|© Photo courtesy of Qulinta Nepaul|
|UNICEF Digital Diarist Qulinta Nepaul, 18, formerly worked with the Phoenix Child and Family Welfare Society in South Africa. She now studies occupational therapy at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.|
NEW YORK, USA, 23 September 2008 – In between high school and university, Qulinta Nepaul, 18, took a year off “to try to find out what I wanted to do.” The young South African, a UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth Digital Diarist, ended up at the Phoenix Child and Family Welfare Society.
Based outside Durban, South Africa, the Phoenix Society is a non-profit organization committed to protecting children and preserving families through service programmes in the local communities of Phoenix and Inanda.
The society is also the topic of Qulinta’s latest Digital Diary, recorded on radio equipment provided by UNICEF. Click here to listen.
Annual festival generates support
“I first got involved with the Phoenix Child and Family Welfare Society after I did a documentary on women’s empowerment in which I interviewed people from the organization,” Qulinta recalled in her radio diary.
After completing her project, Qulinta began doing administrative work for the society. At night, she helped supervise the abandoned children who are left at a ‘safe house’ run by the organization.
She also volunteered at the annual two-week cultural festival and fair for young people, which raises awareness about – and funding for – the society’s work.
‘Their problems are our problems’
Staff social worker Cyrus Piramau told Qulinta that funds from the festival support many of the programmes offered by the society. “We have the ‘Sahara’, a place of safety for abused women and children,” she said. “We also have our HIV programme with taxi drivers [and] our youth programme where we target schools, empowering the youth.”
According to Ms. Piramau, 15,000 children from targeted schools attended this year’s festival.
The social worker added that her most important job is to get the message of child and family welfare out into the community. “Our theme has been to tell, tell and tell again, until someone listens,” she said. “We deal with family problems, AIDS, unemployment and poverty, abandoned and orphaned children. So all their problems are our problems.”
Young participants interviewed
At the most recent festival, Qulinta gave a motivational speech about her own life’s journey and her work with the Phoenix Society. Afterwards, she interviewed several of the young attendees and participants.
“It’s nice to meet new people and make new friends and buy stuff – and it’s very nice dancing for everybody,” said Latoya, 16, who came to the festival with a dance group.
Tianne, 8, had been to the festival several times. She told Qulinta that she loves to go on the rides and listen to the music. And as long as her parents let her, she said, she’ll keep coming.
Qulinta now studies occupational therapy at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
9 September 2008: Qulinta Nepaul, 18, visits the Phoenix Child and Family Welfare Society’s annual fair in Phoenix, South Africa.