On the second day of March 2012, I started working at the Health Academy as a Lay Counselor. I knew that I chose a great job but at this point I did not know how much it meant for the many youth, orphans and vulnerable children. These young people depend on us as counselors for moral support, being someone to talk and listen to their views. We also are the ones who notice their values and support them, along with complimenting them when they do a good thing.
While I was at work a few days ago, this young man walked in to do HCT. He introduced himself as Sipho Zulu (name changed), a 15 year old boy that comes from a family with four older siblings and lives with three of his brothers. His mother and father have both since passed away. His oldest brother lives in another area with his girlfriend.
Although Sipho lives with his brothers it feels as if they are tenants because his brothers live with their girlfriends and they cook in their rooms. He continuously feels left out similar to an orphan; left to cook and eat alone. Sipho still attends school and passes with good grades however no one is around to encourage and give hope or appraisal.
He values his brothers’ birthdays and buys them presents, but none of his brothers remembers his birthday; occasionally he will remind them and they will promise to give him a present but they never do. Combining all of these emotions, Sipho consistently feels neglected and even if he is short of food he would at times rather starve.
Initially his foster care guardian was his oldest brother but eventually moved to his aunt. After spending some time in his aunt’s home he returned with his brothers because he did not feel welcomed in her home. To this day, his aunt continues to receive his foster care payment; however she keeps 200 Rand and gives him whatever is left over. This money does not go very far in the way of food because he is left with all of his school fees e.g. stationary and uniforms. Every day he arrives at school with an empty lunchbox to fill up from his school’s feeding scheme in order to have food in the evening.
Siphi is now a part of the Health Academy’s OVC programme and he comes for other services such as homework club and counseling.
When you arrive at a place that is always welcoming with warm hands, you suddenly gain interest over that place and want to belong. Early in 2011, when I had to join a long queue to do an HIV test at some place, a friend of mine told me about the WhizzKids United Health Academy. He also explained the other services that were rendered and that people my age attend the Health Academy.
The first time I arrived at the Health Academy felt as if I had been attending my whole life. The staff members showed care and love for working with the young generation. I kept coming back for things such as advice, HIV tests, watching the children play football, and I also became very interested with the children and the youth as well. Mid-year in 2011, I had an assignment that involved community service and I decided to do it at the Health Academy. During that period, the love of working with the children through football and wanting to learn more about the services grown greater and greater.
From September until November in 2012, I completed my experiential training at the Health Academy and thereafter I became a volunteer. It never crossed my mind that coming to WhizzKids United to do an HIV test would be such a great benefit to my life. The experience that I have gained is amazing.