By Siobhan Hughes (SERVE Development Projects Officer)
The squatter camps surrounding Rustenburg have suffered greatly in the recent months due to strikes at the platinum mines. The camps were so dangerous that SERVE’s partner Tapologo could not enter into the communities in which they are working. The feeding programme – supported by Irish Aid, one of the most important elements of Tapologo’s work could not run and it was feared that the children would go hungry. Tapologo would not let them go hungry and had an idea. The women who volunteer in the OVC centres were given food parcels which they then distributed directly to the children. If these food parcels were collected by the children at the centre, they would have been stolen, as shops and cafes had closed down and the children would not have received their meal.
Also, while the miners were on strike, women became uncomfortable and afraid to attend Tapologo’s clinics to receive their medication, as the men would have been at home, preventing them from getting their anti-retro viral (ARV) medication. ARVs are essential treatment for those who are HIV positive. Without this medication, the women could become very ill and are vulnerable to opportunistic infections which could ultimately lead to their death. Tapologo created ‘knitting and sewing clubs’ in which the women could attend in safety to ‘knit’, and receive their medication. These are just two of Tapologo’s innovative methods to ensure that their work continues despite the political and security situations in the squatter camps.
We travelled to Freedom Park this afternoon to capture the OVC feeding programme on camera. The Freedom Park OVC centre feeds over 150 children every day with a nutritious meal. Children line up, with the youngest group first, to wash their hands before receiving a meal – today was pap, beans and fish! The food at the OVC centres is mostly provided by Tapologo’s fruit and vegetable garden. When all of the children are fed, they wash their hands, faces and plates before running off to play in the playground, which was erected by SERVE volunteers in 2007. Just weeks ago hundreds of people were rioting through these camps and the police station, located right beside the OVC centre, was petrol bombed. Luckily enough, due to Tapologo’s response, children were not attending the centre at that time and food parcels were distributed to where they were staying.
Today two SERVE volunteers also provided preliminary first aid training for Tsholofelo’s crèche workers. After the training, each crèche worker received a first aid kit for their crèche along with a certificate of participation. The protection and safety of children is critical to SERVE and our partners. As I mentioned in my previous blog, SERVE supports our partners through funding, capacity building and volunteers. Our volunteers have been doing essential work this year that will have a positive impact and support the development of communities that our partners are working in. This work will not stop once SERVE volunteers go home. It is on-going, and SERVE volunteers support this programme each year.
Thank you to Irish Aid for supporting this programme and ensuring that the children living in the squatter camps are receiving nutritious food to prevent malnutrition and stunted growth.