By: Stacey Addison and Alanna Wallace
South Africa is rife with stories of elders who take in nieces, nephews, grandchildren and orphans of their communities. Mostly this phenomenon can be attributed to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has left 5.7 million South African children without one or both parents.
Mama Doris is just one of these women. She is a brilliant lady who is the principal of Malibongwe Creche, which is assisted extensively by African Impact volunteers and The Happy Africa Foundation. She has set up a crèche at her home in Khula Village 240 km north of Durban in the province of KwaZulu Natal. Not only does she spend her days caring for and teaching the children of her community, but she has invested time and energy into helping their mothers as well through her partnership with us and African Impact.
“They have done a lot for my life,” says Mama Doris of both organisations, “Teaching in the crèche and improving my English. I am very happy and grateful for all of the work that is done here for me and the children.”
Mama Doris looks after approximately 30 children from ages zero to five, sometimes more than five days a week in a small round building which THAF and African Impact have supplied with shelves, beds, first aid materials and teaching supplies. Volunteers and THAF also provide the nutritional supplement EPap for some of the children who are not sent to crèche with enough food, or whose parents have dropped them off to be cared for over an extended period of time. Mama Doris says volunteers and the charity have helped her in “so many ways.”
“A lot of things have changed this year because of the help I got,” said Mama Doris, “Help is given to me in so many different ways and everybody is very generous.”
With all of the children to take care of, it would be fair to think that this lady has enough on her plate, but Mama Doris has also passed our HIV Education Course, and enrolled in our Adult English Beginners Course. She received certificates for both courses.
Perhaps the biggest impact Mama Doris has made this year has been her instrumental role in the establishment and success of the Mothers’ Support Group, which she hosts at her crèche every Tuesday afternoon. The group brings everyone from grandmothers to high school students together to discuss motherhood, support one another and learn about caring for infants and children. About 15 mothers attend the weekly meetings, and it has created a safe environment where they can learn and support each other without discrimination or stigma. The group also makes crafts together as an income generating project facilitated by THAF.
By creating a strong bond with Mama Doris, our relationship with her helps us understand exactly who in the community is in need, and ensures us that our programs have the buy-in of community members. She advises us on initiatives, assists us in enhancing the lives of those most in need, and helps us to enrich the lives of countless children and adults. Most important to Mama Doris is the help that is given by both organisations in the spirit of fairness for everyone in the community.
“I am very proud of African Impact and The Happy Africa Foundation because they treat me equally to everyone else and I don’t feel like I am alone.”
Since meeting Mama Doris in late 2011 and beginning our work with her shortly thereafter, our relationship has gone from strength to strength and we have been able to reach out to even more at-risk individuals in the community. With Mama Doris at our side we’re sure to continue to do the same well into the future.