real. Masambe is putting us to another level of development and this time [no one else is] claiming Masambe … our lives are changing for the better in our homes. Thank you Masambe.”

Pelagia established a day care centre. She says, “Thank you South Africa, especially Masambe women from Ntselamanzi location in Alice for welcoming me with open hearts. I was made one of you without being discriminated [against]. It’s a dream come true, I enjoy especially the meetings where Cynthia always gives positive advice to the daily challenges that we often find ourselves because we lack information. Ever since I joined Masambe I found lots of information which I never knew.”

You can donate to BEFSA to help Masambe women continue their good work.


Our 10 year anniversary


On 28 September 2014 BEFSA’s supporters and friends came together to the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock to help the charity celebrate its 10th anniversary.

As well as being a wonderful opportunity for everyone to celebrate the work of the charity it was also an opportunity for all those involved in the charity to thank the charity’s many friends and supporters for their fantastic support over the preceding 10 years.



Friends from far afield joined us for the event including nine South African teachers who had travelled 6000 miles to be part of this event. They were warmly welcomed by everyone at the event.

There was much singing led by our South African visitors, by the choir from Chesterton Primary school and by Susie Butt.

A special welcome was also given to Her Excellency, Bongiwe Qwabe, the Deputy High Commissioner, to Cllr Anne Purse, the Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council and to Cllr Julian Cooper, the Mayor of Woodstock all of whom gave inspirational speeches on the day.

In his speech Keith Borien, the CEO of BEFSA thanked all those organisations including Oxfordshire County Council and the many schools located all over the country for their friendship and support.



He also thanked the host of individuals who had supported BEFSA in lots of different ways. This group included the 40 volunteers who have worked with the charity in South Africa since 2004. Within this group of volunteers there were teachers, head teachers, senior managers, a nursery nurse, a builder and a vet and a large group of gap year students.

Finally Keith thanked all of BEFSA’s trustees, both in the UK and in South Africa for their unwavering support and concluded by saying that he hoped to see you everyone in another 10 years!