Training programs for volunteer carers and parents in South Africa

[Original by Alicia TURNER, 2023 Public Relations Intern (July 13, 2023); Translated by A. Turner]

My name is Alicia and I’m an intern with JVC. This report will detail the training programs offered to volunteer carers and parents of the children attending the Drop-In Center (DIC) in South Africa, which myself and my fellow intern, Moeka SANO, held an interview with Dudu, a local staff member at the JVC South Africa office, to hear the details of.

About the Drop-In Center

JVC is partnered with the DIC, a voluntary organisation based in Limpopo, South Africa, that was established with the aim to break the cycle of abuse and neglect present in South Africa by providing care for orphans and vulnerable children. Limpopo is a state in South Africa where healthcare and educational outcomes are severely lacking. The DIC aims to combat this by providing youth aged 5 to 24 the skills to create a life for themselves regardless of the challenges they may face, including sexual education and education regarding society.

To achieve this vision, JVC facilitates training sessions for the volunteer carers and guardians of children at the DIC, as well as running a vegetable garden program and Scouts and Cub program for children who attend the DIC.

Training for guardians

Many of the children who attend the DIC experience neglect among various other problems. The “Journey of Life” training program aims to end the cycle of neglect by working alongside the guardians of the children who attend the DIC, teaching them how to identify the problems that their children may be facing and how to support them. 40 guardians attended the training held in September 2022 and there are plans to hold another session with another set of 30 guardians within 2023.

Training for guardians

Many guardians believe that the way that they treat their children is natural and unavoidable as a result of the abuse that they experienced themselves as children. In many cases, for example, when guardians leave their children alone to work or gamble, they don’t realize the consequences that their actions hold for their children or that it is actually neglect, rather believing that they are doing all they can to support their family. Some children experience sexual abuse and bullying without their guardians being aware of a thing.

This is because of the communication gap that emerges as a result of parents not checking in on their children.

Journey of Life is a training program that teaches guardians the importance of taking care of their children and how to become better parents. They teach that the most important thing is to not make their children feel alone. Whether they share their meals together, or talk about their days, just spending time together builds a strong bond. Children will suffer in silence if they feel they have no one who will listen to them, however, by spending time with them, listening to them and creating an environment in which children are more comfortable, they will be more likely to share the problems that they are facing, giving guardians the opportunity to take care of them.

According to the local staff at the South Africa office, guardians have been coming to the DIC more frequently to ask advice from the volunteer carers about taking care of their children. Similarly, guardians have begun visiting their children’s schools to ask how their learning is progressing. In order to support each other, the guardians created a Parents’ Meeting where they can discuss and follow up on the problems their children are facing. The DIC believes that this is a strong start to building positive relationships between children and their guardians going into the future.

Training for volunteer carers

It is because children face such terrible circumstances, whether that be at home and at school, that it is so important that the DIC provide a safe and fun place for children to feel that they belong.

Children at the DIC focused on their activity

In order to build this environment, volunteer carers have been continuously receiving training since 2021. The first training endeavours to equip volunteer carers with the skills to provide appropriate care to children and plan and run upon activities without guidance. In May 2022, volunteer carers undertook workshops building their understanding of children’s human rights, and, in October 2022, they received training on more advanced medical care, building upon previous training on basic first aid that they had received in 2021.

Volunteer carers after participating in counselling training

From August 2022, a South African NGO called KTD has been conducting ongoing monitoring of the DIC and providing advice to the volunteer carers. Meetings are held between KTD, the DIC and the JVC staff in South Africa, where volunteer carers have the opportunity to share any of their concerns about the children and how to provide them the proper care and think of solutions together. They are also able to ask advice related to the planning and running of events, bringing them the confidence to implement new plans themselves.

The volunteer carers have also received two rounds of counselling training, where they learned what kind of questions to ask and how to communicate with the children at the center in order to be a comforting presence and learn about the problems they face. They are also taught that they shouldn’t feel responsible for solving all the children’s problems themselves and that it is perfectly okay to rely on other suitable parties for help.

Since the training began, the volunteer carers have approached the activities at the center with much more passion and initiative and have been seeking out information that will help the children to implement in their activities. Recently, they decided to run activities where all the children can gather together on public holidays to ensure that they don’t have to spend the holidays alone from this year.

The volunteer carers at counselling training

Although the volunteer carers have improved their ability to plan and deliver activities to children since the beginning of these training sessions, they are still experiencing difficulty developing full-fledged programs connecting games with learning to teach the children. We plan this year to work toward developing this ability and ensuring the sustainability of the center even after the JVC leaves to continue our support elsewhere.

Updates on the Scouts and Cubs program, as well as the vegetable garden program also run by the DIC, will be published soon, so keep an eye out!

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