The growing number of orphans is a well-documented, potentially explosive health and social problem. The most appropriate strategy to deal with orphans is a community-based strategy. However, the communities most affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa, are socio-economically disadvantaged and have limited resources to cope with the growing number of orphans, as well as care for the dying.
Our intervention is an ancillary strategy to cope with orphans. There are two transition homes. There are up to 6 babies being cared for in each home at any one time. In time these babies are placed in suitable families - their own extended families, adoptive or foster families.
The direct beneficiaries of the transition home are the babies who have been orphaned or abandoned as a result of HIV. Without our intervention, these babies would probably be placed in (and potentially remain in) a large institution and receive a minimum amount of love and care.
Further to this, we are able to increase the scope of communities that deal with HIV/AIDS orphans. We are linked to a local church in Durban and have access to church networks around the city. It is in these church families that we encourage fostering and adoption. This broadens the involvement and response to the HIV crisis.
The goals of the programme are:
- to run two transition homes for babies orphaned or abandoned as a result of HIV/AIDS
- to screening and train prospective adoptive parents
- to assist in the placement of children (into and out of our facility)
- to oversee the running of the Breastmilk Bank linked to iThemba Lethu
The home cares for children from birth to 3 years old. iThemba Lethu is affiliated to Christian Social Services (CSS) – a registered child protection services agency.
In each house, we have a full-time house mother (who lives on the premises), a night-mom who works four nights a week, and a full-time housekeeper. To ensure that the babies in our care are also exposed to a male role model, we employ a handyman/gardener/ ‘father-figure’ who the children interact with. In addition, we have a volunteer base of over 40 people who help in a variety of ways.
The volunteer team assists with caring for and entertaining the babies. Volunteers also provide weekend support. They are particularly helpful during the evening rush hour (5-7pm) during which time all the babies need to be fed and bathed and tucked into bed – and they are all tired!
iThemba Lethu employs contract social workers who conduct the extensive screening of potiential adoptive families and oversee the transition of the babies.
Whilst in the home, the children are cared for - physically, emotionally and spiritually – and are loved and prayed for.
In July 2002, the transition home moved premises from Umbilo to a permanent home in Manor Gardens (closely located to Cato Manor). The new home was bought for iThemba Lethu’s use by the Durban-based Community Care Centre – now called Operation Jumpstart Association which supports development and welfare organisations.
The launch of the second transition home on 25 July 2008 was the realisation of a dream. When informed in 2006 by the owners that the neighbouring property was for sale, we applied to Community Care Centres (now Operation Jumpstart) to purchase the home on our behalf. However once the proposal was approved, the seller increased the selling price by R30 000. On hearing about the resultant ‘stale-mate’, a local family offered to make a once-off donation of R30 000 to iThemba Lethu to ensure that the sale of the property was completed. We were, and remain, overwhelmed by this generous and timeous gift. The sale of the house was completed at the end of 2007 and renovations started in January 2008. Additional staff were employed, the garden and parking areas were extended, and the Breastmilk Bank was established in the converted garage on the premises. We were humbled by the donations of furniture, appliances, finances, time and lots of hard work from local companies, volunteers and friends of iThemba Lethu.
2012 Snap Shot
January to June
As the babies are adopted, our attention has turned to ensuring that we run the two homes at full capacity – there are so many orphans needing safe and loving homes. We therefore continue to work hard at forging working relationships with various welfare departments. This is an ongoing process because of the high turnover of social workers.