According to a 2012 Unicef report on the State of the World’s Children, South Africa is home to some 1 900 000 children who have lost one or both parents to Aids. These “Aids Orphans” are under 18, and along with possibly being infected with HIV themselves, are vulnerable to violence and hunger, being separated from their siblings, malnutrition and a host of other problems which affect the quality of their lives, and limit their potential.
Lebone Village, in Bloemfontein in the Free State Province, believe they can help.The scale of the problem is enormous, but the staff members at
Lebone, meaning light in local language Sotho, was founded in May 2000; Tim and Jaine Rist, of the AIDS Mission Outreach Trust, opened Lebone House as a daycare centre for children infected or affected by HIV/Aids.
Since then the organisation has grown, with five focused centres offering children in need the love, care and access to education they sorely need.
“The most rewarding part of what we do here is to see a child changing from being sick, neglected and scared into a child who is happy, healthy and enjoying life,” says Anri Holder, caretaker and executive manager at Lebone Village.
“To know that we can give each child a future is something very special.”
A FIVE-STEP APPROACH TO CARE
The five centres involved in the children’s care are Lebone House, Lebone Agriculture, Lebone Skills Centre, Lebone Counselling and Lebone Edu-Centre.
Lebone House is the organisation’s care centre, or orphanage, and aims to provide a family-like environment, with dedicated house managers. The organisation’s members believe it is “easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken adults”.
The house is home to 81 children, of whom 48 have been orphaned after losing their parents to HIV/Aids, and, “… daily there are more and more children and people who need Lebone’s care; the needs are always increasing so our aim will always be to help more people on a daily basis”, says Holder.
FOOD FOR LIFE
Lebone Agriculture provides for the children’s and community’s food and nutritional needs through gardens growing fruit and vegetables, and raising chickens for their eggs.
The on-site bakery produces around 40 loaves of bread a day and supplies the local community with the surplus.
The agricultural arm, with the skills centre, teaches volunteers about growing their own food gardens, and carpentry skills to produce desks, shelves and doors for the centre.
EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SUPPORT
The organisation’s edu-centre provides education to pre-schoolers and an after-school programme for children in grades one to 11 to supplement classroom learning. The classes are facilitated by a trained teacher and students can access the internet to help with homework and research for projects.
The organisation has a healthy relationship with the University of the Free State that allows for varsity students to provide physical and occupational therapy to the children.
The Lebone Counselling and Social Support programme helps people apply for social grants, birth certificates and identification documents from government departments.
“Knowing that we are responsible for the future of our children and that they don’t have anyone else to look after them keeps us all motivated to make a difference, ” says Holder. “That and the Grace of God.”
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