Listening to what people want for themselves, and their communities, is always productive and projects have unfolded in ways we could never have imagined. Below is a sampling of some of the innovative programs that came out of Glasswaters’ investments in health, education, childcare, and community development.
HIV/AIDS health education and support
The most significant program that Glasswaters has facilitated is the HIV/AIDs Outreach program. A team of HIV positive community outreach workers known as the Warriors, serve 14 villages, a total population of 10,000, with:
• HIV/AIDS transmission, prevention, and treatment education
• training for lay community health providers
• co-ordination of adherence programs linking groups of HIV positive villagers with adherence counsellors
• HIV counselling & testing, follow-up workshops and home visits for new support group members
• social welfare supports for HIV positive villagers including transportation fund for clinic visits, regular food rations for patients on anti-retroviral treatment, and provision of non-medical supplies such as candles, cooking fuel, and blankets.
The Warriors are supported by nurses from Phelisanong Centre’s clinic. The clinic provides referrals and transport for critically ill patients, and dispenses medications, birth control, and nutritional supports for malnourished children and adults.
In addition to reaching out to adults, the Warriors have initiated a children’s testing and treatment campaign. Ongoing home visits to orphans and HIV positive children involve providing food and ensuring children are attending school, work that also benefits from Glasswaters’ education and food security programs. An annual conference, along with monthly workshops in the region, allows the Warriors to reach out deeper into rural areas.
The Sunrise Theatre group of young African students traveled from school to school, village to village, sparking conversations about HIV/AIDS using theatre as a springboard. In 2010 Sunrise visited 30 schools in the Leribe district, using traditional forms of poetry and drama to develop and share lively call and response type of dialogue. Sunrise goes to the roots of hip hop and mixes it up with a message of hope, reaching thousands of at-risk youth with vital sexual health information.
During a program development survey carried out by Glasswaters in 2009, oral histories of AIDS patients were collected in order to learn how to better serve the rural population of HIV positive adults. In addition to sharing their day to day stories, many elders shared folk stories. At the Folktales Festival on Easter Sunday, 300 orphans from villages around Ha Makhata came to participate and listen to the stories of the elders. Passing on the stories keeps language and culture alive while providing an opportunity for the younger generation to learn about surviving and thriving over generations.
In 2008, Glasswaters supported the production of a documentary in collaboration with budding African filmmakers. Designed to reach AIDS affected people as they sit waiting to be served in health clinics, Kopano ke Matla (Unity is Power), is a film in the local Sesotho language. It profiles ten different grassroots responses to HIV/AIDS. From an HIV positive support group keen to start a poultry co-operative, to a gender activist who uses traditional stories to explain the patterns of HIV transmission, the film presents people from all walks of life talking about how they tackle AIDS in their communities.
Childcare and education
Phelisanong’s original vision was to take in children with disabilities. Quickly that vision expanded to include support for the many orphans in the outlying regions beyond Ha Makhata, HIV/AIDs education and health supports, a primary school and secondary school and vocational training bursaries for vulnerable children, as well as food security and sports programs at Phelisanong and in adjacent communities. The most elemental and satisfying focus of Glasswaters’ has been the care and shelter of the disabled residents. Our work has provided housing infrastructure, access to health care, (see video link), paid for food and caregiving, basically enabled these citizens to have a future. In 2009 and 2010 we constructed two permanent homes at the Phelisanong Centre for disabled and orphaned children, replacing aging and inadequate buildings with environmentally conscious, family style homes for children and their caregivers.
In South Africa from 2008 to 2011 Glasswaters helped the development of the Thulane Bantwana (Be Calm, Little Children) Crèche. Under the supervision of Maisie Maargoanye, a community development worker in the Vaal River region, we focused on shelter and supplies for the impoverished and orphaned children taken in by founder Miriam Tshabalala until South African neighbours fully engaged in supporting the new and expanding orphanage.
Lesotho has a strong tradition of agriculture that was disabled by the HIV/AIDs epidemic. Our feeding program has provided for immediate nutritional needs of orphans, impoverished, and disabled children in 14 villages throughout the Pitseng region. Through the Warriors, we served 1,000 meals a week at community dinners and made food parcels available to patients on anti-retroviral medication and TB medications who are enrolled in our HIV/AIDS outreach program. The importance of having healthy food to eat while on treatment cannot be overstated as lack of adequate nutrition is the leading cause of treatment interruption in the area. We are mindful that this kind of short term aid must foster, rather than hinder, local food production and so most of the food provided is grown locally.
Along with providing food on an emergency basis, Glasswaters facilitated communities in the region to meet their long term needs through permaculture farming programs. Supporting a comeback has involved the creation of community managed orchards and gardens. Permaculture, an organic system of farming that emphasizes the recycling of locally available materials, incorporates and builds upon indigenous farming practices.
Garden activities in 2009 and 2010 included development of greenhouse and composting facilities at Ha Makhata village, the planting and maintenance of a 500 tree fruit orchard, and skills sharing and training with 1,880 villagers enrolled in the Glasswaters AIDS outreach program.
The communities involved in the farming program began using soccer tournaments and cultural camps as a way to engage youth and adults in community farm work. Glasswaters encouraged opportunities to play, perform, sing, and learn together outside of a classroom setting. Working as a team on the soccer field translates well into working together in the garden.