A Catholic Response
Caritas South Africa (Siyabhabha Trust) works with local communities to make sure children are not pushed further into poverty by HIV
Selinah, aged 62, has looked after her three grandchildren, Petunia, Rose and Thabang, in Mmakau in rural South Africa since their parents, her daughter and son-in-law, died of AIDS.
The number of orphans in South Africa due to HIV/AIDS is now estimated at 1.2 million. HIV and AIDS is one of the main contributing factors to poverty in South Africa. Seventy-five percent of South African children live in poverty, 50 percent can be identified as ultra poor.
Caritas South Africa (Siyabhabha Trust) works with local communities to make sure children are not pushed further into poverty by HIV. Caritas organises communities to make sure they can get through the bureaucratic hoops to access grants from the Government to pay for food, medicine and clothing for children.
Caritas works with schools to make sure they get the necessary funding to provide free education for vulnerable children. In one community project in Durban archdiocese supported by Caritas, 373 orphans have been supported to access higher level education through the acquisition of bursaries and supplementary support for basic needs.
Aware of the risks faced by child–headed households, Caritas helped provide housing in Eshowe diocese. One community where there was a predominance of child-headed households became the pilot scheme. The whole community learned the message that “every child is my child". They took responsibility for raising money and building homes for the children. To date, 12 housing units have been built.
In accordance with the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ policy of ‘becoming a self-reliant Church', the promotion of saving schemes to build on people's capacity to become agents of their own transformation is the key. At least ten fully functioning savings schemes, with more than 600 people participating, 90 percent of whom are women, are operating in Kwa Zulu Natal.
Caritas is also working with the community to provide trauma counselling and social support. This involves training on dealing with child abuse, creating places where people like Selinah and her family can discuss their problems, and education on how to grow crops and learn skills. Accurate statistics are not readily available, but the number of children in the province between the ages of 0–5 years who could benefit from this is in excess of one million.
Sir Aine Hughes of Caritas South Africa said, “All the projects and programmes are heavily dependant on volunteers. Through training, Caritas has handed over responsibility to the beneficiaries/volunteers and they have become more involved in the development planning.”
Caritas is part of the Southern African Bishops’ Conference response, which coordinates Catholic agencies across the region to provide an effective, efficient access to prevention, treatment and care.
Today, faith-based organisations, which often reach the most remote communities, as well as being prominent in large urban centres, are uniquely placed to provide a range of quality HIV-related services; from training of home-based caregivers to provision of antiretroviral therapy.
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as well as the entire college of bishops throughout the world, took their responsibility very seriously in teaching that appropriate education, service and pastoral attention must be extended to those affected by this pandemic.
Since 1987, 60 letters, messages, communiqués, and statements about HIV and AIDS have been prepared by various Episcopal conferences in Africa. Most of these urgently ask clergy as well as religious and lay pastoral workers to open the doors of our spiritual communities, and most especially the sacramental life of the Church, to those living with this virus and those whose families have been devastated by it.
FEATURES HIV and Aids: A Global Picture A Catholic Response Caritas AIDS response around the world Catholic Networking: Networking in South Africa and beyond Caritas networking around the world Faith-Based networking Caritas and the United Nations Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS for Caritas Internationalis Stigma and Exclusion Training resource for HIV and AIDS Bishop's Documents Resources from the Vatican