The Maulama Day Care Centre and Outreach Programme was developed by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in the parish of Nzhelele in order to offer help and support to orphans of HIV/AIDS, and to other vulnerable children in the area who are themselves victims of the disease.
Thanks to the support of MSC mission friends, the centre caters to over 80 children from the OVC group (for Orphans and Vulnerable Children) on a daily basis. Local youths who have nowhere else to turn can be secure in the knowledge that they will be cared for, whether this takes the form of a hot meal, counselling and care, help with homework, or the opportunity to have fun with other children.
Health and nutrition
Food is a major element of daily life at the centre. As well as ensuring that children eat one nutritious meal a day, the sisters encourage the children in their care to become aware of the importance of eating healthy foods that will promote strong development. Daily meals here usually incorporate fish or chicken, rice, cabbage, tomatoes, and pap, which is a local staple dish of maize porridge. The centre’s leaders run regular fundraising initiatives to pay for the meals the children receive each day, while they cultivate a well-tended vegetable garden to improve the nutritional value of these meals effectively and inexpensively.
Working and playing together
In this warm and welcoming environment, children can relax and enjoy interacting with others – singing, dancing, and activities such as soccer, netball, and board games are some of the firm favourites in the daily routine. This safe and secure space also allows these children to express their emotions and share their problems without inhibition or fear. Their care-givers foster a sense of security and confidence within their charges, and children build their self-esteem by sharing their stories and experiences with their friends.
Educational activities focus on assistance with homework, as well as highlighting the importance of hygiene and nutrition. Sr Nkiru, the manager of the day care centre, also works on a one-to-one basis with children who are struggling to learn. Since this personal tuition programme began at Maulama, Sr Nkiru has reported a marked improvement in the children’s performances, with general progress in spelling, and one child in particular who was originally writing his letters backwards now writing correctly.
On the path to a positive future
The centre also offers counselling and psycho-social support, in order to allow affected children to effectively process and deal with the different difficulties and traumas they may have encountered as a result of exposure to the presence of HIV/AIDS in their family units. Staff are trained in different elements of psychological, grief, and trauma support, as well as in guidance and leadership, and these tools are applied regularly in their engagement with the children. With many of these children having been the victims of trauma, dysfunctional family dynamics, or violence and abuse in the family unit, this counselling and support is an essential element in ensuring recovery and progress as these children are set upon a path to a more positive future.
In addition to the day care centre, an outreach programme is simultaneously being run with the aim of reaching out to children in their homes in the surrounding areas. This programme incorporates village visits, material support, food parcels, and a much-anticipated annual Kids’ Camp. These projects are invaluable in providing joy, fun, and hope to children whose young lives have been marred by fear and trauma, as dedicated care-givers work alongside the MSC to contribute to creating the positive and happy childhood experience that these young people deserve.