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A community center against poverty

14.03.2022

In South Africa’s informal settlements, people are lacking just about everything. SolidarMed supports children and young people affected by HIV in these settlements, to give them the chance of a brighter future. Their parents also benefit from the wide-ranging projects.

South Africa Gonubie Farmers Hall is an informal settlement close to the port of East London. It has no electricity or running water, which is harmful to children’s health. Martin Ramsauer

Single mother Kuti Malawu has lived with her children in Gonubie Farmers Hall for several years. Martin Ramsauer

The new community center of SolidarMed and its local partner organization Jika Uluntu is a source of hope. It houses a nursery, a large playground, a classroom with computers, a kitchen and an office. Martin Ramsauer

Children are well cared for here. They receive lunch, can play outside and participate in various courses. School children receive assistance with homework and can participate in learning programs and group courses. Martin Ramsauer

Even in primary school, children get a lot of homework but many parents are lacking the ability or the knowledge to help their children. At the community centre, children receive one-to-one support with their learning. Martin Ramsauer

Despite growing up under difficult circumstances, the children of the informal settlement have a chance for a better future thanks to the new community center. Martin Ramsauer

Gonubie Farmers Hall, close to the port of East London, is an informal settlement. It consists of makeshift houses built between a few trees next to a motorway. Some 900 people live here. The houses are built out of wood, corrugated iron and cardboard. Built-in windows let light into the small living quarters.

Very few residents have running water, a toilet or electricity. Because as the settlement does not officially exist, the authorities barely bother about it. A truck brings drinking water just once a week, and occasionally a mobile clinic stops by to provide people with minimal access to healthcare. 

Children who grow up here are directly affected by the difficult conditions in the settlement, their parents’ poverty and a lack of prospects. Until recently, there were no supervised leisure facilities, nowhere to go for help with homework and nobody who had time for them.

Glimmers of hope for the next generation

All that has changed. A new community centre was built around a year ago within walking distance of the informal settlement. It houses a nursery, a large playground, a classroom with computers, a kitchen and an office. Besides children from the informal settlement, children and young people from surrounding villages also come to the community centre. They get lunch, receive help with homework and can take part in learning programmes and group courses.

This also includes age-appropriate education on HIV/AIDS because in this region of South Africa, too, many people are HIV positive – often without even knowing it. It is therefore particularly important to sensitise children to the issue early on. They are also tested for HIV and receive medical treatment if necessary.

“At the community centre, children receive one-to-one support with their learning. This boosts their self-confidence and is fun,” says Emma Rutherford. She is the director of Jika Uluntu, SolidarMed’s local partner organisation, which is implementing the project. Martin Ramsauer

The community centre has really struck a chord. “The need for support with homework in particular is huge,” explains Emma Rutherford. She is the director of Jika Uluntu, SolidarMed’s local partner organisation, which is implementing the project. “Even in primary school, children get a lot of homework but many parents are lacking the ability or the knowledge to help their children.  At the community centre, children receive one-to-one support with their learning. This boosts their self-confidence and is fun,” says Emma Rutherford.

Parents benefit too

She goes on to say that the centre in general is a huge relief for parents: “they have the peace of mind that their children are in safe hands after school and are doing their homework. Otherwise, many would be left to their own devices while their parents work or look for work.”

Crucial to the children’s physical and mental wellbeing is also the situation of their caregivers. SolidarMed therefore also delivers targeted support to adults. In the informal settlement Gonubie Farmers Hall and in the immediate surroundings, social workers regularly visit some 130 households. They advise adults about health, parenting and looking for work. They also help them fill out and submit documents, for example to apply for child benefit from the government.

This also helps the physical and psychological well-being of the children. Thus, despite difficult circumstances, they have a chance for a better future.

Here you can learn more about our projects in South Africa

You can find the full article in the March edition of our Focus magazine

SolidarMed Focus 22/1

Support for children affected by HIV in South Africa
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