Connecting local responses around the world
Fikelela Children's Centre aims to restore sick children back to health, and then place them in suitable, trained foster care in the community, with ongoing support and monitoring. Says Fikelela Coordinator Reverend Rachel Mash: "Love is the greatest gift you can give a child, particularly a child that has been traumatised by beavement, neglect or hurt. The difference in the health of the children when they come into an environment where they are loved and cared for and supported - it's incredible. We believe that every child needs to be special to someone, and that the long-term health of the child is best served in a family situation. Every child needs to feel 'I have a family where I belong'".
Fikelela has many stories of efforts to track down family members and make sure that each child is placed in the living situation that is in the best interests of that child. In one case, two sisters had been placed with a family, but the foster care did not work out and the Centre took the girls back. Wanting to protect the children from further stress, the staff made every effort to locate any family members, but to no avail.
One day the younger sister had to go to Red Cross Children's Hospital to have a skin condition seen to. The hospital clerk noticed that he had two addresses on the system for her and wanted to know which one to delete. The carer asked to be given the girl's original address and gave it to the Centre Manager. That turned out to be the address of the father's sister in Khayelitsha. This aunt informed the field workers that the girls' parents were homeless, living under a bridge in the city.
Although the father's relatives were not suitable caregivers, they were able to refer the field workers to the mother's relatives who turned out to be suitable carers. These family members began to take an interest in the girls, bonding with the children during holidays and weekends, and preparing to take them into their home full-time. What's more, they had fetched the mother and her partner from under the bridge and were supporting them through a rehabilitation programme. The intention is for them all to live in the same home, with the extended family keeping a watchful and supportive eye on the girls and their reunited parents.
"What makes it all worthwhile," says Pozi, the Children's Centre Manager, "is the job satisfaction you get when you've done a good job and given somebody a chance to make something of their lives. Every story is different. It is never easy, but my field workers are so dedicated - if I had a medal, I would pin it on them! When a child is happily settled with foster parents or reunited with loving relatives, it makes you feel so good."
* This story is based on excerpts from "Siyakha, Stories of Hope, Vision, Commitment and Courage - The Anglican Church's Resonse to HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa". It is shared here as an outcome of a partnership between The Constellation and Cordaid to capture good practise and experience from Cordaid's South African partners. For the full Fikelela partner profile and reflections on video, see https://aidscompetence.ning.com/group/cordaidpartnerssouthafrica *