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Report on Lesley's Visit to South Africa, August 2011
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It may not have been a great idea to have spent most of August in South Africa when the weather was so cold but it was a fruitful visit, inspecting projects, meeting inspiring people, and making decisions for the future.
I was particularly disturbed to hear horrific tales of traffickers who target children for a live source of body parts. Traffickers are getting bolder and are increasingly targeting children in the more populated areas. What happens to these poor children and how they suffer before they die is truly horrendous. The trafficking is almost certainly done to order for a rich family by a Sangoma, or witch doctor, to help cure a family member of something or other. A major cultural change is necessary to eradicate these disgusting crimes because there seems to be a conspiracy of silence in the local townships.
I was also told about a woman who had a baby in hospital alone. She was laughed at during delivery for having no husband and when the baby was 3 hours old she was given her papers and told to go home. She had no money so had to walk, still bleeding, trying to hitchhike to her home 3 days away. A man stopped and gave her a lift but he soon stopped again to push her out of the car. Neither he, nor baby, will be seen again.
We help to start a crèche where there is a real need for a safe haven for small tots very at risk with the idea that eventually they become registered with the authorities, ensuring future funding and sustainability. Initially we fund stipends for staff, training, and some equipment expecting, over time, that local people will join in, help, and take responsibility. Sad to say that one in particular, in north west Limpopo, is still struggling after three years and until a crèche that we have helped start is self-supporting we don’t begin another one in that area. We have the money to open a new crèche in the area but that won’t now happen because the existing crèche we funded is still not registered.
Elsewhere, folk in the crèches where we have funded training – in particular our flagship Caring for Crèches programme - were thrilled to see us and we spent ages listening to their stories, hearing how they enjoyed the training and what they now do differently – including some extremely innovative and interesting community programmes. As ever I was shown many children at many crèches that the ladies think are being badly treated – it is always a very sad progression of little mites.
Life in the townships is as hard as ever. In Tshepesang, children were playing in rubbish strewn open grounds, there were open mines nearby and the air was thick, but the area has employment and some stability. At one crèche they have children as young as 18 months coming in from 5am to 6pm so their mothers can get to work. In another township, Slovoville, I noticed intermittent electricity and only the occasional stand-pipe. At one crèche toilet buckets were emptied onto nearby scrub land because they have no-where else to put the excrement. In both places they referred to the most amazing amount of abuse against the youngest of children in a very laid-back and off-hand sort of way with children left alone for hours. All around me, wherever I went the numbers of 12 and 13 year olds who are raped is awfully high. It is all so casually accepted.
Still, our wonderful programme, Caring for Crèches [C4C], goes from strength to strength providing training for women [and men] in places of safety, and providing skills and knowledge to help the crèche carers identify abuse and protect thousands of young children from abusers.
It was fantastic to see how some of the people we support have developed. Busi, who received one of our bursaries to train as a social auxiliary worker, has received her certificate after three years as a community volunteer and recently 18 months hard work supported by a stipend from us. At the age of 54 she is now qualified and is guaranteed work for the rest of her working life because of a shortage of social workers.
Antje, who runs the Ekupholeni Mental Health and Trauma Centre in Katorus is completely awesome and inspiring. She enthuses all her staff and is forever pushing the boundaries of what is possible whilst working with so many damaged children and adults …. again the numbers are quite shocking.
Happy was a football fanatic with regrettably few employment prospects. In 2006 started doing a bit of coaching in his spare time and now he is now a full-time social auxiliary worker with the local authority and a football coach with the Ghetto Boyz at Ekupholeni – a programme we have supported since 2006. Happy is such an amazing success and such an amazing person….. a role model for all young men. Football, as part of the Ghetto Boyz programme, continues to be a great diversion for some very violent boys and young men most of whom have committed serious crimes. We support this programme to divert likely perpetrators/abusers to another path in life. During the programme, and apart from the football, these teenagers go through very intensive life-skills and group experiences, and so many find a family at Ekupholeni for the first time in their lives – they do find it hard to leave at the end. Happy is an integral and essential part of the programme.
It looks like we’ll be expanding the infant trust within South Africa. We have the funds to get the Caring for Crèches project off the ground in Eastern Cape. I had a good visit there and I am confident things will get moving very soon.
Imisebeyelanga have put in an application to their local newspapers in the area to run an abuse awareness campaign in all grades of schools. It is such a good idea I have said we will match the funds they secure from the newspapers up to a maximum of R20,000 (£1,700) providing they send the community workers into the schools in their bright green T-shirts with our logos!
I had a moment totting up all the training we have funded in South Africa since 2005, and the numbers of trained people and children helped are quite incredible
- nearly eighteen hundred people trained,
- between one hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand children impacted and protected
- more than seven thousand abused children helped.
It has been a cold but very rewarding visit.
the infant trust