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South Africa

Community-based support reaches South Africa’s most vulnerable and marginalised children

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Marinovich
Recalling the passing of his parents brings back a lot of painful memories for Nufulo. He hopes that he can become a doctor after school so that he can help people.

GAUTENG, South Africa, 11 October 2011 - The ‘model’ of community-based childcare known as Isibindi, was developed by the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW), in response to the impact of AIDS and poverty on South Africa’s children. Isibindi has proved to be a successful method of ensuring community-led support for orphaned and vulnerable children - and one of the reasons for this is its consideration of all a child needs.

Helping vulnerable children

UNICEF South Africa has assisted the NACCW in strengthening its training programme and expanding the numbers of trainers of child and youth care workers.
“The Isibindi Child Care Workers provide much needed help in the children’s life space,” said Heidi Loening-Voysey, Orphans and Vulnerable Children Specialist at UNICEF South Africa. “This includes accompanying them to school, clinic or hospital, helping them obtain important official documents and services, and washing and cooking with them so that they learn how to manage their lives.”

A tragic start

Nufulo*, 16, wakes up early every day to press his school uniform and prepare his lunch. Each morning brings the teenager some measure of trepidation, as he fears his classmates will discover his orphaned status if his lunchbox contains no meat.

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Marinovich
Every morning brings Nufulo some measure of trepidation, as he fears his classmates will discover his orphaned status if his lunchbox contains no meat.

“Even those who have parents, but are too poor to have meat with their pap, are ostracised,” he explained. “I am afraid they will laugh at me or treat me badly.”

When Nufulo was just ten years old, his father died, obliging his mother to find work in a nearby town selling tomatoes. Despite grinding hardship, she managed to save a little money and also applied for – and received – a state-subsidised house.

Sadly, a short time later, Nufulo and his half-sister, Priscilla*,18, lost their mother to an AIDS-related illness after a long spell in hospital - she was just 42 years old. Customarily, in such circumstances, the maternal grandmother would take charge, but not this time.

Ramboni Mudau, a social worker with Isibindi, recounted the story.

“The relatives wanted the late mother’s savings to pay for a big funeral, to raise their social status, but Priscilla refused,” she said. “They also wanted to sell the mother’s house and keep the money.”

Isibindi intervenes

In no position to raise her younger brother, Priscilla refused. When an aunt stepped in to take Nufulo into her care, it seemed like a godsend; unfortunately, instead of entering into the loving environment he craved, Nufulo was treated like a slave.

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Marinovich
After school many children come to the Isibindi-run Safe Park in the community, where they can play and receive help with their homework from the Isibindi child care workers.

The aunt was made beneficiary of Nufulo’s monthly childcare grant, but the money was not used properly to feed or clothe the boy. His poor health made him struggle to perform his tasks and the beatings increased. At school, he was always tired and sometimes couldn’t help falling asleep in class.

Rambani recalled the first time he went to see Nufulo at the aunt’s house. “The boy was malnourished and sickly,” she said. “We told the aunt we were taking him away because she was misusing his grant.”

A brighter future

And so a very neglected Nufulo returned to his mother’s house and Priscilla. For his sister, it was a daunting prospect, as she had no idea how to care for him. Ultimately, Isibindi applied for a foster care grant on their behalf and Priscilla was appointed as foster parent. It has been Nufulo’s saving grace and will help him cope until he turns 18.

Today, with his past difficulties behind him, Nufulo is optimistic about the future. Though small compared to his peers – a result of stunted growth caused by malnutrition – he has big dreams.

“I want to be a pilot, or a doctor, so that I can help people who are sick and give them medicine,” he smiled shyly.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy



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