Nelspruit is a the capital of Mpumalanga, one of South Africa's most easterly provinces. With a population close to 95,000 and rising, Nelspruit is a growing city. Fruit production is a mainstay of the economy, and avocados, mangoes and bananas - as well as macadamia nuts - are all grown in the area.
Manufacturing and mining are also important local industries, bringing many jobs to the region. The proximity of Nelspruit to the Kruger National Park also makes it a popular among tourists.
A city of inequalities
As so often is the case in big cities, huge inequalities abound. A wealthy, highly developed urban centre is surrounded by poverty-stricken townships on the city's peripheries. Here, infrastructure is limited and hardship widespread. Joblessness afflicts many, while lack of key services such as schools and hospitals means illiteracy and poor health affect numerous families.
Mpumalanga has South Africa's second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS. Data suggests that as many as one in three are affected. Tragically, a significant number of HIV sufferers are affected by TB as well, often with devastating consequences in an environment where medication is hard to come by.
Children become breadwinners when parents fall ill
When parents fall ill, children are often forced to care for them. They also become the main breadwinners in many families; going onto the street to beg for money, or taking up labour-intensive jobs amid dangerous conditions.
Inevitably, such children can no longer attend school. In the long-term, this has devastating consequences on their life chances. And without the support they need, they become increasingly vulnerable - often falling foul of abuse or exploitation.
What SOS Children does in Nelspruit
We have worked in Nelspruit since 2003. We are based in Kamagugu township, roughly 5 miles from the centre of Nelspruit. It is poverty-stricken neighbourhoods like Kamagugu that are the focus of our work around Nelspruit.
As ever, we provide a home for children whose families can no longer care for them. Children in our care benefit from a full education, beginning at our SOS nursery, which they attend alongside children from the community.
Tailored support for individual needs
Child-headed households are on the rise in Kamagugu, and we have been working to address this ever since we came to the area. We work closely with local families, providing tailored support to hep them stay together.
Our social centre is at the heart of our work, and here we offer a range of support, with a particular focus on families affected by HIV/AIDS. We work with families to ensure children do not have to shoulder adult responsibilities, carrying out home visits to monitor wellbeing and ensure children are able to attend school. We also carry out HIV/AIDS awareness work and prevention campaigns to reduce infection.
Many families lack the resources they need to provide for children, or simply feel unable cope. For these, we provide various forms of support, from financial and legal help to counselling. Vocational training helps equip families with the skills they need to work, and we also train volunteers to work in the community and offer additional support to families.
SOS Children helps fragile families and vulnerable children throughout Nelspruit. Our work helps families overcome the worst and provide children with a positive upbringing.