Global Giving donations have recently funded self-powered Freeplay radios for AIDS orphans in remote rural communities that straddle the banks of the Nondweni, a tributary of Blood River, in Kwa-Zulu Natal. They are also providing sustained radio access via the bright blue Lifelines for child-headed households in busy, crowded townships such as Orange Farm just outside Johannesburg.
In December 2005 the Times of London sent its reporter Jonathan Clayton to South Africa to interview Freeplay Foundation partners and beneficiaries. Articles appeared in January ‘06 editions of the newspaper which had chosen the Freeplay Foundation as a beneficiary for its Christmas Charity appeal.
In Orange Farm, Jonathan interviewed Johannes, a boy of 16 who has looked after his six year old niece, Mabusha, and his 11-year-old brother Tebeho alone in their one room shack since his mother died of AIDS five years ago. Thanks to the efforts of MaAfrika Tikkun, an NGO operating to provide practical support to orphans since 1994, and also to the generosity of Global Giving donors, Johannes now has a Lifeline to the world and his community.
From the radio, he receives practical advice on health and security – vital in a world where what little food and few clothes he can obtain for his brother and niece is at constant risk of being stolen. He listens to the news, he enjoys music, and he also listens to information about missing persons.
Like so many children Johannes loves school and sees it as a way to climb beyond the difficult life he and his family currently endure, but often he cannot attend because of caring for his siblings. Then the radio really comes into its own. Johannes tunes into basic education programs that help him hold on to his dream that one day he will indeed become a doctor.
Guardianship of the radio has another value for Johannes and his little family: it makes them welcome members of local society. The children get invited to neighbors for meals and encouraged to bring the radio with them so that all can listen! Johannes is delighted to share his Lifeline. He knows that as a ‘guardian’ of the radio he is expected to put it at the service of his community. He wishes that everyone could have one, because he knows the joy his radio brings Mabusha, Tebeho and him. He also knows that batteries are beyond the pocket of most of his neighbors and peers.
And while villagers of Nondweni in Kwa-Zulu Natal struggle to find the $12 a year to send their children to school, batteries that cost more than a daily meal are certainly beyond the reach of most. In this poor rural area, the NGO NOAH is busy mobilizing the local community to create an ARK, an infrastructure that can provide many types of practical support for the AIDS orphans of the region. As an integral part of the offer of support, NOAH workers identify and distribute self-powered radios to the most disadvantaged children.
Like Johannes at Orange Farm, Nokuthula Masuku is an AIDS orphan, but she has been without parents for more than eight of her slender ten years. While her great grandmother is still alive and tries the best she can to care for her, Nokuthula is often left to her own devices and her life has been transformed by her new companion – a bright blue Lifeline radio. One of the important lessons she is learning from radio is how best to protect herself from attack in an environment where many believe that sleeping with a virgin can cure one of AIDS.
Across the river a nine-year-old school friend of Nokuthula also uses his self-powered radio to protect himself. In his case, the value comes from listening on his Lifeline to the weather forecast. When rain threatens, Nkosingiphile Vilakazi does not make the three-mile journey on foot across the river to school – for he knows that he, like others tragically before him, can all too easily become a victim of a flash flood. And he is no longer so worried if he misses school because the radio helps him keep up with his lessons.
A $65 donation will enable other AIDS orphans in South Africa to receive a Lifeline radio. With further Global Giving donations, Freeplay Foundation will be able to continue to provide MaAfrika Tikkun with more self-powered radios so that other township children like Johannes can receive joy as well as practical advice and education. And NOAH will be able to distribute more radios to children like Nokuthula and Nkosingiphile who need to protect themselves from the many dangers that beset AIDS orphans in rural and urban South Africa.