Children's Cup in the News

IRIN news out of South Africa ran this story. I love it. If you don't support Children's Cup yet, I pray that you will start.

They are helping Orphans.

SWAZILAND: Giving orphans “some time of real childhood”

Lunch time at a neighbourhood care pointMBABANE, 20 February 2008 (IRIN) - The hubbub generated by the 70-odd children tearing around a sunny three-room building belies their vulnerability: most of them have been orphaned as a result of Swaziland's AIDS pandemic, but here they have found safety and support.

Ngwane Park Care Point, set in a large yard, was the first urban neighbourhood pre-school in Manzini, Swaziland's commercial centre, but six others have been established in the past two years. Besides the 70 children that attend classes, 350 drop in for the day's main meal, served at 2.00 p.m.

With 30 percent of Swazi children having lost one or both parents due to AIDS, the neighbourhood care points have become a real refuge. "This is particularly true in towns, where children can get lost. This is a community care point, and that means it is sponsored by the community," said Banele Mnisi, 26, a volunteer teacher.

"I teach them basics like the alphabet, days of the week, simple math and writing ... But mostly it is about socialising, bringing these kids out of their isolation," said her colleague, Cindi Mdluli. "Each community has an 'action group' of adult volunteers who look after a centre. They go out and locate all the orphans and vulnerable children and bring them here."

Both teachers earn a volunteer's monthly allowance of just US$66, but say their lives have been uplifted by the work. For the children, a guaranteed hot meal five days a week is a powerful motivation for attending.

"We would like to provide meals seven days a week. Obtaining food is not a problem, the World Food Programme [WFP] is a provider, and so is AMICAALL [the Alliance of Mayors' Initiative on Community Action on AIDS at the Local Level]; many Manzini businesses contribute food, people bring vegetables from their home gardens, and fruits," said Khanyisile Mamba, a programme officer for AMICAALL.

"The challenge is getting allowances for the cooks," explained Zelda Nhlabatsi, who coordinates AMICAALL's AIDS programmes in Manzini. "They work hard and are volunteers, and they see the weekends as rest-time. If we could fund a modest pay for them, the children could come even on Saturday and Sunday, and use the grounds for play and recreation."

Samuel Dlamini, 6, is the son of a single mother; his attendance at the care point lessens the danger and isolation of staying alone at home. Healthy and boisterous, like other children his age, he had just intervened in an altercation where an older girl was bullying a younger child. "

I told them to break it up, and settle their fight in the wrestling ring if they want. They laughed and called me muscle head," he said, proudly pointing to his T-shirt showing a muscle-bound Latino wrestler. "That's part of the socialisation process. It's what the care point is all about," said teacher Mdluli.

Health as well

Healthcare is equally important. Children's Cup, an organisation supported by a US-based religious group, is a principal sponsor of the growing network of Manzini neighbourhood centres. It operates a clinic in the peri-urban area of Manzini and has a van that visits all the care points daily, transporting children with minor ailments to the clinic.

"Children with more serious problems, and children with HIV or AIDS, are taken to the [specialist] Baylor Clinic in [the capital] Mbabane," said AMICAALL's Mamba. Children's Cup also provides food and other support to the care points themselves.

"We are focusing on the peri-urban areas because these are growing. Urban migration is bringing people to town in search of jobs, and they stay at informal settlements, which is hard on children," said Nhlabatsi. She is working to sign up the two newest care points with WFP and other donor agencies so the children can be entitled to assistance.

Despite all the goodwill, the centres face serious challenges, reflecting the poverty in the neighbourhoods. "None of the care points have electricity. We can't install electricity until we have a guarantee that the community will pay for it, the way they have agreed to pay the water bills. But the action committees are having a hard time collecting money for the water. It's a struggle," said Mamba.

"Without water we are not able to cook," said Gogo Zwane, the head cook at Ngwane Park. She and her assistants keep two huge three-legged iron pots simmering with porridge, beans and cabbage, the children's staple meal. "These care points are so important because they keep kids from falling through the cracks - they give to these children some time of real childhood. It's lovely to be here."


evan said…
great stuff.
enjoy your posts.

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