Based in the Eastern Cape are two of ASAP’s warrior women, Alice Klaas and Sindi Mabhija. Child-care and psychosocial support coordinator, Alice, witnesses poverty and hardship first-hand, every day, interacting with Orphans and Vulnerable Children and assisting them in overcoming their often devastating circumstances. Sindi heads up the Eastern Cape office in Matatiele, communicating weekly with the ASAP headquarters in Cape Town, via Skype and coordinating the programmes in the villages.
Alice trains the care givers based in the drop-in centres, who are always on hand to provide children with guidance, and conducts home-visits, as well as counselling children herself. She tells stories of young, poverty-stricken children faced with incredible adversity, and their remarkable individual turnarounds upon receiving the care and attention needed.
Alice is confronted daily with not only the physical, but also the psychological challenges facing these children. Many are infected with HIV, of which Alice says, “They [society] don’t know how to handle it, there is still a stigma.” One such child, Grace*, was devastated by the loss of her mother, grandmother and aunt. When Alice met her and heard of her story, she says, “I cried, I couldn’t help it, and I prayed to God that he’d help me.” The then twelve-year-old was always tired and withdrawn; she barely spoke a word. Today, at age fourteen, Alice smiles proudly and says “If only you could see her [Grace]…” After only two years of receiving help from ASAP, Sindi adds that Grace’s turnaround has been huge.
Through trauma counselling, Alice gives patients the opportunity to grieve and encourages them to talk about their issues, both privately and in public. Grace is no longer afraid of the other children at school knowing her HIV status, and is setting the benchmark for a stigma-free society. Through Alice and Sindi’s active involvement with the children and their families, assistance in various forms can be offered, depending on the needs of each individual child.
It is the seemingly small things that are making a large impact in the lives of these children through ASAP’s initiatives. A nutritious meal, five days a week, books in a library corner, art workshops in the school holidays and a garden filled with fresh produce. Alice says that the children are happy to visit the drop-in centres and although faced with difficult circumstances, she adds that society may not be changing in a big way, but it is indeed changing, one happier child at a time.
*Name has been changed.