REPORT : PROJECT SPARK , FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA
On Monday May 5th 2014 I started working with Project Spark in Franschhoek. As planned in our meeting, I would receive my clients via the local NGO, ACVV.
The social worker working for ACVV, Mientie Croukamp, strated sending me referrals shortly after our meeting and I could therefore start planning and preparing for my task ahead.
The clients I would see would be Primary School children attending the Primary Schools in Drakenstein Valley.
The children ranges in age from 5 years (grade R) to 15 Years.
I had two days per week to spend in Franschhoek.
The main reason for seeing these children is to get statistics about the number of children in need of a 'safe house'. The main thinking was that this should be a house for children who are removed from their parents care. Through my work with these children over the past 7 months , I discovered however, that children are very resilient and seem to cope in their homes during the week. On the weekends however, when people tend to abuse alcohol more and abuse occurs more regulary, children feel unsafe in their homes and would benefit from a weekend 'safe house' where they could be safe from harm, do homework, play sport and just be children!
The following statistics will give a clearer picture of the work that was done for Project Spark.
Primary School One
3 Sisters were referred. Twins aged 11 and their older sister aged 15.
The girls are living with their mother, who is emotionally abusing them. These children could benefit from a weekend 'safe house', seeing that they had a loving grandmother in Franschhoek who are willing to give them emotional support. She however cannot look after them permanently.
They were seen since September 2014 at least twice monthly.
Primary School Two
Children attending this school are mostly from the farming community of Franschhoek.
10 Children from this school were referred to me.
Two 6-year olds, A 7-year old, two 9-year olds, one 11-year old, two 13-year olds and two 14-year old.
All these kids were living in alternative care because of abusive households. One 6-year old lived with her grandmother, because her biological mother died earlier this year. All these children were staying in very poor households with too many occupants. In one family 7 children were looked after by a grandmother with a total income of one hundred and seventy six pounds (R3000) per month, there are also 3 adults in this house who do not earn any money.
I tried seeing all these children at least twice a month.
All 10 of the kids at Primary School Two are physically and emotionally neglected and in my opinion all of them could benefit from a weekend 'safe house'.
Primary School Three
The children attending Primary School Three are mostly living on farms. Some of these areas were forestry communities. All the people working here lost their jobs after government closed their operation in Franschhoek.
These families are all struggling financially and drug and alcohol abuse are a daily occurrence.
The ACVV no longer render services in these areas and the Department of Social Development are now responsible for these areas. I had a meeting with them on September 10th to introduce myself.
6 Children from this school were referred to me.
A 10-year old, a 12-year old, one 13-year old, two 14-year olds and 9-year old.
`At the time of the referral it was known that 2 children were victims of sexual abuse ( namely the 12-year-old boy and 14-year old girl). The boy was molested by a neighbours’ son and were still living at home. He presented with difficult behaviour typical of a sexually abused child. This girl is living in foster care after being raped 5 times by different people.
Both these children were in good care and just needed some therapy to overcome their difficult past.
The 10-year old boy is living with his mother and her boyfriend in very poor conditions and would benefit from a weekend 'safe house' to offer him structure and care.
The 9-year old girl’s mother died earlier this year and she is currently in good care.
After starting therapy sessions with the 13-year old girl who was placed in foster care because of neglect by age 3, it came to our attention that for the past 3 years her foster father was raping her.
This child could have benefitted from a 'safe house' in Franschhoek. She had no-one to go to and no support system. She was removed from her foster parents and placed in a temporary care in Cape Town.
Primary School Four
Primary School Four is the largest primary school in Franschhoek and the 20 children referred to me attending this school ranges in age from 7 to 15 years.
Two sisters aged 7 and 8 , are extremely neglected and would benefit from a 'safe house' in Franschhoek. They have no food for days and are emotionally neglected.
A 13-yearl old girl saw her mother kill her father. She is still staying with her mother and her mother’s new boyfriend. Both of them are abusing alcohol and smoking meth (tik). The family have no income and are renting a room in their house out to other people. She is responsible for finding food for her and her 7-year old brother and older mentally retarded brother every day after school. Her mother is incapable of caring for her emotionally and physically, but still she is worried for the safety of her mother seeing that her boyfriend beats her. This girl (and her brothers) could benefit from a 'safe house' for weekends.
I also see a 12-year old and her 13-year old sister. The older sister is staying with a family she met at church. She asked them if they would be prepared to look after her. She is well taken care of. Her younger sister however is still staying with their HIV positive mother. Their mother is abusing alcohol and is not looking after her daughter. She could benefit from a weekend 'safe house' , seeing that she is feeling responsible for her mother and does not want to leave her.
The one 12-year old girl could also benefit from a 'safe house' seeing that her mother and her boyfriend are physically abusing her. She is being hit and has to work in the house after school. Her mother and her boyfriend are both abusing alcohol , meth (tik) and buttons. (combination of cocaine and cannabis). The mother is very sickly and when she is in hospital her friend on two occasions tried to rape her daughter. The girl told her mother, but she did not believe her.
The 10-year old boy attending Primary School Four could also benefit from a weekend 'safe house'. He was raped by 2 of his neighbours. He still sees them every day and is a very nervous boy. He stays, together with 17 other people, in his grandmother’s 2 bedroom house. Although his grandmother cares for him she is unable to give him emotional support. His biological mother is abusing alcohol and does not want him to be part of her life.
Nine (9) out of a total of 20 children from this Primary School could benefit from a 'safe house' in Franschhoek. Some children (3) referred to me I could not see on a regular basis, seeing that they did not attend school. They would definitely benefit from the structure provided by a 'safe house.'
Primary School Five
Seeing that the children at this school are speaking Xhosa I was unable to start working with them. Good Hope Psychological Service appointed a Xhosa-speaking therapist, Zoliswa Nombembe, to start working at this school once a week from October. At the time of writing this report she has seen 10 children at the school and in her opinion 3 of them could benefit from a 'safe house' namely a Grade 1 female and 2 grade 1 boys. She also received the names of 15 new clients after reading through the referrals. She found that 7 of these children could benefit from a' safe house': one grade 1 girl, a grade 1 boy, grade 2 boy, two grade 5 girls and 2 grade 6 girls.
In total 76 children were referred to both me and Zoliswa. 47 children could benefit from a 'safe house' in Franschhoek. A further 8 children were not seen by me, because they did not attend school. These children could also benefit from a 'safe house'.
Thank you for trusting me with this wonderful responsibility. These children are the best teachers.
- Sue Simmons, Project Spark, 3rd Floor
- 12 Gough Square
- EC4A 3DW