When you lose a parent, you lose your biggest advocate, defender, champion, and cheerleader. When you are a young child and you lose a parent, it can feel like losing your entire world. In a small community like Malealea where HIV colors all aspects of life, most families are living at subsistence level, and education is not free, many children’s futures are being put at grave risk.
Malealea does not have an orphanage. Each of the 39 orphaned children in this community is currently living with a guardian, most of whom already have children of their own, causing economic strain, and, in some unfortunate cases, neglect and ostracization.
For 31 orphaned children in Malealea, Maphakiso Kelepa is there. Maphakiso is the MDT’s Social Care Worker and she has spent countless hours ensuring that each child’s needs are met, regardless of the economic situation of their guardian’s family. The MDT provides financial support for the children through a monthly food stipend and yearly school uniform budget. They also provide heavy winter clothes to keep them safe during the frigid winters of the Maluti Mountains, and collect donated clothing from the Malealea Lodge for the children to regularly pick through.
When it is time to progress from primary to secondary school, Maphakiso connects them to the MDT’s scholarship officer, Mateke Rakojoama. Additionally, there are a limited number of high schools in the area, so many students must move away to pursue their diploma. For orphaned students whose guardians live too far away from a high school to attend, Maphakiso finds appropriate housing for them and the MDT pays for their rent.
Parentless children are vulnerable because they have lost their strongest advocates before getting the chance to fully develop the ability to advocate for themselves. Because of this vulnerability, economic assistance alone is not enough. Maphakiso spends much of her time ensuring that these services are being used appropriately to support the growth of the child.
Maphakiso visits each family home every month to ensure that it is a safe space. She inspects the conditions of the home as well as the conditions of the child’s uniforms and clothing. She has conversations with both the guardians and the child, first together, and later separately. She has found that often the child can be too shy to speak their mind in front of the guardian, and discretion is of the utmost importance to make sure they are happy, healthy, and safe. When there are conflicts, Maphakiso counsels the family to try to reach a peaceful resolution. When necessary, she will involve the clinic, the chief, or the police.
The food stipends (R350 per month) are credited directly to the food store, not to the guardian families. Maphakiso visits the store at the end of the month to check the purchases of the family to ensure they are feeding the children balanced and full diets.
Maphakiso also visits each school attended by her charges on a quarterly basis. She meets with their teachers to discuss their attendance and performance. If any issues are brought to her attention, they discuss potential causes and strategies. Maphakiso will follow-up with that struggling student, giving them the care and encouragement they need and allowing them the opportunity to be heard.
Every child deserves to be heard and cared for. Maphakiso is there to do just that.
There are eight children who have recently lost their parents who are on the MDT’s stipend “waiting list” simply because the MDT does not have enough money to support them. Maphakiso checks in on these children at home every month as well to ensure they being treated well, but it breaks her heart to visit them empty-handed.
How your support could help:
- Your donation could be the difference that allows us to support one of those eight children. No child deserves to be forgotten.
- We are looking for volunteer counselors to train our staff on grief and conflict resolution. Any materials, lessons, or advice would be appreciated. Please get in touch if you would be interested in coordinating remote or in-person training.