Orphaned and Vulnerable Children project
Sadly, South Africa has one of the world’s highest HIV and AIDS infection rates and, with so many people living without access to proper medical treatment or a suitable standard of nutritional intake, many people continue to succumb to the disease.
When adults who have been part of the Home-based Care Project die, their children are placed with family members, with the assistance of the government.In economically stretched households, these family members, despite the best intentions, may not be able to care adequately for orphans. Faced with this problem, Topsy started the OVC project, which focuses on offering the relevant assistance to families who have taken in orphaned children who are their relatives, and on empowering the family to cope with the situation.
To participate in the programme, a family must be able to produce the death certificate of the child’s mother, and the birth certificate of the child, and their combined monthly household income must not exceed 680 Rand (about £45) per person, which ensures that only the most needy families receive this critical support. Topsy’s social workers will help prospective participants to obtain the relevant documentation. They visit them weekly to determine the needs of the family and of the orphans, and common problems experienced by foster families are raised in support group discussion forums. Free medical care is offered, as well as assistance with education. Participating families are also required to develop their own vegetable gardens to supplement the food packs they receive –a key to strengthening their sense of commitment to the project.
Some of the families participating in the project may be headed by children. In the absence of any adult members of the extended family to help out, the oldest child sometimes has to take on the role of parent. In South Africa, this phenomenon of child-headed households is a rapidly growing social problem associated with HIV and AIDS, and therefore a focus of attention for many organisations. Topsy’s OVC projectdoes all it can to prevent any child having to act as the head of a household . When it is unable to prevent it, Topsy will give particular support to any children in this position, to enable them to continue their education, while exercising responsibility for the care of their younger siblings.