The impact of a child losing one or both of their parents can be catastrophic. When children lose their caregiver, they lose the person responsible for providing basic necessities (food, health and education), as well as the love that the parent provides. Children orphaned by AIDS are commonly stigmatized by their peers, extended family and communities and, as a result, may be denied access to their basic necessities.
The aim of the Orphan and Vulnerable Children Support Programme (OVCSP) is to help those children directly affected by HIV and AIDS acquire the skills needed to become successful adults. This holistic programme focuses upon 6 key areas:
AC-AF works with all children equally, regardless of their gender, to ensure that every child is given the opportunities to fulfil their potential.
AC-AF believes that formal education is important in the development of a child, so we work to ensure that every participant in the programme can access government schools and has the opportunity to complete the highest level of education that they are able to achieve, whether that is in secondary school, vocational training college or university. AC-AF also works with participants when they are in primary school to help them pass the required exams that they must take to enter into government secondary school. This includes strengthening their knowledge and understanding through the AC-AF Homework Club, as well as encouraging all children and youth to access government assistance to orphans and vulnerable children.
Access to Healthcare
A child’s physical health is crucial for their ability to go to school and enjoy their childhood. AC-AF works with all participants to ensure that have a better understanding of how to live a healthy life (including good nutrition), as well as having access to healthcare and medication when required. This includes working with the children in the programme living with HIV to access treatment and counselling, while monitoring their adherence to anti-retroviral treatment and encouraging them to take the steps required to live a full and healthy life.
Provision of Microcredit Loans
AC-AF is the only known organisation in the world to provide micro-credit loans directly to children under the age of 18. Unlike other micro-finance initiatives, loans through the OVCSP are provided for the provision of the children and youths’ basic needs including school-related costs, food, and other general living costs, and not provided for the creation of micro-enterprise initiatives. Loans are repaid by the youth through Youth Professional Development placements and repaid to a Community Fund that allows new families to be accepted into the programme. While creating sustainable programming, this also encourages children and youth to become more self-sufficient (now and in the future) and reducing their reliance upon other people and organisations. Regular workshops are also undertaken with all family members to create a better understanding of financial responsibility.
Youth Professional Development
All participants over the age of 16 will start youth professional development placements where they undertake work placements with local businesses and service providers. These placements will normally be carried out during school holidays with the skills provided in each placement or the type of work undertaken usually relevant to the interests of the youth. While allowing each family to repay the loans provided, this also provides the youth with experience in the workplace and skills that with improve their future employability.
Psychosocial Support (PSS)
Many children affected by AIDS will have dealt with the death of one or both parents alone, and are regularly stigmatized based on cultural beliefs and fears of HIV and AIDS. AC-AF works with children through a series of workshops, workbooks, and one-to-one conversations to help them manage their grief and the daily problems they face, as well as providing them with the coping mechanisms to deal with their own challenges in the future.
In the OVCSP, AC-AF has built a sustainable programme for some of the world’s most vulnerable children that is responsive to local circumstances and developing trends within the communities that we currently work in or may work with in the future.