A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Still going strong!

At 79, Veronica Khosa is still pioneering change.

I first came across her work in a book entitled, ‘How to Change the World’, written by David Bornstein, which documents her first organisation, Tateni, a home based nursing care model. Veronica worked for over ten years on the approach, and after proving her methodology, the model was accepted by the Gauteng province in South Africa (the province with encompasses Jo’berg and Pretoria). Once she knew that the model was working she started to see to the Aids crisis in a new light.

The number of orphans in Africa is huge. And growing. Kim Feinberg, who runs the Tomorrow Trust, told me some shocking figures. By 2010, it is estimated that there will be 25 million orphans on the continent, and 40 million by 2020.

Social entrepreneurs are by nature entrepreneurial; looking for new ways, new opportunities and new approaches, and Veronica is no different. During her previous work, when she would be tending to parents in a palliative care capacity, she started asking herself some questions. What will happen to the children when their parents die? Who will support them? What future will they have? Through the realisation that not much was being done, Afrenaus Life Skills was born.

The organisation aims to equip orphaned children with the basis life skills which they would ordinarily acquire through the home.

There are other orphan organisations in the region, but in the townships around Mamelodi, where Veronica lives, the scale of the problem is vast, and not enough was being done to help the orphans out of the poverty cycle. ‘Yes, funders were helping’ said Veronica’, ‘but it was the way they were helping. They all wanted to give food or clothing, but there was a gap. These children are always alone’. To Veronica, the lack of a parental figure means that the children are not being taught basic life skills, and she started to question, ‘How do we bridge the gap of giving them the skills that will help them to get out of the cycle’.
‘What skills do you think are necessary’, I asked,
‘As many as I could say’, she joked, and then elaborated. ‘We give them short courses on HIV/ Aids, because I think that is a must for every child. And other skills, normal skills. Like teaching them how to hold a needle’.

In addition to this, Afrenaus also select peer counsellors from among the children, train them and support them to coach other children, so that the impact of their work can increase. To Veronica, it is about widening the ripping effect.

One thing is clear from Veronica, that so long as there is need, she will find it hard to rest and sit still. I think there will always be need- so it is going to be busy days for Veronica!


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