25:40’s current focus is on children living in rural areas of South Africa’s Eastern Cape. We have selected this area as our place of initial focus due to its extreme poverty, lack of resources and lack of attention from the outside world. Children here are truly falling through the cracks. Our Eastern Cape projects are in two areas, formerly known as the Ciskei and Transkei homelands, and currently the Amatole and Oliver Tambo Districts.
In 2008, 25:40 began investigating new opportunities to assist children in South Africa’s former Transkei Homeland – one of the poorest and most rural areas in South Africa. The Transkei, as it is locally known, is located in the Eastern Cape Province, just southwest of Durban. For all of its beauty, the Eastern Cape (and the Transkei in particular) is sadly among the poorest regions in Africa. Second only to Limpopo, the Eastern Cape leads all other South African provinces in poverty, with more than 72 % of its people (about 4.6 million) living below the poverty line.
In an effort to combat the devastating impacts of poverty, disease and violence on orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in the Transkei, 25:40 is collaborating with the Small Projects Foundation (SPF) and the Canzibe Mission to fund and implement comprehensive, community-based programs designed to identify and save these children.
The Canzibe OVC Action Project
This project, which has many components, was initiated in 2009 in the Ngqeleni area, a vast, rural and widespread region of about 360 square miles that stretches from the city of Mthatha (pronounced – and sometimes spelled – Umtata) in the North to the coast in the South. The project is premised on empowering communities to care properly for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) . For a number of reasons, we believe that community-based efforts offer the only sustainable solution for saving the thousands of children at risk in this region (and in South Africa in general).
In 2009, 25:40 and the Small Projects Foundation (SPF) engaged dozens of community workers to conduct a comprehensive survey of villages in the region. As a result of that effort, we have identified more than 2,000 children who are orphaned or vulnerable to becoming orphaned. We have gathered considerable information on each – all of whom are tracked through a centralized database.
As part of this project we are engaging relevant governmental agencies to register these children and obtain support grants that are available. The registration campaign began in earnest in 2010, and will continue through 2011 and possibly beyond as additional children are identified.
Under the OVC Action Program, we invite schools to become part of a Caring Schools Network (CASNET). CASNET is a program that educates schools on meeting the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. In addition, we are constantly exploring methods for further strengthening and engaging schools, and removing barriers to education these children face.
In 2011 we initiated a program to provide school uniforms, shoes and backpacks for children – a small, but critical intervention, as often orphans will not attend school for fear of being ostracized because of their clothing. In many cases, children will be turned away if they do not have uniforms – even though this is illegal under South African law. In early 2012 we purchased school uniforms for 100 of the neediest students. We continue to raise funds to provide school uniforms to 653 children in our registry who need them.
Another important element of the OVC Action Program is teaching children to grow and maintain their own food gardens. This is important not only to provide them with valuable skills and a renewable source of nutritious food, but also to restore confidence and a sense of self-worth. 25:40 and SPF initiated a pilot food gardening program in 2010 that provided training, seedlings and materials for 120 children. Our goal is to make such training available to all children in our program.
Providing after-school care, including tutoring and mentoring, may be the most critical component of the OVC Action program. It also, however, is the most resource intensive. In Canzibe, we have developed a model aftercare center that can be replicated in villages throughout the area to care for children identified in the program. We also intend to work with schools to bolster and strengthen existing afterschool programs where they exist. As part of our efforts to ensure the needs of OVCs in particular are met, we are partnering with Pediatric AIDS Treatment for Africa health workers in handling health issues faced by children with HIV/AIDS. 25:40 also is working with individuals and other organizations to develop, fund and implement programs to address other critical needs of children and their care-givers, such as centers and programs designed to prevent sexual abuse.
25:40 has been actively involved in projects designed to help orphans and vulnerable children in the former Ciskei Homeland since 2004. We have supported the work of The Keiskamma Trust, helping to establish a health care center in the village of Hamburg that delivered the first anti-retroviral medicines and HIV/AIDS care to the area. We also have supported the establishment and operation of afterschool care centers in remote areas surrounding Peddie.
With the care offered by the Umtha Welanga Health Care center now being transitioned to the local government hospital, 25:40’s focus in this area is on projects that empower local communities to save children. This includes supporting the Hamburg Social Development Project – a project started entirely by the local community and designed to help at-risk youth through education and training programs. We also are actively involved in the Hamburg public schools.
Hamburg Social Development Project
We also have continued our support of this initiative started entirely by members of the Hamburg community. In 2010, through the assistance of Small Projects Foundation, we assisted HSDP with project planning through a series of participatory and learning workshops and related meetings. HSDP has made tremendous strides, including initiating and program to help local youth pass their matriculation exams – a critical step for any young person hoping to escape the grip of poverty. In 2011, HSDP members were trained in establishing and maintaining square meter gardens. The members then trained and helped establish square meter gardens for 60 households in Hamburg.
Assistance to Public Schools
25:40 continues with its efforts to improve schools in the Hamburg area through the selfless and tireless efforts of Priscilla (“Pat”) Thomas, a retired speech-language specialist and teacher from New Hampshire. Pat has returned to Hamburg for two to three months each year since 2007, and has been assisting 25:40 in identifying and filling needs in the schools. Ms. Thomas focuses on children who needed special tutoring in math and reading. Pat has consistently observed the needs of the primary school and single-handedly purchased and shipped computer equipment, printers, copiers, and scores of books and other materials for the school.