South Africa is a country rich and diverse in culture, language, natural resources and scenic beauty. In 1994 the first democratic elections marked the end of the 40-year Apartheid regime. South Africa has since struggled to address a growing disparity between rich and poor, and imbalances in housing, education and healthcare.
The country ranks 123rd out of 187 nations on the Human Development Index, a tool that measures a country’s level of development using factors such as life expectancy, education and literacy. Unemployment rates remain markedly high and a growing discontentment with the lack of social services such as sanitation and clean drinking water in disadvantaged communities is placing increasing pressure on all levels of society to find impactful solutions. South Africa boasts the largest economy in Africa. About a quarter of the population, however, is unemployed and lives in extreme poverty. In 2000 the average white household brought in nearly six times as much as the average black household in earnings. Immigration from poorer surrounding countries has contributed significantly to South Africa’s social problems. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants have entered illegally and find themselves both unemployable and not recognised by the South African government, making them and their children among the country’s most vulnerable people.
The country contends with the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. Roughly one in seven citizens are living with the virus. Nearly a third of the population is younger than 15 years and an alarming 1,9 million children are orphaned due to AIDS.
Hands at Work was birthed in South Africa in 1997 when George and Carolyn Snyman started Masoyi Home-Based Care in Mpumalanga. Its success inspired expansion and today Hands at work is active in almost 60 communities across eight African countries.
Building a Future Together
10-year-old Londi and his gogo live in a small, run-down mud hut in the rural village of Siphamandla in north-eastern South Africa. He is a friendly boy who says he loves his grandmother very much and hopes she will live a long life, especially because she has taken care of him since his mother died when he was very young. The grandmother cannot work, and the two survive on a meagre government child care grant.
Londi is in Grade 3 at Mpakeni Primary School, but because he has no one to help him with his homework, school is an uphill battle for him. Londi’s biggest concern, however, is the state of their home. The stick and mud shack is likely to fall apart when the heavy summer rains pound down on it.
Esther, a volunteer care worker from Siphamandla Home-Based Care, which is supported and trained by Hands at Work, is working hard to support and strengthen this family. She encourages them in tough times and helps them find solutions to their problems. She has enrolled Londi in the Siphamandla team’s afternoon programme, where he visits after school to eat a fresh cooked meal with his peers and can do his homework under supervision.
In 2011 Hands at Work introduced a nearby church to Londi’s family. Today the church is working in partnership with Esther and the Siphamandla team to rebuild the house and even construct a sheltered centre for Londi and Siphamandla’s other children to meet after school each day.