- We have utmost confidence in the Alex Orphans Project and the allocation of our funds according to priorities identified on the ground.
- We observed that the Wakefield Grannies and the Alex Gogos and its staff are all continuing to develop effective community networks.
- The Wakefield Grannies and the Alex Gogos are empowered and enriched by our connection with one another.
- The combination of housing, electricity and water provided by the government, the support of the Alex Project and our contributions of money and encouragement help to mitigate what would otherwise be extreme poverty.
- The Gogos come to the community centre one day a week to be involved with a support group and each family is visited in the community twice a month by an assigned community care worker.
- Having such consistent and frequent contact has reduced the incidence of elder abuse.
- Both Diana and Rose observe that the Gogos are much more united and their support groups help them feel that they and their families matter and are valued.
- The program operates with very limited infrastructure costs. The use of the community centre is free. Diana prefers the arrangement with the community centre because it is more conducive to meeting and networking.
Funding and donors
- The Glyn & Marais Law firm in Standton provides 5000 rands ($450 Canadian) per month for school supplies, + annual Christmas kit for children
- Wakefield Grannies provide about $1,250 (Canadian) a month. Diana identifies the Wakefield Grannies as the major sponsor of money that goes directly to the Gogos and the Alex orphans.
- All five salaries (Diana and the four community care workers) are paid by the Mary Slacks Foundation (formerly Kimberly Murry-Field Trust – same fund, simply a change of name.)
- Sanlam Solutions (Insurance) provides $100 (Canadian) a month for additional food vouchers and stationery.
Where our money goes
- The WITS Health Consortium is affiliated with the University of the Witwatersrand. Our money is sent to Diana via WITS which for an administration fee of 10% provides accounting and overseeing of the funds. WITS also provides a number of services such as interviewing potential Community Care Workers and training successful candidates. In addition WITS pays Pic ‘N Pay directly so that the process is seamless saving Diana much time and effort.
- Wits Health Consortium is extremely conscientious, strict, transparent and requires invoices for all money allocated.
- Food Security is identified by Diana as the priority. Our supplying the basics gives the Gogos a little more cash flow flexibility. We provide food security for 50 families in Alex.
- We supply maize meal, dried beans, tinned fish, rolled oats, rice, macaroni, peanut butter. Semp (dried corn) is provided for larger families.
- Pick ’N Pay Hyper provides free food which has almost reached expiry.
- The Project/Gogos never received government assistance for food. A two year food assistance program from the Lottery ended.
- School uniforms are covered by another fund and are purchased every other year. Money for uniforms doesn’t come automatically but has to be requested. Our Education fund has purchased uniforms in the past and could do so again.
- Diana visits Pick ’N Pay a week before distribution and checks out the specials (shelf by shelf) in order to make money go further. Pick ’N Pay then reserves specials.
- The sewing machines and pots and pans the Wakefield Grannies purchased in the past are stored in the truck and brought out as needed. Two of the sewing machines were donated to the Natal group. One is with Elizabeth Bhatha in Alex.
Program director and community care workers
- The Alex Orphans Project is overseen by a Board of Directors.
- The Alex Board advises Diana on financial issues, acts as an advisory board, and provides Diana with a support system.
- While Diana is the one charged with submitting grants, the Alex Board approves the grant resources. The Board signs off when money has been transferred.
- Dr. Nazer, a Board member, works with adults with mental issues and provides hospital referrals for Gogos in need of referral.
- Rose is on the Alex Board.
- Empowering and educating community care workers is crucial. Victim empowerment courses help the workers deal with trauma in their own lives (all of the workers live in Alex) and respond to all the contingencies and crises faced by Gogos and their families. The retreat was an incredible boost – caregivers felt honoured – November is a good time for such a retreat
- Diana encourages the community care workers to look for opportunities for professional development but she prefers them to take the initiative.
- The social work auxiliary course increases professional status and enables care workers to participate in a wider range of support services such as accompanying Gogos to court.
