Housing for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

Housing for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

Sr Alison Munro, OP, November 2016

Over the past six years the AIDS Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC AIDS Office) has received funding from individuals as well as from a couple of NGOs to support the construction of basic two-roomed housing for poor families in rural areas. Beneficiary families are often struggling with unemployment, inadequate housing, poor access to services for health care and various forms of abuse.

When the SACBC AIDS Office was first approached by an organisation in Holland to be the implementing partner of a building project, we saw it as a wonderful opportunity to assist some of the vulnerable families in the areas where we were supporting HIV and AIDS programmes, especially those working with children. Over 500 houses have been built, mainly funded by the Dutch organisation, but also by a number of individuals from Germany and South Africa, whose donations of various amounts have been pooled to provide for additional houses. During 2016, 60 houses were completed. In two dioceses we also received support to have some orphaned youth trained in basic building skills, followed by their building of some houses in their local area.

The houses are very simple, just two rooms, and do not have water and electricity connected as part of the project. In some cases the municipality provides connections to allow for pre-paid electricity. Such provision of electricity has been wide-spread across much of rural South Africa, and helps people monitor what they use. Water sources for these houses vary; in some cases people continue to collect water from rivers, while in others there are municipal pipes and taps near to where houses are built. The SACBC houses have a water tank to collect rain water from the roofs, and to enable water to be stored. The municipality provides toilets in a number of cases depending on the area, while elsewhere the SACBC project includes pit toilets as part of the project.

Beneficiary families are identified by Church personnel, by neighbours and by the chiefs of the local areas. They are often living in very poor conditions, sometimes in tin shacks, sometimes in mud houses which collapse over time, and sometimes in space provided by neighbours because they have none of their own. Families are sometimes broken up by social circumstances such as death and divorce, a breadwinner moving away in search of employment elsewhere, and a simple lack of space to accommodate the number of people living sometimes in one or two rooms. Often the new houses are built alongside those that are already occupied by the families. This allows the beneficiaries to make choices around allocation of space. In other instances houses are built on plots allocated by the chief who can vouch that the beneficiaries are known to him.

Families receive various forms of support from local Church projects, including education and health services for children. Sometimes these were in place before the construction of the houses. At other times they are initiated according to what is possible locally.

The SACBC AIDS Office, the dioceses and beneficiary families are grateful for the support received for the project.