Children's Rights Centre (CRC)

We seek to contribute to the development of a sustainable child-friendly society in South Africa, with child-friendly policies and practices at all levels of society based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Rights & Welfare of the Child, and the South African Constitution. We do this through awareness-raising, training, monitoring, advocacy, information sharing and building a children's rights movement including children and adults as partners.
Dec 19, 2012

Youth, Youthfulness, and Child's Play

"My Living Positively" Book
"My Living Positively" Book

Congratulations, It's a Book!

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to visit the Children's Rights Centre in Durban.

I met their program and communications staff at their brand new building in order to get a tour of their facilities and spend a few hours chatting via skype with a beneficiary of their most recent publication, "My Living Positively" children's book. The hour-long conversation was spirited, informative, and inspiring. But the icing on the cake was getting to join the office for a delicious leftover "brai" (South African BBQ).

The "My Living Positively" workbook is already impacting thousands of children, aiding caregivers and social workers to better explain to young children and teenagers the realities of HIV, including how they can better advocate for themselves. The book, a glossy and attractive booklet of photos, real stories, coloring material, charts, facts, and figures, is the ultimate companion for children, caregivers, and practioners.

My favorite piece of feedback came from Shanaaz Randeria of the Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute, who has been using the book to run workshops and play therapy for children:

"Using the stories from the book makes it a lottle more acceptable for children and their caregivers to normalize HIV. Also, the advantage of using the handbook is that it speaks in a language that is understandable to children and caregivers, but still gives relevant and important information."

The CRC's Play-full Environment

Besides the huge success of "My Living Positively" it was a treat getting to know the staff at CRC as well. 

I will never forget the many conversations I had with Julie, CRC's executive director, about what it means to do truly transformational work in the children's rights arena, and the importance of partnering with young people (with all their "digital talents") in future advocacy efforts. As a relatively young person myself, it gave me hope to hear from leadership of a well-established organization that it's still important to create space for people like myself.

Janet, who hosts workshops for HIV+ children in the townships and rural areas, was excited to show me another publication that CRC released called the "The Chance to Play", which details and documents various do-it-yourself and street play games for children across South Africa, from self-made board games on cardboard to soccer goal posts constructed from wood and/or plastic.

Jacquie, who works on communications and social media for the organization, was knee-deep in preparations for their Annual General Meeting presentation on "virtual learning" for a group of community stakeholders. Her passion for using technology to further social progress shone through when she took an impromptu 20 minutes to chat with me in the staff room about NGO culture, new media trends, and using youth pop culture as a gateway for education.

Meanwhile, Kyle, whose office is nicknamed the "fish tank" (and so who makes funny floating-fish movements when you walk by, is the go-to guy for nearly everything: from setting up skype meetings to gather feedback from practioners, to managing the GlobalGiving profile (really well, I must add), and being the liason between government and civil society's new initiative to create a national guide to disclosing (HIV status) for children.

CRC's culture of openness, determination, creativity, and "fun" oozes from every single member of the staff. I'm so inspired by their dedication to empowering HIV+ children to better understand their illness, to boost their confidence when it comes to working with health practitioners, and most importantly, to maximize the impact of their work by sharing their research, findings, and successful strategies with the world. I can't express how thankful I am for their work here.

Oct 14, 2012

My Living Positively Handbook Update 9

Dear Global Giving Donors,

 We would like to thank you again for the support you have given us with this project, and give a short update on some progress as well as some more information about the My Living Positively Handbook’s contents.

A total of 554 (English, Zulu, and Xhosa) ‘My Living Positively Handbooks’ were distributed in August and September 2012. The Majority of these went to children living in Tzaneen (Limpopo) and two Community Dialogues raising awareness around Sexual Reproductive Health Rights in Claremont and Inanda (KwaZulu-Natal). 535 (English, Zulu, and Xhosa) of the Adults Guide which is a companion to the Handbook were also distributed to the same areas. The book is still providing valuable information and guidance to children and care-givers for managing their HIV treatment and related issues.

For those of you who are still catching up on what the ‘My living Positively Handbook’s contents are here is a brief description below:

My Living Positively Handbook is a full-colour picture handbook for children living with HIV that encourages children to live positively and to participate actively in the medical and health management of their illness.

The format is written to elicit responses from young children and includes characters that are represented by dolls named: Aunty, Sister Thandi, Sipho, Lucille, and Dr. Themba. The book has spaces for participatory drawing and writing. The text is in a story format and poses questions to engage children, such as "Is HIV like a cattle thief?", "What is HIV like?"

Thank you again for the support that you show to this project, and we would like to remind you that Global Giving will be matching donations by 30% on the 17th October, up to $1,000 per donor, per project, and it is the last bonus day for the year. Matching will begin at 12:01 am EDT (6:01am South African time) until funds run out or until 11:59 pm EDT (5:59am South African Time). Please consider donating on this day if you are able.

Sincerely,

Children’s Rights Centre Health Team.

Links:

Jul 31, 2012

Case Study Wits Reproductive Health &HIV Institute

Drawing of ARV
Drawing of ARV's (pre-adolescent)

Dear Global Giving donors and valued supporters of the “My Living Positively” project to support the well being of children living with HIV in South Africa.

We would like to showcase one of our Yezingane Network member organizations work involving the “My Living Positively” treatment booklet for children.  We would like to thank you again for supporting this project and look forward to your continued support.

By: Shanaaz Kapery Randeria

Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute

 

I have been using the ‘My Living positively’ Handbook for many years with adolescents and younger children.  Adolescent open weekly support groups are run on Thursdays and a pre-teen support group is now running very successfully on Tuesdays at the facility I am employed at.

