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Dec 19, 2018

Starfish Greathearts Foundation changes lives

Starfish Greathearts Foundation supports children orphaned or vulnerable in South Africa by working in partnership with Community-Based Organisations (CBOs). Starfish has two key programmes

 A) Starfish Wellness Programme – to safeguard the health and well-being of children. Services provided included:

  • Access to a mobile clinic for primary health care services (Starfish Wellness Wagon)
  • Daily meals
  • Home visits
  • After school care programmes
  • Early Childhood Development care
  • Adherence support for HIV positive guardians

B) Capacity Building Programme – To capacitate CBOs to effectively manage their organisations to provide quality service delivery to children orphaned or vulnerable

Training and mentorship in the following focal areas:

  • ECD Training
  • Child Safeguarding

A) Starfish Wellness Programme

A total of 7355 children were supported during the reporting period. 3155 children accessed the primary health care services through the Starfish Wellness Wagons in KZN and EC. Care workers conducted 1639 home visits to assist with domestic chores, assess safety in the home environment and provide psychosocial support to the family. 1526 children participated in after-school care activities (homework assistance, reading clubs, sporting activities etc.) at the Drop-in Centre. Early Childhood Development care was provided to 1084 children. Daily meals were provided to 3318 children.

To date, Starfish has worked in partnership with 37 health facilities based in Gert Sibande and Sedibeng to provide adherence support to 50 706 patients

B) Capacity Building

ECD Training

The Starfish team provided training on the PRACTICA ECD Programme to 10 staff at Sethani Community Centre and 5 staff at Thy Kingdom Care Centre. The objectives of the training were to:

  • Familiarise participants on how brain architecture develops in children
  • Realise the crucial role that responsive caregiving plays in the holistic development of children
  • Introduce the 6 development groups (50 school readiness skills) to be achieved
  • Train ECD practitioners on the implementation of the Practica Programme

Child Safeguarding

The Starfish Programme Manager conducted a child safeguarding workshop with eight participants in KZN. The purpose of the workshop was to outline the guiding principles in developing a Child Safe Guarding policy.

The workshop comprised of four key elements:

1. Assessing the risks at the organisations and mitigation strategies

Focuses on children that access care services and the potential risks they may face to be able to devise safeguarding measures that would mitigate the risks.

2. Developing/strengthening a child safeguarding policy

3. This training element helps participants determine the scope, structure, and contents of the policy. The participants were taken through a SWOT analysis.

4. Implementing the policy

Develop and put procedures in place to implement the policy

5. Roles and responsibilities

Activity to identify roles and responsibilities for child safeguarding

Starfish is grateful for the opportunity of partnership and appreciate that together we can help make a difference to the lives of children left orphaned or vulnerable in South Africa.

Dec 19, 2018

SWA VANA REACHES FAR AND WIDE TO HELP THE CHILDREN

Swa Vana Children’s Project is a community-based organization meeting the needs of five hundred orphaned and vulnerable children in the Huntington region of Limpopo province, close to the Paul Kruger Gate of the Kruger Park.  The region is large, under-resourced in terms of infrastructure and the people live in simple dwellings alongside dusty sand roads.  Hidden beneath the rustic, peaceful atmosphere of the place one finds evidence of real poverty and desperation, particularly when one enters a home where there are no adults.  These child-headed households are the legacy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that swept through the region for twenty years.

AIDS systematically destroyed thousands of families, taking away one or both parents and leaving the children to fend for themselves.

Pontso Natoi is Swa Vana’s project leader.  “Our aim is to provide for the basic needs of the orphaned and vulnerable children of our region.  Our care-workers deal with them in their homes, providing emotional and spiritual support, counselling and practical help with their everyday lives.  At our drop-in centres, we give the children a meal after school, assistance with homework, computer literacy lessons and general life-skills training,” she explains.

In addition, the organization helps to get the official identity documents required for them to secure child grants from the government.  Given the red tape involved in getting the children ID’s, this is often a long and frustrating process, but the Swa Vana workers stick to it.

Given the size of the area, Swa Vana has established two satellite centres that cater for children living far away from Huntington.  “We have to go to where the children are.  They cannot come to us.  One of our strengths is the location and sophistication of these satellite drop-in centres,” says Pontso.

These are at Lilydale and Justicia.  At the Justicia centre, Swa Vana has partnered with a local church, which provides the basic infrastructure and facilities.  Penny and Margaret are the regional co-ordinators and they are supported by three cooks and two after-school care-workers.  A gardener on site looks after a substantial vegetable garden and the centre also boasts four laptops for computer instruction.

125 children are fed a meal here every day, an enormous task that keeps the cooks busy and the kitchen humming. 

Lilydale is another few kilometres deeper into the area.  Like Justicia, it is a fully-independent care centre with its own staff and kitchen facilities and provides the same meals, homework assistance and computer training as Huntington and Justicia.

