SOS Children's Villages Eswatini

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Training of Media Houses on Alternative Care and Foster care

SOS Children’s Villages in Collaboration with the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office organized a media training to sensitize journalist on alternative care options in particular foster care. In attendance during the training were six different media houses, with a total of twelve journalist who were trained and given a media package consisting of the UN Guidelines on alternative care; Eswatini Guidelines on Alternative Care amongst other child protection laws related documents.

With the upcoming foster care media campaign to be launched prospectively on 15 March 2021, SOS Children’s Villages Eswatini together with the DPMO’s office, ensure that the media has a buy in first, and are trained to understand the situation of children without parental care in the context of Eswatini. Discussing in particular the solutions to those problems, as well as the media’s role in the matter.

During the training, which was held at the Hilton Gardens inn hotel, it was highlighted that Eswatini has about 40-child care Centre’s, of which the Government only owns and manages one of them. These Centre’s cater for over 2000 children, who are in need of parental care, making foster care a need in Eswatini, said Sindi Dube, Director of the Department of Social welfare.

The media will be very instrumental in assisting to educate the Swazi nation about foster care and alternative care options as a whole, since it is a new concept in the country.  During several presentations, it came out well in a research study done by SOS Children’s Villages Eswatini in the Shiselweni Region, that Swazis are used to taking care of children within their extended family settings, making kinship care an informal care option that is commonly practiced. However, the issue of children without adequate parental care is prevalent in the country as more homesteads are child headed.

Makhosini Mndawe, Principal Secretary of the Deputy Prime minister’s Office said ,” the Government is working tirelessly in formalizing Alternative care options for Emaswati, in particular implementing foster care to support the needs of children without parental care”, when talking to the media during an interview. He further thanked SOS Children’s Villages for the support in taking initiative to work with Government in solving these issues. The success of the training was visible as the media was commenting and publishing stories of the training on-air (Television and Radio) and on Print. Both major newspaper covered the article as well as an online source. Together these media platforms reach more than 500 thousand audiences.

THE BIG WIN, First Runner up – JA Winning

SOS Children’s Villages Eswatini signed a partnership agreement with Junior Achievement (JA) Eswatini. This initiative saw the formation of three companies namely; Ekutfokomeni Youth Pride Company from Siteki, Vigour Development Company from Nhlangano and Revolution of the Youngsters from Mbabane. These companies are owned by a total of 109 young people from the MA where 52 are from Siteki, 32 from Nhlangano and 25 from Mbabane Programme Locations. That is not all as the whole Programme is divided into two sections in each location.

For youth aged between 13 and 15 the offering is financial literacy, where the youngsters are given a chance to participate as Lubane Cooperative Society members and holders of student accounts at Eswatini Bank. The Mini Companies mentioned above belong to the young people who are aged 16 and above. Aimed at empowering young people, the mini companies are formed to equip members with financial and entrepreneurship skills, including starting income generating projects over a managed period of time (normally 10 weeks) from start to liquidation. They buy shares and use that amount as start-up capital for their income generating projects. After liquidation, these companies compete against other mini companies formed by students in different schools. The competitions start in Regions where the top four schools then compete nationally. SOS youth were new players in the game, but this did not stop them from entering the competitions.

Ekutfokomeni Youth Pride Company obtained second position and a trophy in the Lubombo Region after showcasing their company which produces broiler chickens and peanut butter. Vigour Development Company obtained position 6 in the Shiselweni Region and the products they produce are hand/dish washing liquid and broilers while Revolution of the Youngsters produces African jewellery and other pieces of art and they obtained position 5 in the Hhohho Region.

These companies are composed of highly motivated, focused, vibrant and committed boys and girls who need minimum supervision. They surprised their facilitators by working extra hard and respecting the leaders that they chose amongst themselves as Executive Committee Members. All shareholders were cooperative and goal driven until the end.

By history and perception, children who find themselves in the hands of SOS Children’s Villages, depend solely on donors, that is, money just comes from donors and young people are supposed to sit back and watch the donor carry them all the steps of their lives without putting in any effort. These company initiatives are here to overturn such a perception and get youth to align themselves with the mission statement of SOS Children’s Villages “We build families for children in need, we help them shape their own futures and we share in the development of their communities”. These companies aim at strengthening the capability of youth to shape their own futures through financial empowerment and entrepreneurship.`

World children’s day

The children hosted the event. The program directors of the day created a pleasant mood and started the event by inviting the distinguished guest to the dance floor. The children had well prepared for the event with the assistance of their SOS mothers and educational teachers. During the event, different children were reimagine a better world for every child sharing inspirational messages to teach, poetry to motivate and drama to inspire. They had beautifully displayed their artwork, that was used to teach about wrong habits to avoid during covid-19 and inspire others children with skills to be busy with during the schools lockdown. Dances were the order of the day as both boys and girls interchanged dances moves entertaining the guest.

Although he appreciated the government intervention with providing free educational lessons through the national television and radio, he commented that virtual/ online learning has now passive and not interactive, as not many chances are afforded to students to ask at home whilst the lessons are ongoing. The student teacher interaction is minimal and thus students learn without understanding and comprehension of concepts.

During an open dialogue Bandile Mabuza representing children in the Kingdom of Eswatini commented on the issues that children face during this pandemic, such as Gender based Violence that results to mental health issues in teenagers. He provided statistics that continue to show the gender inequality that prevails in Eswatini. He made an example of how young boys who impregnate girls are still allowed to continue with their education whilst, girls are kicked out of school and discontinue their education. Bandile emphasized the importance of equal education and stated that the lack of adequate ICT gadgets continue to create a huge educational divide between the poor and the affording learners.

He pleaded to the government and partners to provide less privileged children with the technological gadgets they need for virtual leaning to make their learning smooth. Bandile further suggested that schools could be opened with strengthened regulations during the pandemic. He concluded his open dialogue speech by requesting children’s representative in parliament or youth parliament to tackle most if not all children issues.

Every child is a treasure

UN Resident Coordinator; Nathalie Ndongo- Seh, applauded all the children for their impactful participation and dialogue. She said she was delighted in celebrating the day with the children at the SOS children’s Villages Mbabane. She further highlighted that every a child is treasure and the future of Eswatini. Although this year has been a year of devastation, she promised that the UN and partners would continue to fight for all children to go back to school and not fall into poverty.

Director of the children’s department at the Deputy Prime Ministers Office, Mhambi Ndlangamandla said “Everything you have said we will take into consideration when we are developing programmes for children in the department”.

Concluding the event, UNICEF Natalie Daries, who is head of child protection at UNICEF Eswatini Country Office was representing the Country Representative, mentioned that there is great improvement in the health and educational systems of Eswatini. She acknowledge that there is still more work to be done to ensure that every child is protected and can learn in order to reach their dreams.

I am a child!

The past week saw African countries celebrating the life of a child.  SOS Children’s Villages in Swaziland also joined forces with all other partners working in the country in commemorating this day. I took time out to discover who a child is and this does not mean I don’t have children myself or don’t know them but I really wanted to understand a Child from a perspective of a child. Often we assume who children are and what they believe in, want and basically their inner thoughts. So I took my pen and paper and comfortably sat with them for heart to heart conversations. Believe this had been one of my greatest lessons and informative conversations. From now on I believe me and you will learn and know what and who a Child is.

I am the child, all the world waits for my coming. All the earth watches with interest to see what I shall become. Civilization hangs in the balance. For what I am, the world of tomorrow will be. I am the child, I have come into your world, about which I know nothing, Why I came I know not, How I came I know not, I am curious, I am interested. I am the child, you hold in your hand my destiny, you determine, largely, whether I shall succeed or fail. Give me those things that make for happiness. Train me, I beg you, That I may be a blessing to the world. Always know that as my parent or relative I look up to you. Carve and walk your path well so that I may follow. There shall come a time where I will carve my own path but let your early influence not be one that me make my own path one filled with crooked ways, grief, pain and sorrow. I am only but a sponge and sucking in all that you present to me, let these not be what will harm the world in future.

Cannot Talk

I am the child who cannot talk. You often pity me; I see it in your eyes. You wonder how much I am aware of, yes I see that as well. I am aware of much, whether you are happy or sad or fearful, patient or impatient, full of love and desire, or if you are just doing your duty by me. I marvel at your frustration, knowing mine to be far greater, for I cannot express myself or my needs as you do. You cannot conceive my isolation, so complete it is at times. I do not gift you with clever conversation, cute remarks to be laughed over and repeated. I do not give you answers to your everyday questions, responses over my well-being, sharing my needs, or comments about the world about me. I do not give you rewards as defined by the world’s standards, great strides in development that you can credit yourself, I do not give you understanding as you know it. What I give you is so much more valuable — I give you instead opportunities. Yes, I give you opportunities to discover the depth of your character, not mine, the depth of your love, your commitment, your patience, your abilities, the opportunity to explore your spirit more deeply than you imagined possible. I drive you further than you would ever go on your own, working harder, seeking answers to your many questions with no answers. Yes, I am the child who cannot talk.

Cannot Walk

I am the child who cannot walk. The world seems to pass me by. Yes indeed you see the longing in my eyes to get out of this chair, to run and play like other children, just like your carefree bubbly children at play, I wish and long to be like them too. There is much you take for granted. I want the toys on the shelf, I need to go to the bathroom, oh I’ve dropped my fork again, but do you know how much I want to quickly run and pick it up myself self. Do you how much I sit each day and wish just to kick the ball. But all I know is I am dependent on you in these ways. My gift to you is to make you more aware of your great fortune, your healthy back and legs, your ability to do for yourself. Sometimes people appear not to notice me or turn their eyes the other ways in pity or sympathy each time they see me, well I always notice them. I feel not so much envy as desire, desire to stand upright, to put one foot in front of the other, to be independent. I give you awareness. I am the child who cannot walk.

Mentally Challenged

I am the child who is mentally impaired. I don’t learn easily, if you judge me by the world’s measuring stick, what I do know is infinite joy in simple things. I am not burdened as you are with the strife’s and conflicts of a more complicated life. My gift to you is to grant you the freedom to enjoy things as a child, to teach you how much your arms around me mean, to give you love. I give you the gift of simplicity. I am the child who is mentally impaired. I laugh at simple things which are the ones which make you judge me and see my mental challenges, well to me that the beauty of life, that random smile and deep laugh and something you can’t see any joy or fun in. My world is often beautiful in its own way because I don’t get to see the real struggles but my world is one you would call a wonder and yet still I appreciate and value that I have life.

Disability

I am the disabled child. I am your teacher. If you allow me, I will teach you what is really important in life. I will give you and teach you unconditional love. I gift you with my innocent trust, my dependency upon you. I teach you about how precious this life is and about not taking things for granted. I teach you about forgetting your own needs and desires and dreams. I teach you giving. Most of all I teach you hope and faith. I am the disabled child.

Life might have put me in my present situation due to so many different circumstance and reasons, but I can still share the joy of being a child .Walk with me one more day, laugh with me, share your heart and smile, because I AM A CHILD!

Family is more than blood!

Just the other day I sat and watched in admiration how the children as siblings at SOS Children’s Villages show so much love towards each other, how they seem to be there for the other and how their protective of their siblings. To think that these children are not biologically related and found themselves within the SOS Children’s Villages due to different painful life circumstances made me realize how family is not always about blood and indeed  no child was meant to be alone.

Life for me and these children has become more likened to  a sewing pattern where the needle draws us together, pulls us near, and with every stitch, we are closer to what we were always meant to be. And with every stitch, our love grows, covering us and giving us both all that we had longed for in life, they have been given a chance to a home and family while on the other hand I have been given the chance to be among those that I love dearly, children and we all make such an amazing family filled with love and its quite visible to us all. The random bursts of laughter when we cross paths around the village, our long “what do you want to be” chats, sharing of our dreams and of course the feeling pain when the other is in pain truly shows we might not be of one biological mother or father but love lives here and we know that what we are here at SOS Children’s Villages together is real.

I may not be sure of the many reasons why these children find themselves abandoned and neglected but I am pretty sure that you are going to be touched and melted by their genuine smiles and expression of love. It’s so pure you even tend to wonder if they are not affected by their situations. In one way or another, I believe you’re meant to see that what the world calls brokenness can be a thing of sure beauty, adorned in the best possible ways, unexpected and entirely holy.

Surely we are not all born with the best families, you might have been abandoned, neglected or had parents passing  away however that doesn’t mean that you’re alone in the world. You still have a family that loves you, they just might not be related by blood. We tend to find family in so many ways such as,

1. The people that raised you – Your guardians aren’t the only ones who helped raise you. Your teachers, your neighbors, and your friends all had a hand in helping you grow into the beautiful woman you are today. Even though you didn’t live under their roofs, they were a huge part of your life.

2. The people that you can count on – Who could you always count on to drive you home from school? Who showed up when you most needed someone to play a parental or family role in your life? Who always followed through on the promises  that they made you, no matter how difficult it was for them to do? These are surely people you can call family.

3. The people that believe in you – Family should be supportive of you. They should encourage you to follow your dreams, because they have unflinching faith that you can achieve whatever goals you set. They should believe in you even more than you believe in yourself. That surely what makes the SOS Children’s Villages such a close knit family. We rally behind each other, we surely never give up on the children, their dreams automatically become ours too. We cry with them during sad times and yes cheer them with our might. I even remember how much I so believe in the young boys that II believe are the best dancers I have seen so far, oh gosh these children can dance and believe me you I am one of their greatest cheerleaders, guess what they know that too! And if only you can hear me rave about them. And that what surely makes us family.

4. The people that won’t leave your side – Family won’t leave your side when things get rough. They’ll hold their ground and help you in any way that they can. It doesn’t matter if you lose your job, lose your house, or lose yourself to drugs, because they’ll always be there for you.

5. The people that keep in touch with you – If you’ve never met your birth mother, but you spend every holiday with your step-parents, they’re your real family. It doesn’t take much to push a baby out of your womb, but it takes a lot of effort to actually raise a child. That’s why the people you keep in touch with are your real family.

6. The people that know the little things – If your blood relatives don’t know your favorite television show or song, how well do they really know you? Your friends, who know your shoe size and your least favorite Skittle color, are the ones you should really be calling family.

7. The people that feel like home – You’ll always feel uncomfortable around certain people. Meanwhile, others will make you feel safe, like you’re right where you need to be. The people that make you feel like you’re at home every time you look at them are your real family.

8. The people that accept you –  Your real family won’t care if you’re an aspiring chef or artist. They won’t care if you’re gay or straight. They won’t care about anything other than your happiness. That’s the most important thing.

9. The people that would do anything for you – Your real family will do whatever they can for you. They’ll listen to you talk about nothing for hours. They’ll let you stay at their house when you had nowhere else to go. They’ll even take a bullet for you.

10. The people that love you –Family is all about love. That’s why you can consider your friends, coworkers, and pets family. If they love you and you love them, then you have a bond that’s even thicker than blood.

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