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Supportive Communities

Family with blanket RSOne of the most vulnerable families attending Mgababa's Bjorn Centre for a few years now are about to build their own home at last. The first child from this family to attend the centre looked like a thin 6 month infant, and behaved like a newborn baby, unable to sit up or engage with eye contact. She is HIV positive.

 With daily attention, stimulation, nutrition and treatment monitoring she slowly strengthened and awakened to her surroundings. Her mother was supported to aid her development at home, and despite homelessness and desperate poverty her condition continued to improve. Her mother gave birth to another child without transmitting the HIV virus, unlikely had she not received support through the centre.

At age 3 the older child began to sit up, and now aged 4 she is still in nappies but finally running about with all the other children. Her 2 year old sister is bigger than her and developing normally. It is unlikely that either of these children would have survived let alone be reaching developmental milestones if it were not for the OVC carers and the funding that trains them and pays their stipends.

The children are regularly given art materials and encouraged to make marks on paper. They delight in their power to 'make their mark', to 'change and create the world', albeit such a small piece of it, a significant experience for their sense of self worth later in life. The family has continued to be vulnerable however due to being dependent upon the community's charity in the loan of empty shacks which exposes the children to further dangers. If it were not for this family's support from the centre the family would not have been dealt with efficiently and may have continued in ongoing danger for the children.

We successfully raised emergency funds for the provision of a permanent shack for this family, and the community has given them a piece of land immediately adjacent to the centre. They will be able to remain together in an environment that is familiar to the children, supported by consistent, meaningful attachments to their OVC carers.

The carers are playing a crucial role in pushing the Department of Social Development's handling of the situation, but it is clear that the Department is not coping in this location.

(Staff member at the Keiskamma Trust)