By Siobhan Hughes (SERVE Development Programme Officer)
We have been in South Africa for the past week documenting our partners who are receiving funding as part of Irish Aid’s 2012 – 2015 programme (SERVE’s Development Programme (SDP)). SERVE works in partnership with two local organisations in Rustenburg in the North West province of South Africa. Tapologo and Tsholofelo work with communities in the squatter camps where poverty, HIV and AIDS is escalating. SERVE supports Tapologo and Tsholofelo through funding support, capacity building and through the provision of volunteers. They are currently part of SERVE’s four year Irish Aid programme (2012 – 2015).
The funding has supported Tapologo in running their nutrition programme, which provides daily nutritious meals at the orphan and vulnerable children centres (OVC) in the squatter camps. This year SERVE recruited a nurse and dentist as part of the volunteer programme. Noreen and Stephanie performed dental and health checks with over 200 children attending OVC clinics in Ledig, Boitekong and Freedom Park. Noreen weighed the children and measured their height to establish their BMI and determine whether or not the children are stunted or malnourished. The data collected can now be used to:
a) Identify the most vulnerable children, i.e. those who are most underweight / stunted / in need of dental care. This is important because centres can now ensure that the children who are most in need can access the food parcels distributed by Tapologo. This nutrition programme is supported by Irish Aid
b) The data can be used to access more funding and can be used to approach the Department of Health to request vitamins and deworming medication for the early learning centres.
The information collected by SERVE volunteers and OVC centre care workers will allow the centres to track vulnerabilities in the community and will allow Tapologo to monitor the centres, care givers and teachers to ensure best practice.
The SERVE volunteers did not simply conduct the health checks and research alone, they trained care workers in each centre and worked alongside them for the day to ensure that they understood and could conduct the work alone. I met with Angela Meuwsen, the manager of OVC programmes in Rustenburg who informed me that there has been a turnover of staff and the care workers are often under educated and not trained properly.
SERVE volunteers have been playing a key role in our programme over the years in South Africa. Tapologo hosts a magnificent garden which boasts a plethora of fruits and vegetables. These fruits and vegetables are distributed to the OVC centres and used in the feeding programme. In 2006, SERVE volunteers worked on this garden, planting orange trees and other fruits and vegetables.
A new site for the crèche in Nkaneng was acquired in a safer location which SERVE volunteers have been working on, alongside the ‘Step up and Serve’ youth group who are part of the Tsholofelo community. The group were inspired when they noticed SERVE volunteers travelling to South Africa each year to work in the peri-urban communities surrounding Rustenburg. They established their own youth group which has been working in the squatter camps for the past year raising awareness about HIV and AIDS, and other community issues. This Friday ‘Step up and Serve’ are hosting a cultural day. Youth from each of the squatter camps will come to the Tsholofelo campus to perform and compete in dancing, drama and poetry. The theme for the drama groups is ‘peer pressure’, and to encourage engagement with the issue there are prizes and incentives for the most creative performances.
Development education workshops are held in the evenings when volunteers return from the sites and clinics. Sr. Georgina of Tapologo facilitated a HIV and AIDS workshop for the SERVE volunteers and the ‘Step up and Serve’ group on Tuesday evening. There is an emphasis on intercultural learning and partnership on SERVE projects. Working and learning side by side and sharing knowledge and experiences illustrates what we stand for – solidarity in action.