The story of the AIDS Orphan crisis in South Africa is most often told through statistics, the scale of which is unfathomable—over 2.1 million children orphaned in South Africa. Countless national and international studies have been done which measure the impact of HIV and AIDS on communities and the devastation the epidemic has wrought on life expectancy, economic stability and overall health and well being.
The real story of AIDS orphans though, is told child by child, household by household. Women take in children in their villages who are left without parents, without security, without love. Through these open-hearted “mothers”, children receive food, loving kindness, and attention—all vitally important for their growth and development. It is at this level that we plan to focus our project—on these grassroots organizations of women who are running drop-in centres for orphans and children made vulnerable by AIDS in South Africa.
The impact of unresolved grief
Studies have documented higher levels of anxiety, depression and anger along with inactivity, feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide among orphans. However very little is being done to address the psychological and emotional impact of loss and trauma on the children – all focus is on survival. In order for the children to grow into healthy, productive, functional adults, they must be supported in ways that are proven to facilitate healing and resilience. Our plan is to teach caregivers how to “be” with the children so that the services they are providing will be even more effective, as the carers develop an understanding of what the children are trying to cope with, and how to best support their healing and integration.
Tailored to our unique South African context
The program is based on international researched “best practices” about grieving children, while also addressing cultural beliefs and practices that are unique to the South African context. It is structured as an experiential “train the trainer” model, where each person trained commits to teaching others in their community. This unique program will enable women to fully embody the concepts and feel confident to share the knowledge they have learned with others in their community. They will become the experts in their area and household by household, the ways in which children are cared for will better support growth and wholeness.
Focus of the workshop
The four-day workshop will focus on:
- Understanding how children grieve and how this differs per age group
- Interacting in ways that are helpful to children who are at different developmental levels
- Examining cultural and personal beliefs that impact the care of children who are dealing with death
- Creating activities that allow children to express themselves and work through their grief
- Facilitating trainings and gaining confidence in their ability to teach back to others
Trainers recruited from local communities will work in collaboration with Zingela Ulwazi facilitators, Stella Horgan and Rebecca Harmon.
Rebecca Harmon is a licensed clinical social worker who has participated in international projects in Lesotho, Botswana and China. For the past 5 years, she was the Director of Seeds of Light, an NPO operating in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa. During her tenure with Seeds of Light, she implemented numerous projects impacting AIDS orphans and vulnerable children, and oversaw the development of the Ekurhuleni Centre for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Acornhoek, South Africa.
Stella Horgan is the Founder and Director of Zingela Ulwazi, and also consults to NPO Seeds of Light, coordinating the Acornhoek Leadership Forum and coaching participants whose work impacts many HIV affected community members and children. Stella established a library at Ekurhuleni Centre for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, and has worked with the management team and staff on implementing their vision. Stella is a registered counselor and psychotherapist (ACA) and facilitates workshops in a range of areas. To contact Stella: email@example.com / 076 885 8168