- Melita and Betty should be encouraged to take the social work auxiliary course.
- Diana works extremely hard. We can encourage Diana to further develop strategies to establish boundaries and rest for herself to avoid burnout.
Health realities and social realities
- Health services are available at the East End Clinic. There are long waiting lists.
- Several of the Gogos have difficulty accessing orphaned children grants from the government because of irregularities in their grandchildren's documents. The care workers sometimes need to go to court with them to help rectify the problems.
- Birth control is free from the East End clinic but teenage pregnancy is still rampant.
- Unprotected sex has not diminished partly because AIDS is no longer a death sentence.
- Safe sex and birth control information is also promoted in the youth discussion groups.
- Girls who “fall” pregnant may now remain in school, but cannot get a mother’s allowance pension until they are 18. Some girls get pregnant in order to collect the pension.
- The South African government has been actively involved since 2003 in trying to reduce the incidence of mother-to-baby transmission of HIV. There are many barriers to the success of the initiative. Mothers are reluctant to take the appropriate ARV cocktail prior to the birth, particularly after the first pregnancy since the drugs adversely affect their own immune systems and lead to increased maternal mortality rates. Cesarian sections are much safer for the baby but are rarely performed due to cost. Mothers should exclusively breast feed for a full six months but this rarely happens.
- There are a wide range of living conditions across the township of Alex. Some areas are relatively quiet and safe where the streets are wider and many homes have walls and gates. Many other areas are severely over-crowded with narrow, unsafe streets. In these areas, the original homes have multiple other shack made of tin or concrete blocks built in the yards. Some are for family members, but others are rented out for extra income. Many of these homes share one outdoor toilet. We visited several homes where the families shared one small room with one bed. A cold water tap came through the wall, there were no sinks, a two-burner hotplate to cook on and a tiny fridge. Other homes we visited had separate bedrooms, kitchen and indoor bathrooms. At a few of the homes we visited, Diana had to stay with the car while we went into the home with one of the care workers because it was unsafe to leave the car unattended.
- A number of people told us they are fearful their children will be kidnapped for child trafficking purposes. As unemployment levels rise, the incidence of child trafficking rises.
- The people of Alex have limited employment and life opportunities.
- We heard from people across social and economic groups that there is a perception that “All the money goes into the pockets of the politicians”.
- Damage to homes caused by natural disasters like flooding is covered by the government. We were told whenever homes are built, illegally or not, the government will step in and provide water and sanitation services.
- Ongoing repairs and improvements are up to individuals and families.
- Transportation in the township is mainly by hundreds of unlicensed, uninsured taxi vans. Drivers often carry guns and they stop and start wherever they feel like to wait for more passengers. There are large speed bumps everywhere in Alex to try to slow down the taxis.
- Shabeens (bars) and betting shops are common everywhere.
- There are many, many unlicensed stalls set up along the sides of the roads where people try to sell anything and everything to try to make money. The stalls are illegal and they are frequently raided by police. We saw women sitting at the side of the road, cleaning chicken intestines in buckets. People would buy these as an inexpensive form of protein for their suppers. There are many small jobs available through street vending and recycling projects.
- Children have very limited places to play outdoors, either in cramped courtyards with laundry strung overhead or out on the streets. We saw a few basic playgrounds. There were hundreds of children enjoying the small swimming pool behind the community centre with very limited supervision.
- Diana and the support workers have constant liaison with the primary and high schools, including parent teacher interviews. Tutoring sessions for all students are offered on a regular basis. A hot lunch for students is provided at the community centre once a week, funded by the baby clothes and food donations.
- Extra tutoring for Matric learners can be had at St. Stephens college. Baby clothes sales help finance the extra transportation costs to the college.
- We visited the primary school M.C. Weiller. There are 1500 students with an average class size of 60 students. The younger classes are divided up by the language spoken at home. There was a nice library but we noticed that the shelves were half empty.
