Holy Cross, a South African NGO, was started in 2000, to provide hospice care for patients with AIDS in the surrounding communities for whom there were no other treatment options or care. Soon, the staff at Holy Cross became concerned about the situation of children living in the homes of their patients, and expanded their services to include programs supporting young people and their families, including distribution of food parcels, home-based care, payment of school fees, and the building of small homes for families in the area.
In 2002, Holy Cross started a small childcare center to provide more intensive early education and intervention services for children in the area. The center was opened in an old, single-car garage that was located on the same grounds as the primary school and very near the hospice. In 2003, two of Even Ground's volunteers visited Holy Cross. When they returned to the US, they started a project called Thembanathi, under the umbrella of Even Ground, to support the center. In 2004, with the support of Thembanathi and other donors, Holy Cross was able to expand their programming and open a large early childhood development center that can accommodate up to 120 children.
The center has allowed the older siblings of the children it serves to return to primary and high school and children's guardians to seek work. Further, these children, among the poorest in the region, are being given a chance to get an education, receive counseling, and two nutritious meals a day. They are prepared for primary school by learning English and basic math skills. During recess, the children have a chance to play. The young people are given additional support in the form of a twice-weekly music therapy program and the services of a social worker, who works with children who have special problems and consults with the children’s guardians and teachers. Growing up under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, these children are being given back their childhood.
Thembanathi has primarily provided support to the early childhood development centers at Holy Cross. For the first few years, we provided funding to support the operations of the main early childhood development center. In 2006, we provided funds to allow Holy Cross to expand its services and establish small centers in more remote areas. Currently, Even Ground/Thembanathi is funding three satellite centers, in addition to providing food for a feeding center for older children and support for the main early childhood development center.
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