A Hero in Disguise

Upon entering the Elandshoorn Township near Groblersdal you are pulled into a different world, one of wonder and extreme difference from the ones we are acquainted with. Dusty streets line numerous metal shacks. Children are running out to you waving in wonder as they recognise the Ndlovu Land Rover. This vehicle not only promises a better future, but also brings hope to a community pulled apart by HIV/AIDS. Not unlike any other township, Elandshoorn faces a desperate need for understanding and support for their community.

In the heart of Elandshoorn you can see the pavilion of the sport centre rise from the ashes. The health centre and clinic are of first world standards. With clean lines and contrasting architecture, the Ndlovu clinic seems like a vision.

What seemed impossible, became a reality in 1994 when Dr. Templeton from the Philadelphia Hospital in Groblersdal started a campaign to aid HIV/AIDS patients. Identifying a need, Dr. Templeton approached many charitable organisations for help in his dream. With grants from various international organisations he was able to help these young women prevent the virus from passing to their children. With an 83% success rate, Ndlovu clinic became known for its care and love of its community.

Since the birth of the clinic, many other buildings could be built for the community. A health centre with a fully equipped gymnasium and stadium gave the community the freedom to become not only fit but also created a new vibrancy to their lifestyle. Having a place to express their culture and show off their artistic flair, the community came together and celebrated their individuality.

With the demand for education, a dental and health care program was started. With the time and volunteer workers from all over the region, children and adults alike could benefit from free dental care and life skill education classes.

With the success rate in treatment to the HIV/AIDS virus another need however was noticed. While the mothers are getting the help that they need, the children are often left at home and not taken care of. Ndlovu noted the rise of Aids Orphans in the community and created the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project (OVC). Various Units within in the project comprises of nutrition clubs where the children are nourished. Funded primarily by the Nelson Mandela Fund, children could now be fed each day ensuring better quality of life.

With determination and a desire to help these young children Ntombi Mtsaweni, a social worker, decided to get involved and increase the awareness of the OVC project. What she did not expect to find was that there was more to awareness than meets the eye. She discovered that more that 800 children did not have access to schools, income or were able to attain a foster grant from the government. Without an elder to assist in the application, minors like these are unable to get the help that they desperately need.

Ndlovu currently monitor 1857 families within the area. Many of these families range from four to six people. With a ridiculous amount of R350, an entire family like this can be supported for an entire month. But due to lack of awareness and special aid this is an impossible goal to attain. Ndlovu provides food parcels out of their own budget to assist these families and child headed homes as much as possible. However having to move around budgets from one service to another causes much strain on Ndlovu and its ability to be as effective as possible.

With the restructuring of the Nelson Mandela Fund Ndlovu could find themselves without the needed grant to support the OVC Program. Contacting the Government office, Ntombi became aware of the fact that cases for foster grants are more than 5 years behind. If any young child tried to appeal to a case it would be thrown out due to understaffing and back log in the respective offices. The District office in Polokwane has been very eager to assist in the application process but were met with many challenges. With lack of transport and overload of work, placing children within the system became impossible. Ntombi aims to move away from district to national in order to get the support and aid they need to continue the effort in getting grants to support the community.

As head of the Nutrition clubs and the OVC Project, Ntombi moved to Elandshoorn in order to be available at any time for the Ndlovu Centre. With four nutrition units currently run by Ndlovu, 120 children have improvement of health and can look forward to a better life. This small number of Children may have a possibility of attaining a better life, but many are still without the care they need.

Each Nutrition unit has two community health workers and each pre-school boasts three teachers each. Two of these Nutrition clubs are directly linked with a pre-schools where the kids are not just fed but also educated. Pooko takes care of 32 children while Ntwane support 18 children. With two additional Pre-schools run by the community itself, Ntombi aims to combine a Nutrition club to each of these schools. Maropeng has 21 children and Thabakhubedau another 25. With Nutrition clubs and pre-schools next to one another, children need not miss out on an education. By sponsoring a child for R80 a month, you can provide him or her with a healthy start in life and also an well-educated future.

Until recently many children have benefited from the combined efforts of Ndlovu and the Nelson Mandela Fund. Once a child is seen as being malnutritioned they are referred to a nutritional unit. These children get the support and recover to a well-balanced life. The problem arises once the child is deemed fit. This young child then gets removed from the Nutrition unit and sent home. The devastating effect of this is only a return to their previous life. Ntombi aims to make the support constant in order for that child not to fall back into malnutrition but to keep them balanced as far as possible.

32 Wells provide the community with water. This essential commodity helped many members in the community and gave then a new aspiration in life. Supplying the community with water solved a crucial challenge. With these wells in place, many people were able to take up small farming to provide and support their family. With small contributions to Ndlovu you can make a big difference.

Food parcels given to Ndlovu made it possible for this community to survive and gave hope where it seemed completely lost.

Each Nutrition unit varies from 10 to 15 kilometres apart. This places more strain on transport from one unit to another and makes it almost impossible for a three-year-old to walk to. Many more are needed to make a considerable difference. Ten home base groups within the community aid in monitoring the children with additional child care communities within the area. Money raised for these units can be used to build more units and reach more children before it is too late. Many young children slip through the system due to unregistered births. If a child is left without an identity, they are left without a life.

By working together we can make a difference in a world which we never realised needed our help. By partnering with Champ and sponsoring a child, you could make a difference beyond imagining.

Give people Hope and they have more than enough aspiration to Live.

By Magdalena Baben