Dynan 4767 Version 3

Supporting vulnerable children in Kroonstad

Project Location: Kroonstad, South Africa

The city of Kroonstad lies approximately 200 kms south of Johannesburg, or 2 hours by car, inside Free State province of South Africa on the high inland central plateau. The area’s fertile lands provide the main industry of agriculture, producing much of the country’s wheat and corn, dairy, meat and wool. It is also known for its sizable deposits of diamonds and coal.

Even with this abundant supply of produce there are thousands of children in the larger Kroonstad Diocese who suffering from malnutrition and hunger, compounded by other issues of living with HIV/AIDS and many also being orphaned.

The Diocese of Kroonstad, through its Diocesan Development Agency, is caring for more than 1200 orphans and vulnerable children across 21 informal township settlements of Free State. The priority is to keep the children in school, safe and healthy and ensure food security for the families and people living with HIV aids and Tuberculosis (TB).

Facts and figures

  1. million people in South Africa lived with HIV in 2017
  2. million orphans and vulnerable children as a result of this pandemic

The problem, causes and needs

Due to the HIV-AIDS pandemic in South Africa a whole generation of parents has been wiped out.

Many of these children live with grandparents who are already older and require their own support. In some cases the children are being raised by older siblings, who may have very little parenting skills or the necessary life experience and maturity and are fending for themselves as well. The children may move in with relatives, adding to an already large family, making food and other resources even more scarce. These ‘substitute parents’ often have little skills to help them when these children face life challenges or abuse. Due to family poverty, even providing the required school materials or uniforms is difficult. These vulnerable children can often suffer high levels of psychological and emotional distress.

The extremely high rate of HIV/AIDS is partly due to a lack of education around the causes and ways of preventing HIV, as well as being able to receive treatment and essential health services. Although healthcare in government clinics is free, staff and medicines are insufficient to adequately provide, with patients having to wait many hours to be attended to. A further compounding factor is the discrimination and stigma towards those living with HIV/AIDS and TB which discourages them from seeking any treatment and help.

What is being done?

The Diocese has responded to these massive challenges and has designed a program in a whole-of-life manner to support these orphans and vulnerable children with a broad spectrum of academic and life skills, necessary to help them succeed in school and beyond.

In the broader area of education, the program provides homework support sessions and extra coaching lessons; promotes a reading culture with educational materials, as well as monitoring school attendance and performance. It offers career guidance and assistance in applying for government grants to support ongoing job training.

For children who have suffered various forms of abuse it provides professional trauma counselling and for their carers, safeguarding, compliance and child protection education in reporting abuse.

Many of these children lack personal identity documents, so assistance is given in accessing and creating them. To address the children’s health and nutritional needs, healthy meals are provided at drop-in centres alongside body mass index checks.

To assist those living with HIV/AIDS and TB, health education and check-ups are carried out through home visits and follow-ups, in partnership with Department of Health and local clinics. They are assisted in accessing antiretroviral treatments and educated on the importance of adhering to their treatment regime with appropriate educational literature. The program provides self-care psychological support for acceptance of one’s status and disclosure if and when appropriate.

Nurses and counsellors conduct community-based education sessions emphasising HIV and TB prevention, sexual and reproductive health, and stigma reduction. Through the local clinics medical kits and HIV testing are made more readily available.

The program is spearheading the creation of positive messages to reduce stigma and discrimination in the large townships and informal settlements.

What you can do

By supporting Catholic Mission through the Society of the Holy Childhood you will be helping to provide vital love and support for children such as those in Kroonstad who otherwise would be kept trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, ill health, mental trauma and discrimination.

As this project continues into the future, it will assist in improving the lifestyle, overall wellbeing, health and educational levels of these children, and future generations.

* important to note that the images used here are from projects similar to this, accessing some photos is difficult due to child protection policies and technology accessible in the local area