HIV/AIDS care,prevention and treatment project
The Isisombululo Programme is an HIV/AIDS care,
prevention and treatment project that aspires to
make a difference to the lives of people in the
southern Cape's Eden District.
The Eden District is the coastal region stretching from
Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay and is a premier tourist
destination, sort after for its natural beauty and its friendly
people. Sadly, it is also one of the areas hardest hit by the
dual epidemics of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB).
MADaboutART is a colourful beacon of hope in the hilltop
township, overlooking the affluent town of Knysna. Nekkies
is home to more than 5 000 children who have been affected
in some way by HIV. An educational centre, MADaboutART
provides innovative and interactive programmes using art,
drama, music, film, and even a jungle gym to impart
knowledge and practical life skills about HIV and AIDS.
Isisombululo is contributing to this process.
Creator and Executive Director of the centre Larry Gurney
says: "Ultimately we hope to reduce the number of new HIV
infections in children and young people, especially those
who are orphaned or vulnerable because of HIV/AIDS. To do
this, we give accessible and accurate information so
that they can protect themselves against HIV."
More than 100 children swarm to MADaboutART after
school daily to soak up knowledge while having fun at
the same time. The space buzzes. Teenagers
huddle around computers while younger MAD kids giggle
as they wiggle through an orange tube leading to a magical
underwater world that rises up to a grand penguin throne.
Ntombi, 14, is one of 20 Young Youth Ambassadors or peer
educators who facilitate the learning at the centre. "I love
this place. When they teach you, you see things visually. They
never tell us what we need. They draw it out of us and we
come up with solutions. People need facts but don't know
where to get them. There is so much gossip, finger pointing
and false information. MADaboutART is a chance to change
all that," says the young myth buster.
"This is where we must begin to create effective
families," says Karen Gildenhuys gesturing broadly
to the sleeping toddlers. "We have to start with the
children. It's the best chance we've got of securing
a generation free of alcohol and drug abuse, HIV/AIDS
and violence against women and children."
Gildenhuys is director of the non-governmental
organization Creating Effective Families which offers
parenting and life skills to the community of about
30 000 people. She says about 80% of mothers are
single teenagers, half of whom are still at school.
"It's a privilege to work in the
community because, unlike in a hospital, assisting people
in their homes is more personal. I feel like I can make a
real difference," says Dr Barlodien
"Getting HIV made me stronger. I began disclosing my
status an hour after I tested positive. I was just looking
forward to helping others. I knew that sometime down
the line, keeping HIV a secret would be very destructive."
That's the kind of positive energy that has made Saki a
local hero in George and in nearby Thembalethu township.
He is motivated by "loving and caring for other people
and sharing with others even if the news is not great".
The Isisombululo Programme has made it possible for Creating
Effective Families to accomplish their mission by funding the
"adoption" of eight existing crèches - each with about 100
children - in the community. Volunteers are trained to run
weekly parent workshops. They gather, talk and learn about
what effective, loving and responsible parenting means.
Basic skills such as personal hygiene, nutrition, safety, effective
discipline and family values are taught and affirmed.
"Every afternoon the MADaboutART centre
echoes with the sound of children - warming up with 'icebreakers',
holding discussion groups, planning their next art
project or singing, acting, playing... just doing what kids do...
and at the same time learning and growing stronger. It's a
place of pride." says Larry Gurney, the founder.
Editorial by Adele Baletaall images copyright of Kali van der Merwe