Hands at Work in Africa is committed to transforming the lives of the most vulnerable children through locally owned community based organisations. We are currently working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In Africa’s most vulnerable communities, the scale of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, war, poverty and the vast number of orphaned children is incomprehensible. An entire generation of parents have passed away. Children and the elderly visibly comprise the majority of the population. The elderly are sometimes the parents or relatives of those who have passed away. In many of the families we serve, orphaned children are being cared for by these grandparents or older relatives who we call Primary Caregivers. Primary Caregivers are not solely elderly relatives. They are sometimes the eldest sibling in a family who is responsible for their child-headed household. Other families are led by aunts or uncles. Many of these Primary Caregivers have lost their family members to HIV/AIDS, and are infected themselves. In some countries, the availability of treatment (Anti-retroviral drugs) is increasing the lifespan of these Primary Caregivers.
Hands at Work has recognised that the most vulnerable children, and their Primary Caregivers, have many inner wounds. One of our priorities is to support them in their healing from the loss of their family members. We are reaching out to our Primary Caregivers, letting them know that their own restoration is just as vital as the restoration in the lives of the children they care for. We know that wounded people wound others, and if these Primary Caregivers do not receive healing from the traumas they have faced, they will struggle to care for others.
Our Care Workers are the local volunteers who visit the most vulnerable children in their homes. They know that children’s Primary Caregivers are the people who have the greatest impact on the life of each child. Hands at Work local leaders and Care Workers have begun building relationships with Primary Caregivers in every community we serve in intentional ways:
Caregiver Days: One day each month, Primary Caregivers are invited to come together. At this monthly gathering our leaders meet with Care Workers and Primary Caregivers, facilitating a time of sharing their stories and challenges. Grandmothers, aunts, single parents, and oldest children have been attending.
Holy Home Visits: When Care Workers visit the most vulnerable families in each community, they are going into each home not only to visit the children, but to visit their Primary Caregivers - helping to create a loving relationship of trust between themselves, the Primary Caregiver, and the child. We want our Primary Caregivers to know they are not alone in raising their children.
Life Centres: Care Workers are encouraging Primary Caregivers to attend local Life Centres with their children. Life Centres can be another place for Primary Caregivers to connect with Care Workers, build friendships, and learn how to create a positive and healthy environment for their children as they see them playing, going to school, and eating with other children.
Supporting our Primary Caregivers is an ongoing priority for Hands at Work. Recently, Maranatha Workshops were held in each of our communities, focused on bringing inner healing to our Care Workers. We hope to also bring a workshop of this kind to our Primary Caregivers, helping them create positive relationship groups amongst each other. Our desire is to care for them as they care for others.