The Valley Trust, situated in the picturesque Valley of the Thousand Hills, near Durban, is the brain-child of medical practitioner Dr Halley Stott.
He observed that patients from rural areas were frequently admitted to hospital with illnesses related to poor nutrition. They would spend time in hospital and apparently be cured, only to be re-admitted after some time with the same symptoms. He recognized that, unless the communities were well informed to enable them to take responsibility for their own health, no significant change would occur.
The principles of his thinking were “the avoidance of all forms of imposition or interference in the lives of the people, particularly their institutions, such as the indigenous ‘medicine’ men and women; the avoidance of short-term measures of expediency which could stultify human initiative and resourcefulness; the encouragement of the use of available local human and environmental resources; and the encouragement of community participation and involvement in the development of the experiment as a whole”.
He identified a rural area in what was then known as a “Native Reserve”. It had an estimated population of 35 000 people. He proceeded to establish a multi-disciplinary programme of health promotion, primarily through organic agriculture, improved nutrition, and a strong emphasis on self-help.
His community entry was through the establishment of the Health Centre in 1951. It enabled him to establish a relationship with the local communities through the provision of health services. A district nursing service was introduced utilizing home visits by qualified nursing sisters, to ensure that the medication was being followed, and to identify and address factors in the home environment that contributed to poor health.
The Valley Trust, a non-profit organization, was established in 1953 to provide independence for the work of the project. Various interventions were established, such as a demonstration vegetable garden, a food preparation unit to encourage correct cooking practices, a home produce market, a maize grinding mill, and recreational facilities, all of which were designed to address life-style deficiencies, which Dr Stott believed were at the root of malnutrition. A referral system, whereby patients from the clinic were referred to The Valley Trust for agricultural and nutritional advice and assistance, was introduced. This rapidly led to outreach activities into the reserve to assist with the establishment of home vegetable gardens and health promotion.
Over the sixty years of its existence, The Valley Trust has been able to expand its range of activities. It is currently engaged in a wide range of community development projects designed to improve the health of the community through facilitation of the realization of the potential of the communities.