This is Part 2 in the Series "Once an At-Risk Youth, Thembi Becomes a Child & Youth Care Worker," contributed by the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) in South Africa.
Thembi Helps Other Girls At-Risk
One of the first families Thembi helped in her new role was of three orphaned girls. Eighteen-year-old Asanda and her two siblings were in Johannesburg when their mother passed away. They moved across the country to live with a maternal aunt. With three children herself and unemployed, the aunt was overwhelmed.
Thembi helped the family secure a foster care grant and budget to make ends meet each month. She taught them how to establish and maintain a vegetable garden to improve their diets and extend their resources. She also helped them work on grief and relationship issues. The children and their aunt participated in grief work sessions, learned to express their feelings of loss and share memories. They created a memory box to honor their mother and found individual and joint healing.
The Powerful Combination of Professional and Caring Relationships
Asanda was a bright student and her CYCW took every opportunity to talk to her about the importance of education. She encouraged her to join the study group at the Isibindi Safe Park and made it her own priority to help her with her schoolwork.
When Thembi learned that Asanda wanted to become a doctor, she helped her with college applications. She was accepted into the medical program at the University of KwaZulu Natal, yet funding was a problem. Though her aunt had saved some money from the foster care grant, it was not enough. Knowing the sincerity of her dream, her CYCW advocated for support from the National Association of Child Care Workers, and so Asanda was indeed able to register for university. She is now happily involved in her first year of medical studies.
“My childhood life was similar to Asanda’s. I relate to the aspect of growing up without parents, which is why I felt it was important to help,” said Thembi. The two formed a close bond.
Asanda is now one of the youth role models of the Isibindi program. She was a leadership voice at the NACCW’s Biennial Conference in July. She talked to a reporter about her experiences.
Both Asanda and Thembi demonstrate great courage, hope and determination as they evolve into their chosen careers. Through professional life-space focused care dedicated to addressing the unique needs and circumstances of vulnerable children and youth, change truly is possible.
*Names changed to protect identity