Amidst football fever, Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo highlights the needs of vulnerable children in South Africa
By Kun Li
SOWETO, South Africa, 9 June 2010 - With the football fever gripping across the globe, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo is using this moment to highlight the immense needs of South Africa’s children made vulnerable by poverty, violence and HIV.
Ms. Kidjo is invited by FIFA to perform at the opening concert of the World Cup. But before that she made time to visit a community hit hard by HIV and AIDS in Soweto, and met with Child and Youth Care Workers who support communities to care for children at risk.
The Child Care Workers are part ‘ISIBINDI’, or ‘Circle of Care’, a community-based project initiated by the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers (NACCW), a key partner of UNICEF. Unemployed community members are screened, selected and trained. They then deployed as Child and Youth Care Workers to work for families in their own communities.
Under the mentorship of experienced social service professionals, the Child Care Workers give practical household support to help children and their families develop healthy routines, regain wellbeing, and explore social support and development opportunities. Hloniphile Dlamini, an ISIBINDI Mentor explained her colleagues’ work to Ms. Kidjo.
“We pay regular visits to the children, whether they are in their homes, at school, or in their community,” said Ms. Dlamini. “In the homes, we help the family create a routine, making sure the children do their home work, make time to play and have something to eat before they go to school. We also help the families with birth and death certificates, so that they can apply for child support grants.”
Ms. Kidjo visited a household headed by an elderly grandmother. She cares for her three orphaned grandchildren, and one of them is living with HIV. With the help of the Child Care Workers, the grandmother was able to obtain birth certificates for the children, and apply for social security grants.
At another household, Ms. Kidjo was astonished after learning the out-going mother was bedridden a few months ago because of HIV. The family struggled with daily necessities, and the two children were not able to go to school on a regular basis because they didn’t have food for lunch. The Child Care Workers helped the family get access to child support grants, and assisted the mother to receive treatment at the local clinic.
Under the ISIBINDI model, more than 48,000 orphans and vulnerable children in eight provinces of South Africa are supported by the Child Care Workers in their own homes and communities.
For the children who need aftercare support, the Child Care Workers created a playground called ‘safe parks’ for them. Under their supervision, the children can play with toys, do homework, interact with other children, and simply be children again. At the safe park, children can also access to services such as health care and psychosocial support.
Working with partners including the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers, UNICEF is going to open child-friendly spaces like during the World Cup. Four FIFA Fan Fests will feature child-friendly spaces, where children can play safely, watch the football matches, and be assisted by trained volunteers.
“I always believe that we can only help people if they want to help themselves,” said Ms. Kidjo. “If the community is not involved, then we will never see success. Today, I have seen the whole community mobilized, where women, men, and children of a community taking care of the problems of orphans, the problems of HIV and AIDS, and the problems of poverty, which just simply cripples the families. For me, this is a huge achievement.”
UNICEF actions to strengthen child protection during 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and beyond