The Memory Box Workshop for orphaned and vulnerable children infected and affected by HIV & AIDS takes place at Siphakamile Primary School in Bhobhoyi, a rural area located in the Ugu Health District, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. HIV/AIDS is having a devastating effect on South African families. Children are experiencing multiple losses as their circles of care break down under the strain of this pandemic. Their psychosocial well-being is being compromised and since this is essential for their survival, there is an urgent need for interventions which allow children to experience the care, support, and protection normally provided in a stable and loving home. The children who participate in the South Coast Hospice for Psychosocial Care Memory Box Workshops are referred by schools, hospitals, clinics, our Rural Home Care teams, and the community. Children are invited to participate in a 5-day workshop under the supervision of a Counseling Psychologist, two Social Workers and two Caregivers. Special emphasis is placed on memory work, with modules dealing with family stories and family trees, and memory boxes which the children can decorate. The stories of their deceased parents, photographs, important life documents, as well as various precious objects and tangible treasures pertaining to their history are placed in their boxes. Our Memory Box workshop provides HIV-infected and affected children with life skills that will enhance their resilience and enable them to cope in the face of adversities.
South Coast Hospice Association - KwaZulu-Natal, Republic of South Africa
The vast increase in numbers of those who are affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa has resulted in an increase in the number of orphaned and vulnerable children as well as a vast increase in the number of child-headed households, especially in underprivileged communities in rural areas. Schools, clinics, hospitals and communities identified the need for psychosocial care for these children. They requested assistance from South Coast Hospice, and our Orphaned and Vulnerable Children’s teams started visiting these children and their families in their own homes. These children and their families were invited to participate in a Memory Box workshop.
Once we had identified the need in the community, we designed our Memory Box Workshop to provide psychosocial care and support to HIV/AIDS infected and affected orphaned and vulnerable children to help them build resilience. South Coast Hospice believes that the resilient child is better able to cope with adversities and traumatic situations.
We worked with organizations and individuals in the community to identify those who needed our help, and then put the Memory Box Workshops into action. We provide children with boxes that they can decorate and then use to store treasured items and photos of ill and deceased loved ones. The essence of memory work rests on the hypothesis that it is good for the child to know his/her family history, however painful this might be, on the condition that this history is recounted in a warm, non-judgmental setting. If the children know the history of their parents, they are better able to overcome the suffering caused by their illness or death. They access this knowledge through memories of their own and of those close to them. For the grieving process to unfold in a meaningful and healthy way the children’s perceptions and feelings need to be validated by supporting adults, i.e., the memory facilitators.
Psychosocial audits are conducted, overseen by the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Programme Manager. In terms of the Memory Box workshop, a tool measuring resilience is used by the Children’s Teams before and after Memory Box workshops. Once a child has completed the Memory Box Workshop, a Closure Report is compiled to be kept on file. Additional Monitoring and Evaluation tools covering aspects of memory work include a “Scale of Feelings” questionnaire to determine if the Workshop has helped them develop healthier attitudes. The South Coast Hospice inter-disciplinary team meets regularly to conduct case studies. Findings from audit results are constantly evaluated and incorporated into the various audit tools used, as well as training to improve the quality of care provided.
Sustainability of our Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Programme and Memory Box Workshops depends on the generous financial support of kind hearted donors as, unless a patient has medical insurance, all our services are FREE of charge. Funding resources are companies, foundations, Trusts, community contributions, fundraising events, bequests and our charity shop sales. We constantly seek donors and submit applications to sustain our programmes accordingly.
South Coast Hospice’s Memory Box workshop is an ongoing programme. Due to the increasing numbers of HIV/AIDS infected and affected children, there will always be a demand for this valuable programme. Schools, clinics, hospitals, our Rural Home Care teams and community members will continue to identify children in need of psychosocial care and refer them to our Memory Box Workshop.
The community is secure in the knowledge that when they identify children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in need of psychosocial care, they will be invited to participate in a Memory Box Workshop and given the best care available. During a workshop, the children will find the necessary support and guidance to build resilience to enable them to cope in the face of adversities. A “Scale of Feelings” and resilience questionnaire is completed by each child to assess their progress and obtain a general idea of the level of resilience that the child has. Once children have completed the program, they and their family members in turn can offer support to other children in the community or suggest that they participate in the South Coast Hospice Memory Box Workshop.
South Coast Hospice Association's Website: http://www.schospice.co.za/