Primary Caregiver Coaching Programme

 “When my orphaned children would come to me saying they were hungry, I would say: ‘Go to the graveyard and tell your mom.’ Now I am different. I know that these kids will sometimes misbehave because they are coping with grief.” – A granny attending a Primary Caregivers Workshop. She attended her first one just 1 year ago. Today she gave her testimony.

The HIV/AIDS situation came like an unexpected storm that devastated many of the significant resources/belongings children had in their lives. Today, children are left deserted by their loved family members. There has not been a devastation of this magnitude before. The orphaned children are going through a very difficult time in their lives because while they are developing they are forced to give up their childhood and face adulthood responsibilities. This is a serious burden in the lives of these children. 

God has equipped all of us with very beautiful gifts that can be used to support orphaned and vulnerable children emotionally, to comfort wounded and traumatized children and to help them understand that there is a better life ahead. Just as God opened the sea to let his people go through and to be saved from their enemies, He aslo wants to utilize us to be the bridge that will help orphaned and vulnerable children overcome some of their major burdens. 

Hands at Work in Africa hopes that through this coaching programme for primary caregivers, the door is opened for others to become useful resources that will develop orphaned and vulnerable children in their families and communities by overcoming the many situations that are overwhelming them.


• To show the caregivers that they are not alone. That we are with them during this painful time caused by the loss of their loved ones.

• To give appreciation and encourage primary caregivers about the very important work and responsibility that they have in taking care of their orphaned or vulnerable children.

• To help caregivers understand the development and needs of orphaned and vulnerable children.

• To help caregivers understand the consequences of bereavement and to equip them with skills to assist children in their process of bereaving.  

• To empower, give hope and equip caregivers with skills that will help them to cope with the situations they are facing in life so that they can do the same to the children they are caring for.

• To help caregivers understand that in spite of all the circumstances they are experiencing as a result of their loss, they can make a difference to their children by equipping them with better skills to build a better and successful future.

• To reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.

• To encourage the caregivers to spread this information through support groups, churches and associations.

• Be able to identify and improve their parenting styles.

• Know how to communicate effectively with children and maintain positive relationships with them.


The full coaching programme has 15 contact lesson days divided into 3 phases, 5 days for each phase. After which they will form a support group and there will be an ongoing mentoring section to see that they follow through the lessons learned. The phase components are as follows:

Phase 1

• Orientation

• The tree of my life (who am I?)

• My parenting styles and the five love languages

• Child development

• Sexuality

Phase 2

• Rights and responsibilities of children and caregivers  

• Effective communication with children

• Empowering and disciplining children (reward and punishment)

• Problem solving and family rules

• Nutrition 

Phase 3

• Bereavement (understanding, assisting and involving children in death matters) 

• Emotional problems in children (trauma) 

• Sharing pain of loss as a family (memory box)

• Preparations when a child joins a new family

• Introducing the support groups

• Evaluation


Sampling was carried out of participants ranging in age from 20 to 79, with an average age of 44. On average, participants improved their score by 3 points out of 12 (25%), a statistically significant difference (p<0.001). Interviewees reported positive feedback with younger participants showing better understanding of and recollection for training. The most common change reported by primary caregivers one year post-training was an increase in effective, respectful communication with their orphaned or vulnerable child. Many favoured adding a new component to the training programme specifically for their children. The evaluation also highlighted that the use of trainers from outside the local Home-Base Care organisation threatened community-ownership of the programme and caused significant challenges in scheduling, recruitment of participants, and relationships.


Hands at Work in Africa has modified the primary caregiver programme for 2011 to include a coaching element for orphaned and vulnerable children, mirroring primary caregiver coaching topics and giving a voice to the children. The programme focuses on empowering community ownership for sustainability purpose. The programme trained two leaders from each of 16 Home-Based Care organisations to run trainings with support and guidance from Hands at Work, thereby building capacity in the community organisations themselves. Hands at Work recommend the replication of the programme in sub-Saharan Africa in partnership with established community organisations, which are providing care for orphaned and vulnerable children in their communities.

Support Groups

To have a way to follow up the program in order that the caregivers can support each other; maintaining and spreading what was learnt in the program about caring for orphaned and vulnerable children.

After completion of the Primary Caregiver Coaching Programme we encourage the caregivers to form small support groups that will meet at their decided times.  We provide them with the following discussion questions as a guide, but share with them to feel free in whatever direction they decide to go as a group.