After two and half years of waiting, the construction of the Football For Hope Center feels like a dream - a dream come true.
From the time WKU was awarded the Football for Hope (FFH) Centre, to this day the road has been long, bumpy and windy but finally it is here. Now we'll have a lot more speace to work with clients.
Here are three facts why I really appreciate having the FFH Centre soon.
No more seeing them in the computer room or even one of our cars, where we would just cover the windows, so nobody could look inside.
No more meetings on the verandah or under the trees (which does have a nice flair occassionally), because now there will be office space for all WKU staff to work
No more patients walking up and down the hall with urine samples, because the new doctor's room will have a direct connection to the toilets.
And the kids will love the new artificial turf football field - that also means that their shoes will last much longer. And all the Mlungus (white people) can now play barefeet as well, without getting the biggest blisters of their lives.
For all this I extend my gratitude 1st of all to our CEO and Founder Marcus and Rogerio from Architecture for Humanity for their hard work pushing the process. And I'm also grateful to Edendale Hospital CEO Mrs Ndwandwe, streetfootballworld, FIFA, and Mayor of Pietermaritzburg, Councilor Chris Ndlela, because without them, we wouldn't be where we are right now - and I wouldn't be the happiest person in Edendale.
In September 2010, two 15 year old twin sisters started coming to the Health Academy where they each had HIV Counselling and Testing, a Sexual Risk Assessment and an OVC assessment.
They both tested HIV negative. When we did the OVC and Sexual Risk Assessment we found out that they live with their unemployed epileptic mother and two older siblings (also twins). Neither of them had birth certificates or ID numbers. We also found out that their father was in prison. Prior to his encapsulation, he was the sole bread winner. The father was in prison for statutory rape. He had raped the two girls when they were younger. He started raping them when they were eight.
The girls were referred to Thuthuzela Care Centre for rape and trauma counselling and to a social worker for birth certificates and ID numbers. A home visit was also done where we found that the mother was also traumatised. We had to counsel her as well in order for her to be able to support the girls.
One of the girls appeared more traumatised then the other and so she received more attention. The girl that seemed to be coping had a boyfriend and had started sleeping with him. She was not using protection and stopped coming to the Health Academy. She then moved out of her mother’s house, stopped going to school and moved in with her boyfriend.
Nobody knew where the boyfriend lived but our counsellors looked for her. When we eventually found her, she was already a few months pregnant. Her boyfriend was also a 16 year old teenager who was an orphan. He had dropped out of school two years prior to meeting this girl and he lived with his two older brothers.
When we found her, she confessed that she had stopped coming because she was embarrassed because of the pregnancy.
We encouraged her to come back again and also encouraged the boyfriend come with her. We assisted her reconcile with her mother and also realised that she had not dealt with the rape issue as we had previously thought.
She received more counselling and is back at school where she is now a year behind her sister.
In our blog we will introduce the wide range of services and activities that are being offered at our Health Academy. Every week one of the WKU team members gives you an insight into why the Health Academy is so popular and successful in Edendale.
On a 3-monthly basis we do a sexual risk assessment for all who are between the ages of 11 and 20 years, who come to the Health Academy. In the sexual risk assessment we check if the young person has done an HIV test before and if so when that was and what the results had been.
If we find a boy or girl is already sexually active, we try to get more details about their sexual behaviour. We want to know how many sexual partners he/she had and what gender and age they were. The ages and number of sexual partners is often related to the young person's socio-economic situation. In these assessments we often experience that young people tell us very heart-breaking stories about their lives.
Last year, a 16-year old girl came to the Health Academy who had four boyfriends at the time. She really liked one of the boys. The other three were because she needed a place to sleep. She figured if she has many boyfriends she is guaranteed a bed every night.
This young girl has two siblings, her mother's sister passed away and her family took the aunt's four children. The father's brother also passed away and left two children behind. The girl's family took them, too. This made a total of nine children (under 18 years) and two adults living in a one-bedroom house.
The kids sleep in the kitchen on the floor and the adults in the bedroom. The house is built on a sloppy mountain. Whoever gets home early will get a nicer spot on the floor to sleep. The girl's solution was to have boyfriends so she can sleep on a bed and also have more delicious food (instead of cabbage which they often eat at home).
After the girl had visited the Health Academy and we learnt about her story during the risk assessment, we then referred the family to the social workers to assist these parents to start receiving foster care grant so that they can be able to take care of all the children.
The sexual risk assessments are important for all the youth. We hope that we can get more of them to come and visit us at the Health Academy. It is the best way for us to find out who is at risk and needs our help.
What we do is not only a job for us. It simply feels good to be able to help the people. And when we see people like this girl, who we have helped for a better future, then this is a good reward for the hard work.
A few weeks ago, an 11 year old boy was referred to the WhizzKids United Health Academy from Edendale Hospital. He fell from a tree onto an iron fence which pierced between his ribs and lungs. This child regularly begs on the streets for food. He collects his food and then hides it at the top of a tree so that other children cannot steal it from him. He then returns the following day to collect it. After staying in the hospital for a week, we learned not only about his sad conditions but also about his heartbreaking family story.
He lives with his 16 year old sister, 14 year old brother and his sister's 2 year old toddler. His mother passed away when he was a baby whereas his father passed away when he was in the 2nd grade. His sister's boyfriend is in his thirties and is the sole provider for the family. Both he and his sister does not attend school, whilst his brother returned to school this year after a year-long break.
His sister's boyfriend sadly has the family in the palm of his hand. He never allows her to come to the WKU Health Academy for HIV Counselling and Testing and she is not able to afford the taxi fare without him. She is also in no position to refuse sex or even discuss the use of condoms or other contraceptives. If she did, then he threatens to let the family starve as retaliation. He does not live with the family but comes to their home any time he feels like it. Sometimes he comes in the middle of the night when they are all sleeping. If she complains that he is waking up the kids, then he beats her. If the boys try to help their sister, then he beats all 3 of them.
They live about 15km away from the WKU Health Academy and due to this fact we have struggled with being able to help them thoroughly. Like many families in this situation, they will not let the police intervene. Even with our encouragement and cooperation with law enforcements, the police still needs evidence of abuse or a complaint from a family member about the issue. And the family members won't issue a complaint because it would be considered as "biting the hand that feeds you."
We have even brought this issue to numerous foster care services. But, unfortunately, social workers in this area have such a heavy workload that cases can easily become lost in the shuffle. For example, one particular sexual crisis center in Edendale can easily average 50 cases per month. One social worker even admitted to us that the number of cases she handles is ten times the amount social workers see in the United States. Although foster care services have declared that they will look into the issue, their assurance never sounds firm and our fears for the family begin to worsen.
This is a sad reality that many families and clinics like ours encounter. Whilst it is generally rewarding to work at the WhizzKids United Health Academy, it never gets any easier when we cannot help out a case of this nature to our fullest capabilities due to certain limitations. As we watch over the young brother in his recovery, we do all we can to encourage him and his family to come to the Health Academy without overstepping any boundaries. Besides helping the young man to heal, our role is to provide constant care and support to the family even if they are still scared to reach out for help.
Cases like this reminds all of us that the Health Academy is more than just a clinic or a soccer pitch. It is an institution of prevention, care, treatment and support for HIV and AIDS. It is a center where the community can come together and a safe haven for children. Our hopes are that one day proper funding and resources will allow us to build and develop more Health Academies in different communities. Therefore, we can be more active in stopping this issue of fear, abuse and pain. But, as for now, our focus lies on this family as we will continue to do as much as we can.