May 3, 2017

Images

Love made visible - children at creche
Love made visible - children at creche

Starfish and Masoyi Home Based CareHelps Children of the Post-AIDS Generation

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 corporatefunding 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 from 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.
little boy at home
little boy at home
family at home
family at home
family outside home
family outside home
Apr 4, 2017

Little by Little Matching fund

The Little by Little Matching Campaign is going on now! This campaign is designed to show how small donations add up to BIG change! From now until Friday, April 7th at 11:59p, EDT, GlobalGiving will match donations up to $50 at 50% while the the $50,000 in matching funds remain. There are also $3,000 in bonus prizes and a special 200% match on ALL new recurring donations set up this week. Read about the prizes here...

Only 3 days left to make a donation to Starfish Greathearts Foundation and Little by Little will match your contribution.We urge all our friends to give as generously as they can.

Apr 4, 2017

Starfish and Swa Vana reaches far and wide to help children in Mpumalanga

Children have a safe place to play
Children have a safe place to play

Swa Vana Children's Project is Starfish funded community-based organization meeting the needs of 500 orphaned and vulnerable children in the Huntington region of Mpumalanga province, close to 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 donor and the great support from 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.” 

Bringing smiles to the faces of needy children
Bringing smiles to the faces of needy children

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