South Africa - Africa
South Africa’s emergence as a fully-fledged democracy in 1994 has not brought an end to inequality. SOS Children’s Villages has worked since the early 1980s to address problems faced by children all over South Africa. Nelson Mandela was a prominent supporter of our work, and presided over the official opening of our Children’s Village in Cape Town.
A dangerous world
South Africa is the continent’s biggest economy, and yet poverty remains high and unemployment nearly matches the poverty rate at over a fifth of the workforce. Partly due to the AIDS crisis and partly due to an exceptionally high murder rate, South Africa has a life expectancy of just over 50 years. Rape is common, and has become a particular problem amongst adolescents.
Children in South Africa
Nearly 3.9 million South African children are orphans. Just under two thirds of these children have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, and hundreds of thousands suffer from the disease themselves. The widespread effects of HIV means that over eighty thousand children live in households headed by a child. The desperate financial constraints resulting from this mean that many children cannot afford to go to school. Instead, they must work to feed their siblings, or simply to survive. HIV/AIDS and huge social inequality has led to an ongoing cycle of poverty which is transferred across generations, and our work is crucial to ensure that this vicious circle is broken and that poor children can grow up with hope for the future.
Our work in South Africa
We have been active in South Africa since the early 1980s when the first South African SOS Children’s Village opened in Ennerdale, just south of Johannesburg. Since then, we have opened more Villages in areas where our support was most needed and we now help children across the country. We aim to help all families struggling to provide a decent upbringing for their children, but in South Africa, HIV/AIDS is so widespread that a major part of our work focuses on those affected by this terrible and destructive disease.
Today, Ennerdale provides a loving home for over 150 orphaned and abandoned children, and improves the lives of families throughout the neighbourhood. We offer community support to help local parents develop better income-generating skills to support their children and help them reach self-sufficiency. For those parents who continue to struggle financially, we are able to offer financial support, paying educational fees or buying uniforms for children starting school. Our main aim in the community is to hold families together to ensure children get the best possible start in life. For older children who have grown up in the Village, we offer an SOS Youth Programme which prepares them for further study or vocational training and helps them make the challenging transition to independent life.
Again, in Mamelodi, we work with families in the community, helping parents support their children and providing assistance with necessities such as school fees and uniforms where necessary. We aim to help them achieve long-term self-sufficiency, offering courses in subjects as diverse as dressmaking and IT, helping them to secure work. By providing daycare as well, we are able to look after children during the working day when parents finally find work. An SOS Nursery allows children from the Village and the surrounding neighbourhood to learn together in their early years. As children approach independent life, we prepare them for higher education or vocational training, and give support to aid the transition to adult life.
In Port Elizabeth, families benefit from much the same support as our other Villages. A key part of our community work involves raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, as well as giving key support to families affected by the disease. Psychological support and counselling is designed to help parents in difficult circumstances overcome the hurdles to good parenthood, offering guidance and advice on parenting skills and income generation. Again, we aim to act to prevent child abandonment as well as to help children who have lost their parents.
Our Children's Village in Cape Town opened following the end of apartheid in 1994. It was officially opened in 1996 by Nelson Mandela. It was the first in South Africa which enabled children and SOS Mothers of all races to live together. Again, a major focus is helping those affected by HIV/AIDS. We provide medical support to families affected and, where necessary, help with expenses where necessary. We are keen to ensure children receive a decent education as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty which has affected generations, and a typical area of support is in financing school fees and uniforms.
In December 1992 an SOS Emergency Relief Programme was established in Natal Province to provide a home for orphaned babies being abandoned in local hospitals. Out of this relief effort was born SOS Children's Village Pietermaritzburg. Here, we work to provide education and healthcare to children who would otherwise not have access to these essential services. We educate families about HIV/AIDS as part of our effort to reduce the spread, and work with those already affected to ensure children get the best life chances despite growing up with the disease. By giving parents guidance on income generation and parenting skills, we aim to reduce the numbers of children growing up alone.
Mthatha is a deprived area where many women are left to care for their families while men find work elsewhere, and the daycare provided by SOS Children's Villages allows mothers to work to support their children. We also work with mothers to improve parenting skills and give guidance on income generation. With this support, we are enabling families to achieve self-sufficiency, giving them the power to stay together and overcome many of the challenges of poverty. This way, children can remain with their parents and benefit from a family upbringing. Alongside this, we provide financial support where necessary to enable children to get a decent education, and these dual channels of support help them grow up with a better chance of success. Mthatha is a short journey from the village of Mvezo, where former president Nelson Mandela spent his childhood. When he heard that our Children's Village in Mthatha was under construction, he was delighted, saying, "It will be near my childhood home, from where I take my strength and which holds fond memories."
Our Village in Nelspruit began as a venture to help children and families afflicted by HIV/AIDS. We carry out regular review work with families, looking at their individual circumstances to assess their needs. Home visits help us establish a picture of children's physical and psychological wellbeing, and to make sure they are getting a good education. For families who need our help, we are able to offer many forms of assistance from legal and financial support, to counselling and guidance on income generation and money saving. As at many of our other sites, we provide daycare so that mothers can work to sustain their families, and nursery-level schooling to children from the Village and the wider community.
Once again, helping families cope with HIV/AIDS is a major focus of our work in Rustenburg. We work with families in the area not only to help those already affected by the crisis, but also to raise awareness to prevent it from spreading. We offer wide-ranging assistance to keep families together and ensure that children are brought up with their parents wherever possible. By offering support with schooling and healthcare, we are helping children grow up educated and healthy, better equipped to break the cycle of poverty that has affected generations.
Family Strenghtening Programmes
“Caring for the children – that is the most important thing”
In this video, SOS community worker Doris explains why it is so important to ensure desperately poor families beyond the SOS Village have the means to support themselves. She meets Mama Rosa, who was unable to support herself and her family after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and depression, and who now runs her own business selling knitted shoes.
SOS Children’s Villages Association South Africa
P.O. Box 22
Tel: +27/11/801 0100
Fax: +27/11/801 0112