Itekeng Batswadi, Mamohau and Sakhikamva

Itekeng Batswadi, Mamohau and Sakhikamva Drop-in Centres are located in isolated rural villages nestled on the slopes of the Drakensberg Mountains, 60 kms from the nearest town of Matatiele in the Eastern Cape Province.  The roads are bad, the villages are remote and the Sotho people are marginalised by geography and language.

These three groups make up the first cluster of Drop-in centres,  where we are piloting the AIFEC 6 year model.  There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS due to unemployment and migrant labour. As the rising mortality rate affected the children, small groups of women began volunteering to feed these orphaned children. Through AIFEC’s involvement, the groups registered as Community-based Organisations (CBO), opened bank accounts, and formed Boards and Executive Committees to maintain a system of checks and balances.

At Mamohau and Itekeng, 38 child care workers are giving comprehensive care to 203 children in new mud-brick drop-in centers with playgrounds completed on donated property in central locations in the villages. The women are cooking in new kitchens and feeding the children, sitting at benches and tables instead of on dirt floors.  Offices have been installed with a desk and a filing cabinet storing the records of orphans and vulnerable children assessments and follow-ups are being conducted by the child care workers.   At Sihlangule where AIFEC started working late last year, there are a further 94 children assessed and registered and 20 child care workers.

They all have Project Managers, Secretaries and Treasurers who have been trained in computer literacy.  Training intensives in organic vegetable production have resulted in bountiful vegetable gardens with fruit trees and herbs, providing food security for the orphans and vulnerable children.  Our intervention has included comprehensive care and support for nutrition, health, education, psychosocial support and hands-on capacity building. The holiday youth programme is geared to inspire young people to set goals for themselves and examine sexuality and gender roles and to build their self esteem.    In addition, the centres host grandmother support groups, where “gogos” can share a weekly meal, make crafts, and receive AIDS education.

In their own words:

“There is a big difference from before.  These children had many problems and now they live a better life.   They have uniforms and can go to school and they are healthier.  These CBOs are playing a big role in the community and now from the workshop, I understand what is required of me and the other board members and how important it is to be involved in the project as a team.”