Last month, Arron and I visited Vuyiswa’s after school program that she runs out of her garage. We have been so lucky to be able to interact with the children from the Safety Homes and get to know them, but we were really aching to see the other amazing works that she has been doing. In this after school program, it is just Vuyiswa and her personal knowledge & wisdom, which she shares with the children. We were so pleased to see that she has even attracted children outside of the two Safety Homes. The numbers usually range from anywhere between 20 and 60 children, depending on the age group of the day. She shares basic information about HIV/AIDs with the children (which come from activity books donated by the government), as well as basic knowledge on self-respect, children’s rights, and caring for one’s self. It seems almost a double standard teaching the children something they already learn in school, but the sad fact in this situation is that the children are not learning these simple truths in school. If they are mistreated at home, there is no one there to tell them that they have a right to be treated with love and respect. Vuyiswa shared with us that the schools do not teach the children about HIV/AIDs nor how it can be prevented. There is also time dedicated to learning about fruits and vegetables and how important they are for the body; the children learn the names of each, in both English and Xhosa.
After the program, Vuyiswa lines the children up and gives each of them a piece of fruit and a packet of chips (whatever the government grants cannot cover, she pays for out of her own pocket). She knows the children come for the food most of the time, but they are at least learning some basic necessities upon their visit. I was really excited to see just how interested these children really are about learning this basic knowledge that I believe we sometimes take for granted. As the children were leaving, Vuyiswa informed the older boys and girls from the group that they would be required to water the new vegetable garden as one of their “end of class” tasks for the day. The way that she involves these children with small programs and everyday tasks is something I truly admire about her. Her time with these children is really more than just sharing information and knowledge – it’s also about character building.
Many of the children who come to these after school programs do have families and homes, but Vuyiswa shared with us that the majority of those homes are broken ones. Either the parents are alcoholics, abusive, or they are simply irresponsible and do not care for the well being of their children. This after school program in a tiny, dusty garage seems to be a safe haven for these kids; a home away from home.