Children receive food as emergency support after the outbreak of COVID-19.

Program Background

South Africa is a country with the most unequal society in the world. The younger generation under the age of 35 is especially facing a serious situation with an unemployment rate exceeding 50%. The country is also home to the world’s largest number of people living with HIV and AIDS, and one in five adults is infected. Under these severe social conditions, about 70% of children under 14 years old are living in poverty, and the number of AIDS orphans, who lose their parents due to AIDS, is continuously increasing. Children from poor families in rural areas face major challenges such as limited access to food while their relatives or guardians are away from home for migrant work. A vicious cycle of the social situation continues across generations. Thus, we are supporting children from difficult family backgrounds.

Children receiving food aid.

A Story in Our Activity Area

“First of all, I would like to thank the Mphego Child Care Center and JVC. I was devastated when my children could not eat meals at school and the Center when both were closed due to COVID-19. I live with my mother and children and the increase in food expenses put a big burden on us because I could not do any day labor in the village due to COVID-19. My mother’s pension is the only income we have. The support of food and hygiene items sustained our lives and helped us save money. Our vegetable garden also saved us. We are still eating tomatoes from the garden, so we do not need to buy vegetables for a while. I feel relieved that I could buy school items for my children with the money saved. My trust towards the care volunteers from the Center became stronger in 2020 and I realized again the role and importance of the Child Care Center.”

Ravhutsi Thanyani Mavis (49), a parent of an OVC who attends a Child Care Center.

Support for children living in difficult family environments

Outline of the Activities

In every region of South Africa, there are orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) from difficult family backgrounds such as those experiencing poverty and absence of guardians, including the impact of HIV and AIDS.

Child Care Centers (Centers) are public facilities where OVC aged five to early 20s can drop by after school to play, study, and get necessary support. The Centers are run by “Care Volunteers” who are mainly women from the community but most of them do not have opportunities to receive trainings, and therefore do not have enough knowledge and skills to provide care for OVC. We started a project in 2019 with the two Centers in two villages in Limpopo Province, which is considered as the “poor province” in South Africa. We provide trainings on the following topics to Care Volunteers (1, 2, 3) and OVC (3, 4): (1) how to take care of OVC, (2) how to conduct activity programs to provide OVC with opportunities to learn and play, (3) how to grow vegetables using natural farming methods to provide meals to OVC every day at the Center, (4) life skills and leadership through learning about HIV/AIDS, human rights, and social issues. We are aiming to stop the vicious cycle in the future by helping OVC to understand the current issues, support each other, and to think and take actions by themselves while addressing and supporting their current challenges.

Training on gardening. They first learn how to make ridges and plant seeds.

An OVC harvests vegetables.

Observed Changes

After March 2020, the schools and Centers were forced to close due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and our activities were restricted as well. Schools resumed in October, but the Centers are still closed as of March 2021. OVCs have not been able to access support outside their homes for over a year. In June, we conducted a home visit survey with Care Volunteers to understand the current situation of OVCs. We found out that all OVCs (about 130) were not able to access food properly because they could not have the meals provided at school in the morning and at the Center after school. We also learned that the food expense had become a big burden to their households while they did not have enough income to cover the costs. In response to this situation, we began distributing food and hygiene items as emergency support in July and conducted it six times by March of the following year. After each distribution, we visited all households to check on the condition of the OVCs. At the same time, from October 2020, we provided training on gardening for OVC with particularly difficult home situations and their guardians so that they can self-supply vegetables in their own garden. They had no experience in gardening before, but by the beginning of the following year, they were able to harvest vegetables.

A child living with his grandmother. There are even families consisting of only children. The woman on the left is our staff Duduzile Nkabinde.

[Source: JVC Annual Report 2020]

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