The Thogomelo project will provide an accredited course for caregivers to reduce stress and improve coping strategies. Its second objective is to increase understanding of child protection, prevention of abuse and engagement of authorities and agencies.
The nationwide project is implemented and managed by Health and Development Africa, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and prime contractor PATH, with funding from the US Agency for International Development’s AIDSTAR mechanism.
Thogomelo (which means “caring” in the Venda language) is the Alliance’s first project in South Africa.
An estimated two million South African children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. They face huge challenges: an absence of parental protection, the burden of loss and grief, and, increasingly, a heightened vulnerability to abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Community members who assume the role of caring, supporting, and protecting orphans and other vulnerable children often lack the skills and capacity to respond effectively. Nearly all face high stress levels, the potential for exhaustion, and a range of psychosocial needs.
Thogomelo aims to care for and protect vulnerable children by increasing the knowledge, abilities and well-being of those who are responsible for them. With a dual focus on caregiver support and child protection, the project incorporates the best and most promising practices from Africa and is designed to become part of the enduring fabric of South Africa’s child protection efforts.
The team is developing approaches to help caregivers reduce isolation and increase resilience. Thogomelo focuses on elements that will enable caregivers to feel more positive about their work – for example, activities that foster connection with peers and a culture of appreciation among colleagues.
To build skills and competence, the team is working with the South African Department of Social Development to develop a nationally accredited skills programme and manual as well as an intervention toolkit. These materials are being introduced in a cascading skills training programme for caregivers throughout the country.
Using activity-based, participatory learning to engage a diverse range of caregivers, the project is providing guidance on a comprehensive set of topics, including strengthening relationships, self-care, dealing with stress and increasing HIV and AIDS literacy.
Throughout these activities, the Thogomelo team is strengthening community caregivers’ capacity to identify and respond to violations in child protection – and, by doing so, reduce the anxiety that service providers face when confronted with abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
Critical components of these efforts include a child protection guidebook, a CD-ROM outlining child protection policy, and a referral guide for community caregivers.