Innovative and interesting training techniques help get the message home
Raising awareness among children is vital
In the fight against HIV/Aids, accurate information, passed on in a memorable, interesting way, is a vital weapon
Dora Ward was SAWSO’s project manager in Abaqulusi
South Africa: Power to the People
by Dora Ward
Funded through USA
In the Abaqulusi area of South Africa, The Salvation Army has set up a project which it hopes will make a huge difference in the lives of children and the community in general. The Abaqulusi Child Survival Programme (ACSP) is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and run by The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) in collaboration with The Salvation Army’s Southern Africa Territory.
SAWSO selected Abaqulusi because most of the population has little or no access to the most basic of health services. Before the programme was set up, 52 out of every thousand children in the whole Kwa-Zulu Natal Province would not be expected to live beyond childhood. The figures for just the Abaqulusi area were certainly far worse. The programme also hopes to address the spiralling numbers of people who are HIV positive.
The ACSP is a five-year programme which seeks to empower local organisations to cope with the conditions threatening the health of the area’s children. Its objectives will be accomplished through a variety of methods.
The local health system will be strengthened. Through close collaboration with the Department of Health, the ACSP is training and supervising community health workers. Young people are being trained in life skills so they have a greater grasp of basic health and hygiene needs when they become parents. Home-based care volunteers will also be trained to look after people in their homes.
Using a participatory approach called Community Counselling, developed by The Salvation Army in Southern Africa over the past 15 years, the ACSP is guiding communities in establishing community health committees to serve as local coordinating bodies to deal with child illness, malnutrition, HIV/Aids prevention, care and support for people living with Aids and providing support for orphans and vulnerable children.
The programme has very specific objectives which will make a major difference in increasing the health of children and the community as a whole. By 2007 it aims – among other things – to have increased the numbers of sick children who receive proper care at home by 35 per cent, raised the proportion of children fully immunised by their first birthday by 25 per cent and decreased the number of 12- to 14-year-olds who report having initiated sexual relations by 25 per cent.
The real measure of success will be the capacity of local churches, government agencies and, most of all, communities to respond to HIV/Aids and other challenges such as malnutrition and poor access to health services.
At the heart of the project are local community members, leaders and normal citizens, who have the skills and drive to change the situation in their communities and need only a little encouragement and coordination to put their potential into action.
At the Salvation Army corps in the rural Khambi community – a poor area with overburdened health services, no water in most homes and virtually no opportunities for employment – Salvation Army officer Captain Faith Hadebe organised her congregation to feed and house five families of orphans – this in spite of the extreme poverty of her flock and difficult living conditions in the area.
Brother Clements, from a Roman Catholic abbey, may be the best example of the spirit of Abaqulusi.
Before working with the ACSP, Brother Clements saw the need for communities to come together to respond to HIV/Aids and saw the suffering of the area’s children. He had done his best to find children in need and house and feed them in the abbey. But even he was sceptical about how successful the ACSP could be.
But, after hearing about the programme’s aims and methods, Brother Clements became a major ally, galvanising other church communities to join the effort, serving ‘as the ark of Noah did for the doves, because the children and the sufferers are scared, lost doves who need a place of refuge’.
Recently, the children under Brother Clements’s care, in traditional Zulu dress, performed a song he had composed about the impact of HIV/Aids, urging people to come together to fight the battle.
Giving weapons in this fight to ordinary people who see the need and the suffering of these boys and the thousands of others like them is the ultimate goal of the project and the spirit of Abaqulusi. Only through the combined, concerted and passionate efforts of The Salvation Army and all its partners will that goal be reached.