In 2005 the Freeplay Foundation continued support to existing partners while adding new partners to its Vulnerable Children’s Fund (VCF) initiative in South Africa. Three examples illustrate 2005 activities of our partners and VCF’s role in supporting their varied efforts to address South Africa’s escalating ‘epidemic of orphans’.
The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) was an early Freeplay Foundation partner for VCF and Lifeline radios support its work with child-headed households. Radios act as ‘tutors’ to those children unable to attend school, by providing access to news and weather and youth-oriented programs such as Soul Buddyz. A memorable 2005 distribution of radios took place in NMCF’s Johannesburg offices on 20th July. At a party in celebration of his 87th birthday, Nelson Mandela – Madiba as he is affectionately known – presented Lifeline radios to children who have experienced difficult times and emerged as survivors.
During the distribution, children were encouraged to discuss issues directly affecting them, including access to information and communication. Madiba’s message was simple: “knowledge is power and it should be received however and wherever”. Young VCF radio guardians are strongly encouraged to take community responsibility for sharing the knowledge they gain from radio access, via listening groups and clubs.
A new Freeplay Foundation partnership with the Children’s Institute and Siseze Educational Trust in Ingwavuma gave support in 2005 to a ‘Growing up in a time of AIDS’ radio project, which involves children directly in program development. Intended to reduce stigma and develop public awareness about lives of children affected by AIDS, the project gives orphans and vulnerable children a forum to create radio programs presenting their stories to the world. Freeplay Lifeline radios are a work tool that can help them learn about different structures and styles of radio interviews and programs, as well as enabling them to hear and reflect upon their own and other radio programs.
Radios distributed in 2005 to six primary schools with which Siseze works in Ingwavuma quickly revealed the potential for broadcast programs to enhance their teacher support activities. Teachers now tune in daily via Freeplay Lifeline radios to Ukhozi FM’s English in Action half hour program. They lead their classes through a variety of songs, poems and other activities designed to help develop their orphan listeners’ spoken English.
Another new VCF partner, Noah, nurtures orphans of AIDS in community-based models of orphan care, through which motivated individuals from communities are guided to set up their own community "Ark": a network of accountable support armed with skills and confidence to care for their orphaned and vulnerable children. More than 100 Arks have been established in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. In October, Freeplay Foundation distributed 30 Lifeline self-powered radios to Ark guardians. Global Giving donations have provided funding for another radio distribution to Noah, scheduled for mid-January.
During 2006 and beyond, at least 650 orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa will benefit from Global Giving’s 2005 donations by receiving the lifeline of sustained radio access, for which the Freeplay Foundation and its VCF partners say a loud and heartfelt “Thank you!”