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Community Caregiver Graduation Ceremony
March 30, 2012
Remarks by the Deputy Mission Director at the Thogomelo Graduation Event
I would like to thank the MEC, Dr. Mkasi, for the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony of learners who have successfully completed the accredited Thogomelo Psychosocial Support and Child Protection Skills Development Program for Community Caregivers.
Everybody present today is committed to the provision of quality care to South Africa’s vulnerable children, and in particular to meeting the needs of those children and families affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the high levels of child abuse, neglect and exploitation that burden this country. At least 4 million South Africa children are HIV positive, have a parent who is positive or have lost a parent to HIV/AIDS. Thank you for your commitment to the important task of supporting them.
The task of enhancing services to vulnerable children is many faceted. The approach adopted by the Thogomelo Project is novel in that it seeks to support children by offering training and support to their caregivers. The underlying principle is that a supported caregiver will be a more effective caregiver.
Community caregivers work tirelessly to foster children’s development, to develop children’s resilience against the various odds that face them and to support their families’ and communities’ ability to nurture them
However dealing with the effects of chronic illness, death, loss, vulnerability and abuse in a context of poverty and limited resources potentially jeopardizes the psychosocial wellbeing of the community caregivers themselves. Coupled with the stresses of being required to respond to child protection violations without the necessary knowledge and skills, the work of caregivers is potentially a toxic blend of overwhelming issues.
Yet community caregivers are a remarkably resourceful group of people who have developed many informal forms of psychosocial support to sustain themselves and their valuable work. They do not give up just because the going gets tough. In recognition of caregivers’ central role in mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS on children, the Department of Social Development undertook to develop their capacity to support children without incurring harmful emotional cost to themselves.
The US government and American people, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, is proud to partner the Department of Social Development in its community caregiver capacity development endeavors. In 2011 PEPFAR committed $49million to programming intended to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS on children. Community caregivers are a critical component of this investment.
Because PEPFAR emphasizes strategies to improve the sustainability of the programs it supports, I am heartened to see the Thogomelo Project’s commitment to the development of local capacity to support its objectives. In collaboration with the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Social Development, the project engaged an emerging training service provider to undertake training in the region. Maranatha has successfully overseen the verification of 113 community caregivers by the HWSETA. This is the first group of learners to be verified under the Thogomelo Project in South Africa. Congratulations to Maranatha and learners!
Accredited training sets learners on a career path towards qualifications that will enable them to access entry level jobs and help bridge the skills gap in South Africa. It also recognizes the role played by the approximately 60,000 hitherto unrecognized caregivers in South Africa who are in fact an indispensible component of the social development workforce.
I wish the Thogomelo consortium partners, PATH, HDA and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance every success with it activities over the remaining two years of the project. It is my honor to present this first group of learners with their certificates of verification and wish them continued strength in the important task of caring for South Africa’s children and their caregivers.