These have been exciting and busy times in the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Department. In addition to our regular programs and social services we have had the opportunity to take groups of children to activities in various locations in the city in the last couple of months.
Heritage Day is a national holiday celebrated at the end of September. The day is honored to celebrate the many different cultural heritages of people in South Africa. The children’s unit at the City of Johannesburg organized a city wide celebration for the OVC programmes throughout the city. Diakonia AIDS Ministry attended the celebration with a group of girls and boys from the program in Central Western Jabavu, Soweto, and another group of boys from our program in Alexandra at the East Bank Hall in Alexandra. Soweto is the southern township of Johannesburg and Alexandra is the northern township located near Sandton. If you are driving it is about an hour due to traffic through the city. The boys and girls from Soweto each sang and danced to traditional songs as a group. The boys from Alexandra sang as a choir. The kids had a great time singing and dancing together. There was a good turnout from other organizations and the children had fun spending the day together. This was also an opportunity for the leaders at Diakonia to share their cultural knowledge through songs and dancing with the kids.School holidays also came at the end of September and beginning of October.
One of the things I have learned while working in South Africa is the importance of flexibility. For instance, during the school holidays we were supposed to send 4 children to a city wide camp, a group of over 20 kids were supposed to go to the zoo, and another group of older boys were supposed to visit a prison for a crime prevention program. But things happen. The camp’s funding was reduced and our organization was cut fro the list, the zoo tickets that were supposed to be provided to multiple OVC programs in the city were not confirmed, and the program at the prison was canceled. However, at the last minute, we were informed of a holiday program at SciBono, the science center in Newtown, Johannesburg. We started out with a group of girls and were able to expand our number the following day to include our older boys. The SciBono complex has a wonderful area called “the clubhouse” with visual arts, computers, music mixing, robot making and all types of wonderful activities for kids to learn about and do. On the first day the girls learned about all the stations in the club house and were taken on a tour in the science center. It is like a smaller version of OMSI that I visited as a child. They especially enjoyed the planetarium, which is a blow-up dome that uses the same technology as a jumping castle to inflate the structure. Over the next three days the kids built upon their work from the previous day and completed projects using technology they rarely have the chance to use. I was also able to use this opportunity to speak with the career center and begin discussing the services they could offer our teenagers with career planning and the importance of choosing the right track in high school so they can pursue a variety of degrees. Today at the after school program the girls asked me when we would be able to go back to SciBono and told me about how much they enjoyed their experience. I hope we will be able to continue to facilitate the children’s participation in these types of activities.
The girls constructing a wall at SciBono, an interactive science centre in Johannesburg.