Vulnerable Children in South Africa
Poverty and HIV/AIDS are the two most influential factors on children living in South Africa today and are at the heart of our support for vulnerable children.
The UN estimates that more than half of the children in South Africa live in poverty. The HIV/AIDS epidemic which is sweeping the nation is leaving South Africa with a population of millions of orphans and vulnerable children. In South Africa 1 in 5 children live have lost both parents and it is estimated that these figures will rising closer to 1 in 3. This leaves them in households headed by grandparents, extended family members and in many thousands of cases households headed by other children.
It is common that in such circumstances children experience negative health, social and development outcomes. They lack resources to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, education and health care, experiencing higher levels of stigma and bullying. This can result in poor school attendance and educational attainment, These children are also at a much greater risk of abuse and mistreatment and experience poor psychological and physical well-being.
Our Safe Park Programme
Children living without their parents, in child headed households or in granny headed households are often neglected through poverty, poor education of their carers, ignorance of their rights and abuse. This is why our Safe Park Programme is at the heart of the work of the Bishop Simeon Trust.
We work in partnership with community based organisations set up by local people who have a passion to change things in their community. We help them to build their management and governance so that they can formally register as not-for profit organisations, much as registered charities in the UK do. We also help them to develop skills to deliver the services their community needs most. We focus on three core services which are essential to the health, well being, education and safety of the children they serve.
1. Isibindi Safe Park: this model has been developed by UNICEF and the South African Department of Social Development. This focuses on the development of a children’s centre that wraps around the school day and holidays, providing a safe space for social education, homework support, HIV/AIDS awareness, the rights of the child, etc. From here Child Care Advocates (CCAs) provide support, counselling and advice to children, providing extension support into their homes to assure that families access the child grant intended to support them, apply for educational burseries, have a birth certificate, be linked to clinics for health support and be referred to social services where they need them most. Isibindi Safe Parks also assure that children receive one nutritious meal each day, which can be so essential. For many children the CCAs can be the only person they fully trust and confide in, creating a vital support bond for those children most acutely effected by poverty and HIV/AIDS.
2. Early Childhood Development Centres: this is a service built around a model overseen by the South African Department of Education. It is a safe facility for 3-6 year olds which provides them with literacy, numeracy, social skills and an understanding of their rights that will help them to make the most of school when they start. It focuses on the commonly acknowledge benefits of early interventions with children, helping them to have a happy, confident and safe start to life, whilst also providing space for their parents or carers to pursue a livelihood and help improve the situation for their family group.
3. Home Based Care: we support our local community partners to provide palliative care for the sick in the community which complements the primary health care services available, but which offers support to children and their loved ones when they need it most. Such a service provides dignity to the sick, but also removes pressure from children who are often compelled to become primary carers themselves, or to find an income for their household, all at a cost to their own education, development and psychological well being.
In the case of both Isibindi Safe Parks and Early Childhood Development Centres there are national standards which apply for these community services. We support our community partners to work towards achieving these standards, If they do we can then support them to access statutory funding that exists to support such services. This allows us to move our support on to the next community that needs our help in developing such support for their children. In the case of Home Based Care we seek to support our community partners to delivery these vital services whilst helping them to engage with and inform the continued review and development of primary health care support in the communities they serve, which already leans on them
Our current focus is the Province of Gauteng, the most populous Province of South Africa. We seek to support 20 community based organisations to build these services at any one time, rolling on from community to community as we do so. On average it costs us £15,000 each year to help each community partner to move towards independence and sustainability. Each community partner provides direct support to 160 children each day and by extension around 550 people in their households. That is around £90 per child each year to help build sustainable support for them within their communities building on the passion and expertise of those people who know them best.
How you can help?
If you would like to support BSTrust there are a number of ways to do so: