A SUMMARY OF THE ALEX AIDS ORPHANS PROJECT
The Alex Aids Orphans’ Project was started in 2001 when the staff at the Alex/Tara Children’s Clinic in Alexandra Township became aware that children weren’t attending their appointments (the Clinic is a child and family unit which addresses the psychiatric needs of children identified by their teachers as having problems). On investigating, it was found that large numbers of children had lost their parents due to Aids related illnesses, leaving them in the care of their aged grandmothers (“gogos”) who are supporting numerous family members with their pension money, and are faced with challenges of looking after their grandchildren while they are in great need of care themselves. To complicate matters further, they have to deal with the loss of their children, and bereaved grandchildren. This is the unfortunate reality for many families in Alexandra, and in townships across South Africa. The Alex Aids Orphans Project was started to try and support these families in Alexandra wherever possible.
Current support provided
The Project, established as a Trust fund, is headed by Diana Teffo (assisted by four paid community care workers) and operates out of the Eastbank Clinic. It now supports 54 households, most of which are headed by grandmothers (6 families are headed by the youth where the grandmothers have passed away).
The support provided is multi-faceted and includes:
1) relief support in the form of food parcels to each family every month(the food is purchased from Pick n Pay who drops it off at the Project once a month on a Saturday);
2) educational support –the orphans are provided with school uniforms, textbooks, school fees where possible, and are assisted with homework in the afternoons. Homework groups are also held;
3) emotional and OT support –various support groups, such as gogo support groups, orphan bereavement counselling groups and occupational therapy groups are held on a weekly basis, and individual therapies are arranged for children with multiple or complicated bereavement issues;
4) a vegetable garden was started to provide fresh vegetables on regular basis to the children;
5) income-generating project – gogos with good vision are currently attending sewing and knitting classes;
6) general support – Diana and her team do weekly home visits to all the families and assist with various applications (e.g. for foster care, disability and social grants, school, university, and bursaries etc), transport, emergencies, funeral plans, etc.
The Project is funded by various donors, and all funds are received and administered by an independent Consortium. Administration costs (including salaries) are paid by a separate trust also administered by the same Consortium. The Project is also supported by volunteers from a couple of organisations, whose main goal is to bring dignity and help to these families in whatever way possible. Some of their initiatives include:
1) visiting the Project once a month on a Saturday for the food relief programme, in order to help pack the groceries and distribute parcels to the families supported by the Project, and to encourage and support the gogos and care workers;
2) once-off events, such as a gogos’ tea party, and a sports day for the orphans;
3) the rejuvenation of the vegetable garden, with the aim to roll out more vegetable gardens throughout the community;
4) donations of clothing; and
5) visiting the gogos’ homes (in respect of one home in particular the plan is to get the community and city councillor together to decide on ways to permanently remove the large illegal rubbish heap dumped alongside the street).
A recent needs analysis has revealed that the needs currently facing the Project include:
1) more Sports Days – 2 per year if possible, to give the orphans something to look forward to;
2) funding for various aspects of the project, including food relief (the Project is about R6000 per month short of funds for the monthly food parcels), ongoing maintenance of the vegetable garden, and potentially more families to be brought onto the Project (this would cost approximately an additional R5000 per month for 4 new families as well as a once-off cost to purchase school uniforms for the children);
3) boot camp for high school pupils to learn certain surviving skills and discipline;
4) various practical needs, such as:
- wool for the gogos’ knitting classes, and fabric for quilts to be sewn;
- cosmetics for grannies and teenagers e.g. body lotion; sanitary towels (there is a big shortage of these which is a huge indignity to young women especially, some of them stay out of school to avoid embarrassment), etc.;
- 2 doors (standard size) for their office (2 doors have fallen apart);
- adult nappies for one of the handicapped orphans.
The organisations providing voluntary support are also always looking for volunteers to get involved, whether to come help out on packing days, to help organise and run sports days, procure donations for the above practical needs, and assist with the vegetable garden or to start their own initiative. There is enormous potential and opportunity to help and volunteers are encouraged to come up with and run with their own initiatives and ideas. Help on a non-committed or ad hoc basis is also welcomed.
Should you wish to become involved, or to help out with the above needs or in any other way, please contact Gail Fraser on 082 400 6483 at any time, or Diana Teffo on + 27 (0) 11 443 4540 or firstname.lastname@example.org during office hours. For security reasons, banking details are only provided on request.