Alumni initiate a future for children

16 September 2002
AN ORGANISATION composed of UCT alumni have drawn up a model that proposes a viable sustainable solution that can be replicated to assist with the orphan crisis, largely due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, facing South Africa.

The "African Initiative for Children" is a non-profit, non-governmental company that was recently formed and is headed by nine directors who have organised their idea around a model they designed called Sokhana, a Xhosa word meaning we will build each other together.

Sokhana is a community model that is a hybrid of a children's home and an organic vegetable farm, with income from the farm sustaining the children's home. The farm will have a capacity for 64 children who will be divided into groups of eight and housed with house parents in individual homes "to create a holistic family environment".

Children will be educated at schools in areas surrounding Sokhana, and will also follow a curriculum of life skills development that will include growing organic vegetables using animal traction.

"We want to do something that creates an opportunity for children to stand on their own feet and be responsible for their futures. If they can feed themselves and others, then that is the first step for them being responsible for themselves," explains Managing Director, Belinda Blom.

"This idea is based on the Israeli Kibbutz and is applicapable anywhere, including Africa. We have had a lot of interest from people who see the viability of this venture," she elaborates.

While the start-up funding is high at R3.9-million, Blom says that the organic farm will cover the annual running costs of approximately R1.3-million. "The child foster grant is currently R450 per child per month, so the total cost to government of caring for 64 children over an 18-year period would be R6.4-million, nearly double that of our proposal," notes Welfare Director, Elelwani Ramugondo.

A site on the agricultural sector of the Porter Estate in Tokai has been earmarked by the organisation. "This site fulfils our criteria in that it is within the 60-km radius and is situated with a community that would support the project and assist us with our required volunteer networks," says Blom.

Both women say that while the concept is still on paper, there has been an enormous interest from NGOs doing similar work and businesses and individuals wanting to donate money and in some cases start their own Sokhana village. "This concept is for anyone who is willing to start it; we would like to be the first but if someone else starts up before it's great because something is being done," they conclude.

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