St Elizabeth’s, Reitz, Free State

Avie Cherrington (SACBC) visited St Elizabeth’s Orphan and Vulnerable Children Project in Reitz (Bethlehem Diocese) in the Free State on 22 March 2012, and met with Deborah Makake (Financial officer); Paulina Mofokeng (M&E); Sr Lioba (Project Manager) and Care givers: Elsie, Agnes, Maria, Simon, Lele, and reported on some of the progress at the site.

HIV Awareness: A lady who is HIV positive came to speak to the children about the virus and motivate them to make positive life choices. She then spoke privately to those children who are HIV positive about living with the disease and encouraged them to be positive about their life and health.

Child Protection: someone from the SAPS came to speak to the children about children’s rights and what to do if they become victims of crime. The care-givers say that at first the children were shy and intimidated but soon enough they engaged well with the police man and asked questions.

Education: a local teacher, who is also a local motivational speaker, was invited to speak with the older children about working hard at school. He emphasised the importance of doing well at school, and encouraged those who were struggling to get support from their teachers and the staff at St Elizabeth. One of the care givers, Maria, has also started a small library at the Centre to encourage children to read. At the moment the library is one cupboard with only a few books, magazines and bibles and I told them that I would try to collect some more books and text books for them next time I come to visit.

The vegetable gardens are starting to look good and Sr Lioba says she will look at the costs of getting a Jojo tank and putting gutters up on the parkhome so that they can collect rain for the gardens to compensate for the dry months.

The care givers expressed an interest in doing a First Aid training course. I asked them to look at options in their area, perhaps even speak to the local clinic to see if anyone would be able to come and give them the basics in the meanwhile.

The Centre has identified a need for hiring and catering services in the community. Their hope is to purchase use catering  equipment for the various community days which they do, and then also to hire it out to members of the community for events such as funerals, weddings, etc, thereby generating funds for the OVC programme and employing youth in the community to manage it. They could perhaps look at doing a community fundraising fun-day to raise the funds they need to get things started.

Fr Bernard came by with a local farmer who was donating some left over potatoes to the Centre. There was much excitement.