- We were told secondary students have to help with the maintenance of the school after their classes finish for the day.
- Care Workers attend career expos which sometimes identify training programs that can lead to employment (might be more effective for many students than university)
- Examples of such training courses: nurse auxiliary course; data capturing; call centre; office administration (company sponsored courses); auxiliary caregiving;
- Adult courses offered at night to finish Metric are free
- It is acknowledged by everyone we spoke to that the free public schools are inadequate, but the students affiliated with the Alex Orphans Project have few other options. To put this into context, in 2017 an international Reading Literacy Study placed South African children in last place out of 50 countries. 8 out of 10 nine-year old South African children were functionally illiterate. We must provide support within actual realities.
- There are many obstacles to students completing their secondary education and moving on to post secondary training or university.
- Alex learners who do get to university find they are not able to keep up as their public pre-university education is inferior to the private pre-university education of the rest of the student population.
- Youth unemployment in Alex sits at over 50% which adds to a general sense of malaise.
- South Africa has the highest youth unemployment in the world.
- The program is very popular. If we can find more people travelling to South Africa, they would welcome more deliveries. Women check on a weekly basis to verify if there has been a delivery.
- The clothes are of such good quality, they are used as hand-me-downs
- The money is kept in a special petty cash fund because official petty cash requires a bureaucratic process
- The money is used for food for kids' after school program and to provide occasional special transportation to the hospital
- History: The Grace Factory, an initiative in South Africa that 7repurposes baby clothes was the inspiration for our initiative recommended by Carol, Lindy and Ruth on their visit to S.A.
Nulazatsche village in Kwazulu Natal
- History of our connection with the village of Nulazatsche: Phindile saw a re-run of a feature on a South African TV show about Gogos aging with style which featured Rose and three of our Gogos. Phindile's saw the program and contacted Diana and Rose who was then working at Sparrow. Rose invited Phindile to come to Sparrow. Rose went to a mental health conference in Pietermaritzburg and wrote to Norma about finding a group to support Natal gogos. We did find a group, but the arrangement turned out to be unsustainable and the Wakefield Grannies decided to add the Pietermaritzberg Gogos to our mandate offering $4000.00 per year toward food security.
- Unlike the Alex Orphans Project, money in the Nulazatsche Project goes to Gogos in need and is not an AIDS Orphan-based Project.
- Diana said there is a very high incidence of HIV in the children and grandchildren in Nulazatsche.
- Since our involvement began with the group and there is an increase in food security, the grandmothers have been able to set aside money from their pensions to make improvements to the safety and security of their homes. For example, Antonia was able to build a fairly substantial concrete block addition onto her original quite decrepit house made from mud and sticks. Rebecca was able to build herself a small home on her brothers property.
- There is a very different feel to the villages around Pietermaritzburg compared to Alex. Although many of the homes are very basic, there are relatively large yards around every house, much more room for gardens and trees, better outdoor space for children and often lovely views across the hillsides.
- As in Alex, there is a wide variation in the quality, size and furnishings of homes; some homes are impoverished, some are more prosperous.
- The condition of the roads through the villages are very poor and the municipality seems unable or unwilling to fix them despite repeated complaints. We actually got stuck in ruts driving up the hill from Thandi’s house and had to be rescued by a neighbour.
- If we want to communicate directly with Phindile, we have her sister Nampumelelo (Mpume)’s email address.
- Phindilie, her mother Tandi, and sister Mpume, pick up and distribute the food each moth.
- The rotary club helps with gas for Phindile and her sister Mpume when they pick up and deliver the food. The Rotary does not have the capacity to deliver the food.
- As in Alex, our money contributes to food security. Each Gogo household receives a basic food package of staples. Pick ’N Pay now also offers vegetables and fruit just past their “best before” date.
- Orphans taken in by families are allotted a monthly package of rice and beans.
