The number of AIDS orphans thrust into parenthood in South Africa paints a grim picture of reality. Child headed household are not uncommon throughout Kwa-Zulu Natal - the hardest hit province in South Africa – long the hardest-hit nation in the world. Sadly these many of these children will never have an education or know what it feels like to kick a soccer ball around or play with a doll…. to just be a child….
In 2006, Beauty Memela, a then 36-year-old mother living in the AIDS ravaged Valley of Inanda had a dream that she thought she would never be able to turn into a reality. Distressed by the growing number of child headed households in the area Beauty knew she had to somehow make a plan to look after the younger orphans so that their siblings would be able to go back to school and get the education they so desperately needed - to make something of their lives …. The South African government does not fund many or enough pre-school programmes so Beauty approached her local church and from a rusting tin shack on the property of the church – Khethokuhle was born. The small tin shack was divided into two rooms – a tiny classroom and a minute kitchen where meals (when food was available) could be cooked for the children.
Besides looking after orphans from child headed households, Khethokuhle was providing a vital service to the community, where unemployment is rife and mothers who have jobs need somewhere safe to leave their children when they go to work. Sexual and physical abuse is commonly experienced by children who are left to roam around with no supervision. Apart from scarring the children psychologically, this adds to the already severe AIDS situation.
It didn’t take long before Beauty’s Khethokuhle which means ‘to look after well’ was packed to the rafters with 30 eager pre-school children from the age of 3months to five years old and Beauty realized that another plan would have to be made. She approached Rotary for help who in turn contacted Soul Of Africa who immediately took the opportunity to help Beauty look after her children well!
Soul Of Africa raises money to assist AIDS affected orphans in South Africa. They raise money to assist Child Care Development Centres (CCDC’s) which house, feed and educate orphans through the sale of shoes. These shoes are hand-stitched by unemployed women from Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, who are not only earning a living but are also learning valuable skills therefore self sustainable employment. To date over R15million has been raised.
Soul Of Africa spent R173,222.00 ($18,428, £10,562) building a new Child Care Development Centre for the children and Rotary donated R200,000 ($25,445, £14,412) toward the building of toilets and supplying water tanks, fencing, carpeting, furniture, mattresses as well as educational material and teaching aids. Whilst Soul Of Africa fund the brick and mortar to build the Child Care Development Centres while Rotarians pay for just about everything else, including kitchen equipment, teacher training, books, toys an even gardening tools. Rotarians also monitor expenditures, select and implement projects and provide hands-on volunteer help.
Tirelessly working through the years to assist these children who have become like her own, Beauty, who is in her second year of pre-school training thanks to Soul Of Africa and Nelru, is testament to the fact that we can all make a difference no matter how big or small. Talking about her next big dream, Beauty says, “Many of my children are orphans dropped off by their older brothers and sisters on their way too and from school,” as she indicates to a boy of three devouring a bowl of porridge with rapt attention. “He’s left here by his sister of 14. They must walk four kilometers from where they stay with relatives, and often there is no food. We give all our little ones breakfast and lunch, but it would be wonderful to feed their older siblings too when they come to fetch them, and have facilities here for them to do homework and play a bit too.” This dream can be turned into a reality with your help… It’s as simple as buying a pair of Soul Of Africa Shoes!
*Child Care Development Centres
Child Care Development Centres (CCDC's) have been developed with Rotary, offering assistance in the poorest areas. The South African Government has a very limited budget for funding pre-school programs, and due to extreme poverty and pressure AIDS has put on informal communities, a system has developed where a 'grandmother' figure is taking pre-school children in for the day, offering care and food (where possible). Without these informal pre-schools, children are left alone, neglected and often abused. Rotary helps identify recipients and together with Soul Of Africa, builds classrooms, supplies educational equipment, fencing, toilets, food, training and assists with access to healthcare.
**Nelru (Natal Early Learning Resource Unit)
Natal Early Learning Resource Unit (NELRU) is a Pre-School Teacher Training Centre that has been active since 1979 and to date hundreds of thousands of children have benefited from their training courses and in-service training of teachers. Their aim is to facilitate pre-school education by providing support, resources and training to communities, organizations and committees endeavoring to provide educare for their children. NELRU also acts as an upliftment and resource centre for disadvantaged communities all of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Working in under-privileged areas, they promote pre-school education and upgrade crèches by putting in educational programmes, doing in-service training, running lecture courses, workshops etc.
NELRU are going to train Beauty and the 3 caregivers that work with her: Maria, Nomvula and Penelope, and Soul Of Africa are funding this training at an amount of R58,938.10
(for more information on Soul Of Africa visit www.soulofafricacharity.org)