South Africa is one of the most developed countries in Africa, yet has the highest percentage (18%) of people living with HIV in the world. HIV prevalence in South Africa increased among adults aged 15 to 49 from 2005 to 2013. This tragedy, combined with the continued struggles of the country due to over 40 years of Apartheid has created an extremely dysfunctional and vulnerable society for the poorest people.
The social poverty in South Africa is often greater than the physical poverty. The separation of fathers from their families during Apartheid began a cycle that continues today. Children are growing up without male role models and in broken families. This reality has contributed to an alarming rate of violent crime among young men and sexual vulnerability among young women.
Many people in South Africa face the injustice of living without services such as water and electricity. As the gap between rich and poor increases throughout the country, those living in poverty are denied basic rights. The education system is often regarded as dismal, with a shortage of public schools and teachers and many students being taught in a language that is not their first. Only 45% of the students who were enrolled in grade one in 2002 started grade 12 in 2013. Researchers have found that students are pushed through the system until grade 10. When schools realise that those students will not pass grade 12, they are often removed from school as a high failure rate reflects badly on the school.
South Africa is the home of the Hands at Work Hub where many international volunteers and African leaders live together in a multi-cultural Christian community. The Hub also serves as the centre for financial and administrative operations. Hands at Work was birthed in South Africa when George and Carolyn Snyman started working in Masoyi and other rural villages in the province of Mpumalanga. Success inspired expansion, and today Hands at Work is active in approximately 40 communities across eight African countries.
At the beginning of 2019, the Government enforced a policy whereby children who did not have proper legal documentation to attend school were told that they would no longer be permitted. Recognising the importance of obtaining an education, the local Hands at Work teams in Hazyview and Oshoek started making plans for the children and families that this would be directly affecting. In May 2019, the constitutional court in South Africa stated that it was against basic human rights for children kept out of school. Therefore most of the children that Hands at Work are supporting in South Africa, who were already attending school, are continuing their education. Aware of the fragility of the situation and that things could change at a moment’s notice, Hands at Work is continuing to gain a deeper understanding of the increased vulnerability our children face, not only due to the lack of education and regular routine, but in their day-to-day living. Hands at Work continues to see the Life Centre as an opportunity to facilitate the growth and development of each child affected.
We envision the local church in Africa effectively caring for the dying, orphans and widows, and unified in this mission with the church outside Africa.
Orphaned children (age 0-17): 3,600,000
Children orphaned by HIV/AIDS: 2,400,000
Under 5 mortality rating (per 1000 live births): Female – 39 | Male - 48
People living with HIV: 6,300,000
Life expectancy at birth: Female – 54 | Male – 53
Lifetime risk of maternal death: 1 in 300
Population below the international
poverty line: 14%
Country rating (out of 187) on the Human Development Index: 118
–Sources: UNAIDS, UNDESA 2014, UNICEF 2014