- Instead of admitting new Gogos to the existing group, Diana recommends that food packages be increased and equalized. Diana also recommends that more attention is paid to the Pic ’N Pay specials so the money can go farther.
- The Rotary Club made a special effort to meet with us and even showed up at MacDonalds to say good bye.
- We were particularly pleased to meet John who set up the accounting program.
- Diana, Rose and The Rotary Club confirmed the program is working well. Financial transparency and efficiency have been achieved.
- Phindile has been hired by Rose as a substitute caregiver at the mental hospital. Rose is very pleased with her work. Phindile does not have the qualifications for nurse auxiliary position.
- Our trip to South Africa revealed that the program is effective and vital, as is the feeling of connection to us in Wakefield. We witnessed a high degree of personal commitment, understanding of the causes of social problems and avenues for empowerment. There is extensive, ongoing personal contact and community networking which results in the ability to be proactive and responsive rather than merely reacting to problems as they arise. Our contribution may be a drop in the ocean in terms of the greater context of Sub Saharan Africa but, the financial support to the families affiliated with the Alex Orphans Project makes a significant contribution to well-being. Equally important is the heart to heart connection which enriches the lives of Gogos and Grannies and contributes to empowerment for both groups.
- Since orphans and grandmothers will continue to be referred to the project, the program will continue and our involvement will also continue to be relevant.
- We have utmost confidence in how priorities are determined “on the ground.” At the moment, the priority is food security, but this could change.
- Increase frequency of baby clothes parcels.
- Increase communication (electronically, through letters, etc.) between Wakefield Grannies and South African Gogos which will contribute to the positive moral and empowerment. Form a committee to look at this.
- Form a committee to look at succession planning for the Wakefield Grannies.
- Continue good will trips to and from South Africa if possible (implicit is the ongoing campaign for Aeroplan mile donations).
- Visit the WITS Health Consortium as part of the next Granny visit to enhance communication.
- Replenishment of the Minde Education Fund through a direct mail campaign on an on-going basis.
Minde Education Fund Proposal
- In response to observations and conversations with Diana (current director) and Rose (former director), and many Gogos during the Wakefield Granny Africa Visit, 2018, we propose a broader mandate for the education fund which would be more relevant to the current needs of the learners affiliated with the Alex program. The fund would also serve to motivate students to finish their matric and upgrade vocational and academic skills in order to obtain a job. Both Diana and Rose think this would be effective in addressing current realities of the job market in South Africa.
Mandate – The Wakefield Grannies Education Fund may be used for the following learning scenarios:
- First year college and university fees (as in the current mandate)
- Post-secondary trade school courses and apprenticeships (as in the current mandate)
- Training courses aimed at employment such as: data capturing course; nurse and caretaker auxiliary courses; call centre training; office administration courses; company sponsored courses; career computer course
- Camp retreats which are designed to motivate high school students to complete their matric and plan for the future by exposing them to enriching learning experience.
- Extra study materials or tutoring help for matriculation
- School uniforms
- Courses and professional development activities which empower and upgrade qualifications for the Alex AIDS Orphan Project Director and Community Care Workers.
- Training and educational opportunities for gogos.
- The Alex AIDS Orphans Project Director and the Community Care Workers are constantly networking with the schools and students and community organizations and businesses. They are in a good position to identify motivated students and their needs and available opportunities. An Education Fund topped to $4000.00 per year would offer optimum flexibility in meeting the needs for all motivated learners involved in the Alex Program.
- This would be a discretionary fund. Money can be allocated in accordance with the mandate and priorities identified by the Director and staff.
- Banking and accountability protocols are in place.
- We propose, as in the past, a direct funding campaign with a goal of $4000.00 available for each fiscal year. ( we currently have $300.00 in the fund.)
- Tax receipts for donations would be issued under the auspices of Grace United Church.
- Unspent money will be rolled into the fund available in the subsequent fiscal year.