Introducing the Eden Alternative to South Africa

May 31, 2011
Kavan Peterson, Editor,

Rayne Stroebel with the oldest resident at Emseni

June Burgess, Regional Coordinator of Eden Alternative UK & Ireland and Eden Mentor and Trainer Paul Bailey submitted this guest post documenting their recent journey to introduce the Eden Alternative to South Africa:


Our trip South Africa was a terrific experience. We met so many wonderful and enthusiastic people from those living in poor rural areas to those much more affluent in the main cities. In the nine working days we were there we did ten 3-4 hour workshops and nine 1-1.5 hour presentations, speaking in total to around 500 staff, managers and board members of host organisations and other invited providers of long term care. Some participants travelled several hours and long distances to attend the workshops. Most of the workshops went really well with just a few having a little less energy, often because of the language difficulty. English is well understood by those whose first language is Afrikaans but responding in English was not always easy for them and the workshops were designed to be interactive. Only on one occasion did we need an interpreter and that was for a home where Zulu was the first language of the care staff who made up most of the audience and English was poorly understood.

Travelling from venue to venue we saw some amazing country and some very different dwellings. From the round huts and self constructed buildings in the rural areas to the guarded and gated communities in the towns and cities. The trip, all by car, took us from Johannesburg to Pretoria then on to Rorke’s Drift in the middle of Kwazulu Natal. The two homes we visited here were by several orders of magnitude poorer than those in the cities; unreliable water and electricity supply for a start. Residents were helping in the home and in the garden and those with dementia free where to roam unrestricted within the compound. The residents were no less happy with their lot than the ones we met in the big homes, and in some cases were a lot more relaxed and content. You could say that by having very little but the milk of human kindness that the Eden Alternative philosophy was very much in evidence here. We were totally humbled by this experience.

Homes in the Transkei

From Rorke’s Drift we went to Pietermaritzburg and on to Durban where we had the luxury of two nights in the same bed. Saturday morning we drove into Transkei and stayed overnight at Mbotyi, a tiny place on the coast at the end of a dirt road. Sunday, we were off to East London. From East London we went to Port Elizabeth, Knysna, George and finally Cape Town stopping at each place for a workshop followed by a presentation to the board and CEOs of the host organisations. Throughout the trip we were looked after very well. The long trips in the car were wearing, but unavoidable, given what we were trying to achieve. All up we travelled 3,160 kms. We think that our hosts must also have been happy with the way it went as we are planning to return in November for a series of three day Eden Associate courses.

June Burgess, Rayne Stroebel, Margie van Zyl and Paul Bailey

Our hosts during the trip were Rayne Stroebel and Margie van Zyl. Rayne is the CEO of Geratec, a company he started 15 years ago. Initially Geratec supplied food to nursing and residential homes but being a very enterprising person and sensitive to the needs of the elderly Rayne realized the connection between good diet and wellbeing. Wellbeing became all important and the company developed by employing nursing, and occupational staff as well as dietitians to assist their customers to deliver services intended to increase the wellbeing of residents. Geratec is now providing a full range of services to its clients. Rayne has been providing seminars on person centred care with his staff and others across South Africa. The Eden Alterative for him was a natural progression and he has been warming the soil for the past few years and particularly since becoming an Eden Associate last year. Margie has a national and an international reputation for advancing homes and services for the elderly and has recently joined Geratec. She is a IAHSA board member. Together they make a formidable couple to introduce the Eden Alternative philosophy into South Africa. Margie will become an Eden Associate in November and under Rayne’s tutelage help with the training.

We were able to observe Rayne’s presentation style as he presented some of the business case presentations and in his participation in the workshops. He has the passion and the emerging knowledge of how to carry the Eden Alternative forward in South Africa with the added advantage of speaking and understanding two major languages. He has already translated all his Eden training material has into Afrikaans. We wish him well in his journey and will be there to support him for as long as he needs us.


Visit the Eden Alternative Facebook Group for more photos from June and Paul’s trip to South Africa.


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3 Comments. Leave new

We met at the Pretoria Eden Alternative Introduction earlier this year and I believe a course is on the cards soon.
Please may we also have the info as we would really like to attend.

Esmarie Venier
Resthill Elderly Care


Hello, My SIL in Australia has just told me about the Eden Alternative — she is being trained there. I would like to know if anything is going on in Cape Town. I was visiting an old lady with Alzheimer’s in an old age home here. I had to stop because every time I went, I would be upset for weeks and have nightmares, the conditions are so horrendous. Recently she has been complaining to her daughter overseas that she is cold right now, but it’s hopeless giving her warm clothes, warm blankets, etc. because the “staff” steal everything. The management know it is going on, but say they don’t know what to do. I think this problem is unique to South Africa, so the challenge here is even greater. Anyway, if there are any old-age homes in Cape Town showing any interest in the “Eden Alternative” it would be good to know about them. Thanks!

Christa van der Walt
August 19, 2012 3:12 pm

I would also like to know if there are any initiatives in the Cape Town area? I visited Resthill (outside Centurion) this week and was inspired by this alternative approach to care for the elderly. Particularly since the rest of the week was spent in conventional centres which looked more like hospitals than care centres. I really think this approach should be advertised more vigorously.



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