translation agency

Health-E
Easing hunger pangs - Living with AIDS # 504
Khopotso Bodibe
February 23, 2012
Health-e News Service - February 23, 2012

Serving breakfast and lunch daily to children from a number of primary and high schools surrounding Tsogang Setjhaba in Chiawelo, Soweto, goes a long way to alleviate their hunger. For some of the children, lunch will be their last meal for the day.

Every day before and after school, tens of children rush for something to eat at Mama Tony's house in Chiawelo 3, Soweto, the base for Tsogang Setjhaba, a non-governmental organisation working with orphaned and vulnerable children. Some of them have been orphaned by AIDS. For many, the afternoon meal that they get here will be their last for the day. That is true for 14 year-old Thuku, a young guy of very few words, who is also lining up for a plate of food.

Thuku says: "I come here to eat every afternoon at two o'clock. I don't have supper at home. I stay with my unemployed mother and uncle".

Joyce Mosuwe is one of the staff members who prepares and serves breakfast and lunch for these children at Tsogang Setjhaba. But their work extends from providing food to taking care of the social problems that some of the children encounter.

"We also help them with their home-work and, then, we do home visits. We also check the children who have problems and then we go to their parents and we tell them about the child's problem and we help the children with the problem they have together with their parents. We can identify a child when the child is not okay... maybe those who have been abused sexually, mentally, spiritually. Some of the parents don't take care of their children, they are too ignorant", Mosuwe says.

Many of the children, ranging from infants to 18 year-olds and, sometimes, 21 year-olds, come from poverty-stricken backgrounds.

"Most of them are from informal settlements, Chiawelo Extension 1, 2, 3, 4, Police View and Protea North, and surrounding areas. You find their parents are there, but there's no one who is working at home. We need to assist them with school uniforms, weekend wear, we provide food parcels once a month and we take them out for trips", says Mama Tony, founding director of Tsogang Setjhaba.

Mama Tony adds that HIV has also affected the children.

"Some are living with HIV. Some have challenges at home - they are child-headed, meaning, you find they are five and the one is taking care of the five siblings or six".

Those infected have allies at the centre, particularly in people like care-giver, Joyce Mosuwe.

"I always make an example of myself, living with HIV for the past 15 years. I talk with the parents and they have accepted. They take care of the children.

I always make sure that they should support their children. They shouldn't say: "I don't have money. My child was supposed to go to the doctor for check-up or for the repeats". I told them that: "If you don't have anything", they should "come to us here at Tsogang Setjhaba so that you should not default", says Mosuwe.

The centre opened in 1999 and, according to Mama Tony, it's helping over 1 000 orphaned and vulnerable children to date.

"I'm working with six primary schools and four high schools. Tsogang Setjhaba has built a good relationship with the schools. If ever the principals or the educators are encountering problems with one of the learners, they will call us or they will tell us that we are going to refer a family to you, they've got a challenge regarding meals or they are vulnerable. Then, we'll take it from there. We've got three auxiliary social workers that identify the children at school or at home. They do door-to-door so that they identify those cases. We do assist with meals, groceries, bereavement counseling, family counseling", she says.

Tsogang Setjhaba also helps with the children's developmental needs and provides computer classes, skills in HIV and pregnancy prevention and assists the children acquire birth certificates and social grants in the event of their parents' deaths. But it's getting increasingly difficult to do this work as funders are rationing or pulling out their support.

"Social Development is funding us for only 300 children. We have to fend for ourselves for these 740-something children", says Mama Tony.

www.aegis.org