Former president and ANC leader Nelson Mandela was one of the most renowned advocates of SOS Children's Villages in South Africa. Against the background of South Africa's HIV/AIDS pandemic, the organisation focuses on implementing community-based childcare & support programmes in order to help vulnerable children and their families.
Sharp contrasts between different communities
Children in our care can grow up in a safe environment (photo: SOS archives).
The city of Nelspruit is situated in the easternmost province of Mpumalanga in South Africa. The city has a population of around 95,000 people, which has increased in the recent past.
Our organisation is based in Kamagugu, a township located about eight kilometres from the city centre. The neighbourhood is mostly inhabited by families and is marked by poverty.
The region is a major producer of fruit, which is also processed there. Mining and manufacturing - the paper and forestry industries in particular - are also important sources of income and employment. The area is a popular tourist destination, partly due to its proximity to the Kruger National Park.
Brutal inequalities are found in Nelspruit. The urban centre is prosperous and developed. In contrast, the outskirts contain many townships which have only basic infrastructure and which are characterised by high levels of unemployment, illiteracy and poverty. Access to health and education is limited in these areas.
The province of Mpumalanga has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the country - recent estimates calculate that over one third of the population is affected by the disease. Many are co-infected with HIV and tuberculosis. Procuring and supplying drugs remains a challenge for the health system. The presence of the illness has a devastating effect on children's lives; as their carers become unable to work, children are forced to find a way of making money to feed themselves and their families. Their education suffers as they do not attend school; they also become vulnerable to child labour abuse and exploitation.
Supporting families with HIV/AIDS
Nelspruit was the seventh location in South Africa where we started working. The local authorities had been struggling to help an increasing number of child-headed households, and therefore the arrival of SOS Children's Villages in the region was greatly appreciated by the local community. Our organisation carries out important outreach work with families in the area.
What we do in Nelspruit
Children learning together (photo: SOS archives).
Strengthen families: SOS Children's Villages works very closely with the families in Kamagugu: we aim to support vulnerable households so that they can stay together. In Nelspruit the emphasis is on families and children who are affected by HIV/AIDS. Since 2003, the SOS Social Centre has been co-ordinating the HIV/AIDS community-based childcare and support programme.
The families' needs are identified through research, which is reviewed on a regular basis. Services include regular home visits to ensure the psychological, physical and educational well-being of the children, legal and material assistance, counselling services, assistance with income generating projects, training and capacity building of community volunteers and training for potential foster parents. The programme also runs HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns.
Care in families: Children who have lost parental care can find a caring home in one of the SOS families, where up to 100 children can be looked after by SOS parents. The children grow up in a familial environment full of love, respect and security. The families live integrated into the local community.
While the children are in our care, we work with their families of origin – our aim is to reunite the families.