Report of Lesley's Visit to South Africa, August 2006:
Liz and I visited again in early August expecting snow and hailstones and finding clear blue skies and cold nights – quite a surprise. This time I have put a picture of the type of places we visited at the top as it is difficult, sometimes, for us in comfortable homes, to understand the awful and appalling circumstances in which many people are struggling to survive. These are literally tin shacks, often only around 6ft x 10ft in size and housing maybe 4-6 people. There is no electricity or running water. It gets down to -3C at night. Imagine living like that… but 1,000’s do and live with dignity. Yet this is where children are at their most vulnerable; child-headed families; death of parents due to AIDS; low or no employment; no money for schools; poverty at every turn. This is why we believe so strongly in the support for volunteers and the training of local people to understand and treat child abuse
It was such a good visit; we not only get to meet good friends on each trip, but this time we were able to see some results and impact of your donations.
Epworth Children’s Home
We went first to Epworth to meet Penny, to talk about our supporting their host programme and to drop off Sarah. Sarah? She is a young friend of mine who is at a bit of a loose end until she starts college in the autumn. So she has gone to Epworth as a volunteer for two months. They are thrilled to have her help and she is very excited to take the opportunity to have all these new experiences. As it turns out Epworth are going through some considerable changes so we will return to see if we can help early next year.
This is a new and exciting opportunity for us to help and support a wonderful community based organisation in Khatlehong. The township is the same in which we support Sinakekelwe Thutuzela [crisis centre] and very very poor. Although on the outskirts of Johannesburg it is a rural/urban community of extreme poverty. Khanyisile is a Methodist community service set up to help children and families in the area. Our interest is in the day-care facilities for vulnerable small children – a safe haven in other words.
In the nursery at Khanyisile – unfortunately this little scrap of 10 months old in my arms is dying.
The centre was started by local people with the support of the church and they do three main things:
- Home based care – they take food parcels, visit the sick and identify vulnerable children
- Child care – a safe haven for vulnerable small children all day with two meals, an after school meal and lessons for older vulnerable children
- Gardens project – growing food to feed the children and put in the food parcels
Thabo is one of the main driving forces behind the project and another really good example of a man working with complete dedication; he along with the others has no salary. They all work for a small stipend as volunteers; could you survive on £80 a month?
We will support their safe haven work through supporting the volunteer programme.
Sinakekelwe Thutuzela [Zulu word for Crisis Centre] and Ekupholeni Mental Health Centre
Johanna has now left and moved to another NGO and Antje Manfroni is the new manager; she has been overseeing all the political and administrative changes imposed by the National Prosecuting Authority. The EMHC now has responsibility for managing all the events after the doctor/nurse has done the medical ‘stuff’ when a child is bought into the crisis centre. This is all now much clearer and everyone knows who does what. Accordingly Antje has recruited a further six volunteers for whom we pay a stipend – R800 per month each. These volunteers are also receiving training at CATTS that we pay for and are working a maximum of 4 days a week. And what a very motivated bunch they are. It was such a joy to meet and talk with them.
The volunteers are all local from Khatlehong, of mixed ages and genders and have such different experiences. They are completely committed to the idea of working in the Thutuzela and helping those who have been abused and talk about dealing with abuse with such fervour. They all have aspirations and I will be telling their personal stories over the next months; meanwhile they seem happy to settle in. As a gift we have bought them some T-shirts with our logo emblazoned on the back and they are SO proud of these….. so much so that everyone now wants one, even the police inspector who is seconded to the Thutuzela demanded to know where is his! The T-shirts also have a practical purpose in that not all the new volunteers can afford to buy clothes to come into work – for many this is their first job.
I’m the only one not managing to wear a T-shirt!
Although we have not yet managed to offer any support to them, our friends at Masibambisane are not new to us as they are part of the Johannesburg Welfare Society [CATTS is also part of this]. They run another essential service in a very rundown part of Soweto for vulnerable children and are entirely dependent on volunteer helpers. They have so many children to care for that they even have a waiting list. The youngest they can currently take is 10 months old. I asked what happens to the very vulnerable babies under 10 months old, and got a shrug of the shoulders – they do what they can.
The building is lovely as it was entirely funded by the Elton John Foundation, but like so many other services they really struggle for regular revenue and funds for volunteers – hey ho.
One day soon we will have more funds and be able to support their work.
These are old friends of ours, and it was a joy to visit again. They are providing rural community home based care, home care for AIDS and damaged orphans and day care through a crèche and nursery for local children. We have paid for a course in preventing and dealing with child abuse for 15 of their volunteers and staff and we visited for the certificate ceremony and to hear feedback from the trainees. Our friends Yashmita and Bridgit from CATTS were also there. The feedback was excellent and it was really encouraging to hear how the trainees have taken in and remembered the training, and more particularly to hear how they have changed their routines and what they now look for. Particularly important when home visiting or working in the nursery/crèche. The training has been so valued that we are now talking with Topsy and CATTS about doing a further course for the remainder of their 17 workers – this time it will be a bit longer, in 2 sections and over two weeks. This is all as a result of the feedback from the first course …. Good stuff.
As for the certificate ceremony .. I had forgotten quite what a big thing is the first certificate. When we spoke about the course with CATTS I asked, rather in passing, for a certificate with our joint logos on; then we went to the ceremony and I was really moved. The trainees had put on a special lunch, dressed the tables beautifully, hired a photographer and put on best bib and tucker. For many this is their first certificate, and for all the trainees these certificates will be framed. A very humbling message.
The trainees and trainers – plus a few hangers on!
A proud moment
We will support Topsy with their next group of trainees in November.
This is another service completely new to us. I was introduced to them through CATTS and we visited twice, once on National Women’s Day when we were honoured to be asked to join in with their celebrations and to speak about our work, and then a second time to talk with them about how we might be able to support their work.
COPES-SA is the only service I have yet come across that is devoted entirely to the prevention and treatment of abused children, and nurturing healthy families – most other services do that as only one thread of their work. Here it is the only focus of their work. Nobs Mwanda is a doctor and has worked in the field of child abuse for many years and now sets out to work with and empower local people to help their own communities.
They, like other good services we support, talk about empowerment and local people breaking the cycle of violence, and working in partnership rather than seeking handouts.
We will be supporting their lay counsellor training programme – yet more good volunteers to be trained.
We had such a fine visit, with so many excellent things happening and, of course, lots more work to do. It has left us with much to plan and undertake, but so exciting and worthwhile. We now need a considerable amount of money! Ideas ???
the infant trust