The towns of Saldanha Bay and Vredenburg in Saldanha Bay Municipal Area, lie approx 120 kilometres west of Cape Town. This area has one of the highest infection rates in the Western Cape, attributable mainly to the lack of HIV/AIDS education, insufficient and inadequately trained health-care workers and the severe financial constraints within the formal health care sector.
The programme was launched in 2005 by Mfesane, in partnership with the Christian AIDS Bureau of Southern Africa and the West Coast HIV/AIDS Initiative working closely with the Dept of Health. The focus of the programme is to provide HIV/AIDS education, promote Voluntary Counselling and Testing and address the critical need for support services for people infected and affected by the disease. MPT has been supporting their HIV/AIDS Education and Support Programme over the past four years. Their success is reflected in the number of personnel which has increased from the original team of 19 to 93 people! The programme now includes St Helena Bay area and has been expanded to meet the emerging needs of the communities they serve.
Incredibly active, they provide a wide range of services including
HIV/AIDS Education, a Peer Education Programme in schools, Voluntary Counselling and Testing, Home-based Care and Support. They also run the Lithemba After School Support Project and Safe Park which operate from a large piece of land made available by the local Municipality. Mfesane provides vulnerable children with a nutritious meal, mental stimulation and emotional support in a safe environment in which to play and interact. All sorts of recreational activities such as drumming, traditional dancing etc. are organised in the Safe Park for all the local kids. An ‘open to all’ soup kitchen on the premises provides for other needy children and adults in the community.
The Mfesane Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project established in 2009 operates from a rented house ‘The House of Hope’ in St Helena Bay and provides support to children at risk in the region. The project networks extensively with all the other organisations such as clinics, schools, the SAPS and other NGOs working with vulnerable children to ensure maximum support and avoid duplication of services. Support and home-based care to those affected and infected by the virus has developed into a major component of the Programme. Home-based Care workers, trained by the St. John Ambulance, maintain detailed patient records monitored by professional nurses and provide, depending on the category of the patient, either weekly, every other day or daily visits. They also run support groups providing group members with a safe forum in which to discuss topics of interest and/or concern.
FOOD GARDENS, a brilliant scheme which provide a constant source of good quality fresh produce to members of the support groups with any surplus channelled into the soup kitchen. The children and Child and Youth Care Workers also maintain a second garden and the produce is used in the soup kitchen which helps reduce the cost of providing this service.
Through the dedication and commitment of the programme team a staggering 7,977 people were reached through the programme in the first six months of this year. Strong support networks and home-based care have been established for sufferers and their families and there is a growing acceptance of the importance of knowing ones HIV/AIDS status amongst community members and although stigma and discrimination still persists, people are being more open about their HIV status.
There is a constant need to continue awareness sessions at school in order to ensure that the youth are getting the message and they don’t pick up false information through rumour or innuendo. Support services for children remain a priority. As the disease takes its toll on the older generation and without the appropriate support services, an increasing number of orphaned and vulnerable children are forced to assume the role of breadwinner and caregiver to younger siblings. This situation deprives them all of their childhood and in many cases their education, as well as the emotional and physical support that forms a solid foundation for adulthood.
The MPT is proud to be associated with this terrific operation.