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CYCWs Support Families in Household Economic Strengthening

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by Sindisiwe Dlamini (CYCW), KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

The Zondo* family was overwhelmed by their life situation. The mother was chronically ill and mentally disabled, the children were malnourished and missed school frequently and the family was dependent on government child support grants that were only provided for two children. The grants were not large enough for them to survive on. They saw no way to escape poverty. Their plight is not uncommon in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

A child and youth care worker (CYCW), trained through the National Association of Child Care Workers’ Isibindi program in South Africa, intervened. CYCWs are trained in household economic strengthening interventions and developing plans specific to the needs of each family. That’s how I became involved and was able to work with the family improve their financial management to better manage their home and resources in order to better provide for the children. On Eradication of Poverty Day, we share this story of success.

Family stands in front of their gardenThrough door-to-door family recruitment in September 2014, a Community Care Giver (CCG) learned of the family’s hardship and referred them to me, the local CYCW. The family consists of four children: Vamsile (20 years), Asabonga (17 years), Londiwe (10 years) and Siphiwe Biyase (6 years). The mother was on her own, and saw no way to improve the situation for her family.

The children were going to school without food as the mother was paying her loans with the grants she received for the two children. The mother was not adhering to her ARV treatment, the shortage of food in the house being one of the reasons.

I started by visiting the family twice a day to build relationships, especially with the mother. Fortunately, the mother was very open and shared all important and personal information. I referred the family to the Department of Social Development and SASSA for a grant application and for food parcels. I taught the mother about budgeting and assisted her to pay all of her debts. I also visited the Department of Agriculture to advocate for seeds for a food garden and land was identified.

A family meeting was held with Asabonga and her mother to discuss the issue of school attendance. All of Asabonga’s challenges and reasons for not attending school were discussed, namely, the issue of hunger in the house, her school uniform being in bad condition and the issue of lack of toiletries. I went to Asabonga’s school to advocate for her and to get a new uniform and continued to advocate for the family by going to the nearest primary school for admission for Londiwe and Siphiwe.

The school provided a new uniform to Asabonga and a good relationship between the school and myself was established, which enhanced the communication. Regular school visits were conducted for support and monitoring of the children’s progress. I also linked Asabonga to a study group that she attends every Monday and Thursday after school. Support is being provided by all stakeholders in terms of monitoring the progress of the children and family. Siphiwe and Londiwe were admitted to school and the mother was able to buy school uniforms for each of them with the Child Support Grant money. Both children did very well at school and managed to progress to the next grade. 

A daily routine was designed working together with the family, since they were struggling to assign chores in the household. The children are following the daily routine on their own, without supervision, and a sense of independence has developed.

Mother takes her medicineMrs. Zondo was linked to the community care giver for support in adhering to her medication plan. A pill box was issued to her, and this has worked well and she is now adhering to her treatment independently.

Asabonga has passed her first term and using her Child Support Grant money, she has been able to apply to the local university. Vamsile has been motivated by seeing her siblings attend school and has enrolled herself to write her supplementary examinations.

The family is now eating from the food garden which assists them to adhere to the budgeting plan that was designed. The family is able to save money and they are now debt free. Home visits are still being conducted to the family to monitor progress. Vamsile has been of great support to her siblings as she was motivated by the CYCW to help them.

The changes in this family show that they have achieved greater security through managing their resources and caring for each other in a process introduced and supported through the Isibindi program. The younger children are attending school, the older children are completing school and looking forward to post-school studies, while the mother is maintaining her treatment schedule and her health is stable. All the children help with the food garden which helps to feed them. The family is being supported to access external sources and to use these resources to support the family in caring for each other. This story is one of success attributed to household economic strengthening. More than 4,400 CYCWs throughout South Africa, like myself, have been trained through the PEPFAR-funded Isibindi program to help more families achieve greater security and improve overall wellbeing. More information can be on the NACCW’s website.

*names have been changed