Pontso is pleased that the organization has such a broad reach.  “After small beginnings in 2004, we are now far bigger, thanks to our wonderful donors, including the Starfish Foundation.  I would not be satisfied with just one centre in such a large area.  The children need us everywhere, so we have to go to them.  Very often, the meal we provide is the only proper food they will get all day.  For our kitchen workers, it’s tough, but it’s a labour of love and they do it gladly.”

The drive back to Huntington takes fifteen minutes on the dusty roads, but suddenly this is not a problem.  Why?  Because this is a distance that the needy children of Justicia and Lilydale do not have to walk to get their essential support from Swa Vana.

Nov 13, 2018

MASOYI HELPS CHILDREN OF THE POST-AIDS GENARATION

The Masoyi Home Based care organization began back in 1997 when two women, Dr. Maggie Hardman and Florence Mbokazi, realised that the HIV/AIDS epidemic sweeping the Bushbuckridge region of Mpumalanga was giving rise to unprecedented levels of human suffering, particularly among the children.

“Maggie, who was working at a government clinic in the area, and I realised that the people simply did not know what was happening, what was causing all these deaths.  No one understood the concept of sexual transmission of viruses.  There was no education, no antiretroviral medication available.  The traditional healers were also clueless, prescribing outlandish remedies.  Fear gripped the population,” explains Florence, now Masoyi’s executive director.

In the space of a few years, a new social phenomenon arose: thousands of orphans with no parents, many of them living in child-headed households, some with a grandmother, some without.  “We had to do something for the children,” says Florence.  “We could not build orphanages, so we went out to them where they lived.  At the same time, we helped the AIDS sufferers in their homes, nursing them, helping them take their meds, feeding them, consoling them in their grief when someone died.  That’s how Masoyi Home Based Care started, with just six volunteers.”

In the early days, funding was a big challenge.  Local churches donated food parcels, then corporate funding came in at low levels.  In 2003, the Starfish Greathearts Foundation entered the picture.  “Starfish made a big difference.  Initially, they provided substantial quantities of food, blankets, and clothing.   Now they fund five of our care-workers.  They are brilliant partners,” says Florence.

Seventeen years later, things have changed, some for the better, others not.  ARV’s have made the treatment of HIV disease manageable; education about safe sex has reduced transmission levels.  Because of this, the South African public largely believes that the HIV epidemic has “passed,” that it is no longer a priority.  That is most definitely not the case.  “We are left with huge social problems,” explains Florence.  “Do not for one moment think that we are over the epidemic.  Things have changed, for sure, but we are left with massive social challenges, particularly amongst the children.”

Funding remains a problem.  “International donor funding is reducing because there are new challenges out there.  Locally, many corporates believe that HIV/AIDS is no longer a priority.  This is a terrible mistake,” explains Florence.

Notwithstanding all these financial difficulties, Masoyi HBC, under the leadership of Florence and her partners, is now a substantial organization with three key activities: Home Based Care, Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Early Childhood Development. 

The HBC group continues to work with people of all ages in their homes.  Very sick people are transferred to clinics; families are helped with food, clothing and basic medical care, much of it palliative. 

The OVC group, overseen by Jabulile Themba, employs twenty-two trained care-workers, all of whom receive a small stipend.  “Each care-worker looks after at least 32 children, from birth until they reach eighteen” explains Jabulile.  “But, in reality, they all take care of more.  In total, we have well over seven hundred children in our care.”

They receive school uniforms, a meal after school each day and assisted homework sessions in addition to special care dictated by their individual home situations.  “These are the most desperate children in our community, “says Jabulile.  “Thousands of children need help but these are the most needy.  They do not have adults in their homes, at best a granny here or there.  They are at risk of illness and physical and sexual abuse.  We have five satellite centres in the region with care-workers spread all around.  We also partner with youth skills development centres providing training in skills such as sewing and woodwork, plus computer training and even music.”

More recently, Masoyi HBC realised that there are numerous creches, run mostly by untrained grannies, that care for hundreds of young children on a daily basis.  “We help improve the care that these crèche owners give the children by training them on aspects of early childhood development, crucial to the long-term intellectual and physical development of the children.  That means we are spreading our net far beyond just the kids in our OVC programme,” says Florence.

What is the real challenge now facing these communities that are allegedly “over” the HIV/AIDS epidemic?  “It is the issue of child-headed households, for sure.  This is the devastating legacy of the epidemic.  Thousands of children without parent role-models, without money, shouldering responsibilities no child should have, caring for siblings, worrying about security and at the same time trying to go to school.  I believe we have a new human tragedy in South Africa.  There are organizations like ours trying to stem the tide, but funding remains a barrier to progress,” concludes Florence.

 
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