Bambanani Home Based Care
Bambanani Home Based Care is a voluntary organisation located in Dikathole Informal Settlement – one of the most deprived areas of greater Johannesburg. There has been an informal settlement on this site for over 100 years and little has changed in that time. The Informal Settlements are a step down from the Townships. In a township, houses are made of solid material; in Dikathole the housing is made of corrugated tin and cardboard. There are usually only one or two rooms inside. Dikathole is largely ignored by the government and outside agencies. Unemployment in the settlement is extremely high – around 80%. Sanitation needs are totally disregarded, with communal water taps, sewage running openly down the streets and very infrequent collections of rubbish leading to a rat problem. There is a large industrial site very close to the settlement, from which fumes waft continually all day.
Yet , three years ago in these bleak and difficult conditions, a group of tough-minded people, most of them women, got together to form a voluntary group to support people in their neighbourhood who are affected by HIV/AIDS. The team members are all volunteers, though some receive a small allowance of around £44 per month from the Department of Health. Access to these grants often depends on whether the caregivers have received training, and this is something that BST is able to provide for projects such as Bambanani.
A Home Based Care (HBC) group is a collective of people who have come together with the purpose and desire to help friends and neighbours who they see affected by HIV/AIDS. They help those who are suffering, and their families and dependants. Often members of the HBC groups are also HIV positive.
The HBC workers are all volunteers, some of whom receive a stipend of around £45 a month from the Department of Health. They manage a caseload of patients, varying from 5 to 20 people who they visit once a week in pairs. Home Based Care work is a full-time job. In Gauteng, the area where the Bishop Simeon Trust works, the HIV infection level is 26-30% and up to 30% of households are believed to have an orphan or vulnerable child living with them.
A large part of the HBC group’s work involves care of children – some of them orphans, some of them with dying parents, some who are sick themselves or looking after younger siblings. HBC groups often have a preschool, creche or after school club attached to them where the children can come to get two good meals a day. There are also emotional benefits of being able to interact with others of their own age in a structured environment, instead of the trauma of being left at home to watch a parent die gradually. Bambanani is planning to operate a creche soon in a new container bought with BST funding.
Training is one of the most useful things that the Trust can offer HBC groups, and this is always the next stage after the group has established themselves. The Trust matches HBC groups with local service providers to access training in:
-Business and management skills – so that the group can form a managament committee to take the project further
– Care Skills & HIV Knowledge – essential to take care of patients, and educate families
– Supporting each other – the stresses and strains of HBC work mean that the volunteers need to support and help each other, through „Care of the Caregivers’ workshops.
-Legal and political knowledge – this is essential if the volunteers are to understand the childrens’ rights and entitlements.
The Trust also provides practical support to the groups, helping to buy food for patients, meals and toys for children at the preschools and creches, medicines, cupboards, chairs, tables and other equipment; as well as structures for the group to operate from.
How the Trust helped Bambanani
One of the biggest challenges facing newly formed Home Based Care groups is the lack of a building from which to do their work. Most newly formed groups meet in one of their members houses, but the group will usually grow too large for this to be sustainable. There might be a number of vulnerable children to look after, or the storage of food and medicines may become a problem. Also, if the Home Based Care project is housed in a tumble-down shack they may be invisible in their communities, and difficult for people to access.
The Bishop Simeon Trust gives many projects a much-needed base for their work by buying containers. A container is basically a shipping container that used to sit on top of a lorry transporting goods, but has outlived its usefulness. Companies transform these metal boxes into offices, telephone booths, hair salons, class rooms and the like. The advantage of these strutcures is that they are very strong, but easily adapted. Also minimal work is needed to prepare the site where the container will go. Each container costs around £3,000 to convert.
Throughout 2007 : BST assisted the HBC group expand their operation so that the project could support local income generation projects. For example the Trust supported the project by assisting them in acquiring sewing machines and fabric for the Bambanani group to make clothes to sell. Moreover BST began assisting Bambanani is establishing a day care facility for orphans and vulnerable children. Through the HB carers many children are discovered to be entirely alone and in need of basic care and love. The Bambanani group accordingly wanted to establish a second space to care for these children. Today over 15 children under the age of 5 are fed , clothed , bathed , taught and loved in the “makeshift orphanage” . A second container has been erected to actually house these children at night and school them during the day. 2008: In response to a chronic rise in food prices and the rising number of people in need of support – The Bambanani HBC group soup run is developed. Every Wednesday the HBC‟s go out to visit their patients with much needed food. Many if not all of those receiving support from the Bambanani group are too ill to work, and thus getting food is always difficult. This small yet nutritious meal of 500ml soup and half a loaf of bread is often all they get!
The work of the Bambanani group still continues- and the Trust hopes to be able to develop the capacity of the project to be able to support and care for more people affected by the devastating pandemic!