The Story

The story of Rainbows

Rainbows came to be when the founder realized, through personal experience, that when children are most in need of emotional support, their families are also grieving and are often incapable of providing the necessary assistance.

Approximately 36 years ago, Suzy Yehl Marta and her husband got divorced. To help her cope and make sense of it all, she attended breakaway weekends for divorced people. After one such breakaway she was stunned when upon her return, her son asked her if there were any such programmes for children. He explained that he could see that she was doing better but he was finding it very hard to come to grips with the changes in his family life.

Suzy got ‘rolling’ and with the assistance and support from religious and psychology experts she soon arranged the first breakaway for children whose parents are getting divorced. However, Suzy soon realized that children need assistance to cope with all kinds of loss and the programmes expanded to include dealing with death, incarceration, deployment, and many more. Within 3 years after inception, Rainbows had assisted over 800 children and was well on its way to becoming one of the biggest organizations of its kind in the USA.

Today more than 3 million children in over 18 countries have benefited from Rainbows’ intervention in their lives. The assistance provided by them to the people in Japan after the tsunami is proof of Rainbows’ growing global footprint.

The Rainbows concept is very simple, yet extremely effective. Rainbows does not replace counseling. It provides training and curricula that enable volunteers to establish peer support groups for children. These support groups provide the children with an opportunity to share and resolve their feelings in a positive and safe environment.

The programmes help children deal with their pain in a ‘healthy’ way to restore their emotional balance and wellbeing. Furthermore, the programmes are reviewed regularly and underwritten by various Universities worldwide. But most important of all … no child or their family may be charged in any way to participate, benefit or receive the help they need from Rainbows.

For more information on Rainbows International visit

Who is in charge of it all?

Dr Willie Strydom is the National Director for Rainbows South Africa. He has been a minister of religion for 25 years and ran a counseling center, Kairos Counseling Services, since 1993.

He obtained his Ddiac (Play Therapy) with the thesis: “Pastoral care to traumatised children in the Intensive Care Unit: A Gestalt Approach”, making him uniquely qualified to take on the role of CEO for Rainbows South Africa.

Willie Stydom vets and trains all volunteers; oversees the setting up of sites and provides administrative support to all. He is also the only person qualified and certified by Rainbows International to train Rainbows coordinators and drive funding initiatives for Rainbows in South Africa.

A governing board assists Willie in the smooth running of Rainbows and to ensure that all the doings comply with the legislation. For more information please read Rainbows SA’s Manifesto.

Click here to download our Manifesto.