Earlier this year, as part of my field visits to GlobalGiving projects in South Africa, I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting the Topsy Foundation.
The Clinic: A Community Sanctuary
When I stepped out of the car, I remember thinking instantly that the atmosphere felt very different from other clinics I had visited (i.e. busy, harried, over-crowded); the Topsy clinic, in contrast, was located on very spacious grounds, complete with a parking lot, beautiful, tall trees, and patches of green grass on which a group of women and children were socializing. It was lunchtime during my visit, so groups of people were in line to get their sandwiches and drinks. I learned that Topsy feeds all their patients so that they can take their medication, a great incentive for people (who can't always afford to eat regularly) to keep coming back. At the clinic, I spoke with a few doctors and pharmacists, who were proud to show me the stock of medicine behind the counter; apparently, South Africa's government has recognized Topsy's work by making them a distribution hub for HIV/AIDs medication, which is great news for Topsy's patients. They get to visit a clinic that is well-resourced and supported.
Fostering a Women's Social Enterprise
Topsy also provides economic empowerment opportunities for women. It was a treat to get to visit Topsy's skill-training center where they employ women in bead-making and sewing. Here, I learned that the women who work at the skill-training center are in charge of fulfilling custom orders from Topsy's patrons (e.g. conferences who prefer to give their attendees hand-crafts vs. USB drives, for instance). All the women I met seemed very happy and eager to show me the designs and crafts they were working on, including tote handbags and an adorable line of dolls for kids.
More Than Home Visits: Supporting Families Through Loss
Though the clinic is in a remote area, the communities that Topsy serves are even further away. And so Topsy owns a charter of buses that they use to pick up their patients from their homes every day. I got on one of the buses, and we went into the communities, where I met with the social workers whose job it is to check on people who have been diagnosed. Additionally, they also hand out food parcels to really impoverished families (many of whom have lost their primary caretaker due to HIV/AIDS).
I met a woman who was caring for five orphaned children (none of who are her own). She's in her 70s. She hasn't been able to locate any of the documents that the govt needs to process support for the five children that she's been caring for, so she relies on Topsy's program for basic needs. In the case of orphan children, the government actually gives some monetary support to grandmothers or other caregivers who care for them after their parents have passed. So Topsy helps caregivers, such as the old woman I met, through the legal process. Thus, while she and the five children are awaiting approval for government support, Topsy's food parcels are literally saving their lives.
Gardens of Hope
Finally, I visited a few vegetable gardens in the township as well. Another arm of Topsy's comprehensive HIV/AIDS care is equipping families to feed themselves and sell vegetables. Amidst the dusty grounds and dulled brick of township living, I saw beautiful, vibrant patches of green. "Spring onions, carrots, bitter leaf, cabbage..." an old woman told us, proudly. It would be a great harvest for her family -- including herself and three adopted children, who'd been orphaned by AIDs. Despite the circumstances, looking at that patch of garden, and the pride in that woman's eyes as she proclaimed that her garden was the best in the village, I felt hope.
Thank you so much to Helen McKenzie and the rest of the on-site staff for organizing such an educational, eye-opening, inspiring visit, and for giving Topsy -- and the communities it serves-- so much of your hearts.
Dear Topsy Supporters,
With each month that passes we are more and more grateful to you for your warmth, care and support. It is hard to imagine what would happen without people like you in our world. Never underestimate the impact that you are having.
In truth you are saving lives, protecting the wholeness of families and restoring deeply impoverished rural communities who are unable at this stage to do it themselves.
Thank you for offering that second chance to people who have no other option but to ask for it.
Here’s a personal account from our Head of Social Work, Sister Elizabeth Moshe (English is her 2nd language on a case that really affected her):
“This is one case that touched me so much. I don’t know if I will sound like I am sentimentalizing it, but once again I felt like we are, by Grace, giving a smile to somebody who desperately needs our help the most. Today somebody is smiling somewhere because you made just another effort.”
A Birthday present and another plate of food, 09 July 2012
Blessing (not her real name) is staying with her 2 children, one of them is a new born baby (born 16 May 2012) and her partner, who is the father of both kids, (unfortunately unemployed). On the 4th of July when the Social Worker did a follow up on their case, it was Blessing’s eldest child’s birthday but no present or food could be offered to the boy due to home conditions. They are staying in a measured shack and on that particular day Blessing did not know where their next plate of food was going to come from. When the social worker left after the visit, she (Blessing) comforted herself by doing what one can call “self talk” - saying to her boy “Mommy is going to make the bed my boy, so that we may sleep”. These words seem to have come from a mind that wants to hide from hunger by rather sleeping- the time was around 15:20.
When the social worker enquired as to how it is possible that they would have such a long sleep she shyly confessed that they are hiding from coldness. (It was the middle of a very bitter winter). The following day the Social Worker took food parcels to the house, and it was such a joy for them to have another meal to share. Later the little boy was given a present of a new package of clothing, which was recently donated by one of Topsy’s generous donors.”
Although this story is very hard to hear, it is at the same time a very clear reminder of the importance of the value of helping others. We are honoured to be able to do this each day, and grateful to you for making it possible through your donations.
www.topsy.org.za https://www.facebook.com/thetopsyfoundation http://www.twitter.com/topsynonprofit
I am sure you have thought many times about the children that you are supporting through Topsy –what they may be thinking and feeling.
Today I have the privilege of sharing with you a letter, written by one of them. This child came forwardand sent this letter through his Caregiver to one of our caring Social Workers,Heleen.
We were all so touched and warmed by his words. It is unbelievable that amongst all of thehardship that these children suffer, there is time for counting blessings.
Here is the letter from a boy whose first name is Freedom:
When we at Topsy hear things like this from the people we help, it is beyond encouraging – it is a powerfully heart-warming reminder that we are doing something genuinely worthwhile.
You are part of this and so we extend the thanks to you. It is due toyour donations alone, that we can go out into our most impoverished rural communities,with something more to offer than sympathy.
Welcome to 2012!
We would like to share with you a wonderful and inspiring story about one of our inspiring Gogo’s (Grannies). In South Africa it is sadly all too common to find children orphaned by the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Typically they will be taken in by a grandmother (Gogo) or other relative. The Topsy Foundation does its best to help these families through the tough economic and social challenges they face. We help through the Topsy Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Project.
Here is the story of one of our Gogos’s. The story of Gogo Mary
“I’m Mary Kaleni* I ‘m 68yrs of age, staying at Qalabotjha, South Africa. I had two daughters who were sick. They did not tell me what was wrong.
It was only after they died that I realised. They left behind their children. Both daughters passed away in 2006. My elder daughter had 2 children and the other one had only one child, who was 10 months old when her mother passed away, she is now four years. The others are 10yrs and 9yrs of age.
In the beginning I looked after those children with my small amount of pension money - buying food, school uniforms, paying school fees and everything else they needed. I could not enjoy my pension because I was using everything to take care of the children.
Then one day Topsy came to my rescue. I like Topsy because they have helped me a lot. At Topsy I get food parcels and school uniforms for the children. They have also provided me with seeds for a vegetable garden. We are now eating the vegetables that I have planted. I also tell these children that they must thank Topsy because they helped them.
Before we go to bed we pray for Topsy to grow and continue to help the nation. I also see people that are attending the Topsy Clinic. They become better very fast. Topsy is working. Thank you Topsy, May God Bless you.”
Topsy is blessed to have support like yours to provide the best offering to our beneficiaries who living in poverty in rural South Africa. Thank you for being in our family of supporters and showing extra care to those in real need.
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