The British Red Cross project supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in South Africa.
South Africa has the highest number of people (5.7 million) living with HIV and AIDS in the world. KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is one of the worst affected regions: over 37% of its population have the disease.
As a result, one in five children in KZN have lost their mother, father or both parents to HIV and AIDS. While many have relatives who can care for them, lots of them do not, and they end up homeless and destitute.
Red Cross volunteers run child support groups, which include education about HIV and AIDS, access to medical care, and counselling sessions to help children cope better with their loss. This may include the creation of memory boxes: boxes filled with objects, written stories and other items that remind them of their parent. This can help children overcome the difficulties of coping with bereavement at such a young age. The project also helps children continue their education by arranging school places and providing school uniforms.
Young people are often far more open to hearing about difficult issues, such as sexual health, if they are discussed in an informal and enjoyable way. They also respond better to people closer to their own age. The Red Cross uses peer educators – young people from local communities – to promote HIV awareness through drama, music and sport. Using these activities to discuss sensitive topics helps break down taboos and social boundaries. In addition to anti-stigma messages and HIV and AIDS awareness training, young people also learn life skills such as decision-making and self-confidence.