I have been in South Africa for the last month, and there are some amazing Child and Youth Care stories from that part of the world. The National Association of Child Care Workers has developed a program called the Isibindi Projects (Google Isibindi and follow the NACCW links) which creates a truly remarkable and effective Child and Youth Care response to the plight of villages ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The concept, like so many effective Child and Youth Care strategies, is simple in its delivery and yet very complex and sophisticated in practice. The program targets orphan-headed households, where both parents are unavailable, generally because they have died and left very young children to fend for themselves. It also works with at risk families where a parent may be at home dying of AIDS and being cared for by the children in the family. Many of these child-headed households are being held together by an oldest child barely in his/her teens.
The Isibindi team, led by an experienced Child and Youth Care “mentor”, recruit and organize a group of local family support workers who are trained and mentored in the program philosophy and model. These people work in homes to support and hold together these fragile and traumatised groups of siblings, advocating for social services, searching for extended family to assume parental roles, and creating a healing process.
A major piece of this model is the creation of Safe Parks, which are supervised play spaces within the village, set up and staffed by the Isibindi team, to support these children in having an experience of being a child, both for the parentified chid and all the younger brothers and sisters. This can be a place to introduce traditional cultural games, to allow village adults to engage in healing activity with the children and to have a safe place to let go of the sadness and loss experience that can overwhelm even the most resilient person.
In visiting these amazing projects (there are presently over 15 in operation) I asked several workers what they need to make things better. The consistent answer was balls, especially soccer balls and volleyballs. The need for equipment of every sort to create playful environments is enormous, but balls are the identified major focus. I witnessed two programs several miles apart which were sharing one beat-up soccer ball, trading it back and forth each week. Both of these programs had more than two hundred youth involved in playing soccer.
So, I will continue to write about South Africa in the months to come, but I want to challenge all the CYC-Online readers to donate balls to the NACCW, to be distributed to these programs. It may sound like a drop-in-the-bucket solution, but I assure you it will have made an impact.
The easiest way to get balls to the NACCW is to send a cheque for $10 or “10 to NACCW, P.O. Box 36407, Glosderry, 7702, South Africa. Thank you.