The adolescent weekly support group is available to HIV positive clinic patients (13-21 years old) who have been disclosed to.

The pre-adolescent (9-12 years old) weekly support groups are available to all pre-adolescent HIV positive patients regardless of their knowledge of their HIV status.

 

The psychosocial programs that I develop and implement are:

- Rights-based

- Developmentally informed

- Child/ youth-friendly

The rights that the pre-adolescent group members are most often aware of are the rights to:

- Basic needs

- Education

- Leisure and play

- Clean environment

- Good health care and services

 

The accompanying responsibilities of individuals to maximize the benefit from these rights are always discussed.

An area of concern, especially with adolescents, is adherence to ARV’s.  Developmentally, adolescents are extremely vulnerable to default from their ARV treatment. During the adolescent stage important developmental tasks include: formation of an identity, including a sexual identity, identifying with a peer group, emotional detachment from significant adults, conceptualizing their role in an adult world which includes a career and a family of their own. Adolescence is the stage of sexual debut for most. In addition to being on the threshold of adulthood, which brings with it various adult roles and responsibilities to be fulfilled, adolescents have to accept that their sexuality has come under attack as a result of being HIV positive.

The role of culture in HIV transmission is being acknowledged.  The influence of culture is an important and pervasive aspect in the lives of Africans (Hodgson, 1999). Health and ideas about disease and illness are intricately interwoven with our culture.  It stands to reason that in order to address HIV/AIDS challenges, that culture should be recognized as an important component of interventions.

The ‘My Living Positively’ handbook lends itself to a lot of creative uses with children and adolescents. 

Specific instances where I have utilized it to stimulate discussion includes

      - ‘What happens to my body without help?’ (pp. 22-23)

 The adolescent group had to find their own metaphors to depict the relationship between  

 their health, HIV and ARV’s.

Metaphors by the adolescents:

ARV                                                                                                       My health

Airtime                                                                                           Cell phone can be used to make calls

Rain and sunshine                                                                         Allows flowers to grow

Petrol                                                                                              Allows a car to drive

Food                                                                                                Gives the body and brain energy

Policeman                                                                                       Catching a robber            

 

 

The pre-adolescent discussion on the role of culture and adherence was introduced with the help of ‘My Living Positively’ handbook (p. 38): the role of traditional healers. Two languages are commonly spoken by support group members viz. Sotho and Zulu.  The Sotho word for traditional healer is ‘ngaka’ and the Zulu word is ‘sangoma’.  The value of culture in our daily lives and for the functioning of our family was discussed.  In addition, the importance of adhering to medication, and not mixing it with traditional medication was discussed. The effects of mixing western and traditional medication in particular were addressed including the effects of doing so.

The pre-adolescent weekly support group is open to all patients at the clinic regardless of whether they are disclosed to or not.  HIV and ARV’s are therefore not specifically discussed.  In a plight to ‘normalize’ living with HIV as a chronic long-term condition (similar to diabetes for instance), HIV is discussed as a one of many organisms that can make one susceptible to illnesses like TB.

                                 

  The responsibility of adhering to medication is one of the responsibilities that the group acknowledges as important to give validity to the right to good basic health care.  Recognizing the medication children take is one of the ways in which they can gain a sense of pride in themselves.  This seemingly simple task, of recognizing medication, also imparts a sense of taking responsibility for ‘my health’. The range of children’s ARV’s will be displayed and each group member will identify those they take.  Using Art therapy, they will draw their medication (p. 36) and we will then discuss healthy ‘positive’ living focusing on : healthy eating habits, rest, exercise, reducing stress and taking medication-these are 5 basic steps to staying healthy regardless of HIV status.

 

AIDS orphans are at a higher risk for adverse mental health outcomes, in particular anxiety depression and PTSD (Cluver et al, 2009). Loneliness is another feeling that HIV orphans and youth commonly experience (Davis, 1990). These adverse mental health conditions and feelings are sometimes self-imposed.

 In African culture, it is unacceptable for a child/adolescent to challenge an adult. Children and adolescents are typically expected to be seen and not heard. The support group provides a safe and nurturing environment where children and adolescents’ right to be heard are encouraged and respected.  Acknowledging feelings and safe and effective ways of expressing them are always practiced. It is also important that they recognize others’ feelings in order to navigate safe and effective communication with the significant adults in their lives. Children and sometimes adolescents as well do not necessarily have the appropriate vocabulary to state or even identify their feelings. Pictures or a list of feelings given to the group members (p. 31) are good for stimulating games and discussions about feelings.  A game that is popular with the pre-adolescent group is for a member to demonstrate a facial expression of a feeling and the group has to correctly guess the feeling.

 

 

References:

Cluver, L., Gardner, F., Operario, D. (2009) ‘Poverty and Psychological Health among AIDS- orphaned children in Cape Town, South Africa AIDS care 21(6) pp. 732-741

 

Davis, D.B. (1990) ‘Loneliness in Children and Adolescents’ Comprehensive Paediatric Nursing vol 13 pp. 59-69

 

Hodgson, I.J. (1999) ‘Myth and HIV: The role of cultural narrative in the construction of HIV/AIDS’ National HIV Nurses Conference June 1999 Available from: http://www.brad.ac.uk/staff/ijhodgson/summaries/Publications/culture_myth_hiv.htm (Accessed: 24 July 2012)

 

Feelings: Collage of feeling Happy
Feelings: Collage of feeling Happy

Links:

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