In 2002, Nkosi’s Haven received a grant from the Gauteng Department of Housing, Social Housing, and Special Needs which allowed us to purchase and begin development of Nkosi’s Haven Village. Situated on a 2.5 acre plot of land just south of Johannesburg in the Alan Manor neighbourhood and currently accommodating 22 mothers and 121 children, of which roughly half are orphaned.
While our initial plans to develop the site as a care facility and residency for HIV infected mothers and their children was met by objections from many neighbouring sites, thanks to support from a number of key sponsors, we have since been able to create an energetic and positive environment for over 180 mothers and children at full capacity.
Currently the village consists of: 17 resident cottages; a sickbay; a therapy block; a library; a baby daycare; workshops and classrooms for additional onsite education and skill building; a Music and Arts center; a leisure room; an upgraded kitchen; a sports field; and our main administrative offices. An onsite preschool is being built. Further, we are currently working on securing funds to build additional cottages (and thus expand our capacity).
In December 2009 our therapy block was completed allowing us to offer multiple forms of therapy onsite to our mothers and children. Currently two therapists work full time at the Village providing individual and family therapy to many of our residents as well as specialized therapies including play therapy and remedial work. These sessions include therapy oriented toward to living with HIV/AIDS as well as helping mothers to disclose her status to her child. Further, if it is disclosed that one of our residents has a history of sexual abuse, therapy, counselling, and medical services are made readily available.
Beyond our onsite therapy block, our residents are also given the opportunity to access occupational therapy, speech therapy, and hearing therapy off site when necessary.
Over the past six years we have been unbelievably fortunate to have Dr. Susan Black, a highly qualified family physician join us from America, on a voluntary basis, to assist as our medical director. Dr. Black had seen Nkosi speak at the World AIDS Conference in 2000 and decided that she wanted to be a part of our organization. In 2005 she came on board and we have since been able to treat many of our mothers and children on site. In 2006, we completed the Sickbay at the Village which consists of a 9 bed unit to help care for our HIV positive residents. Further a second room is kept open for ‘isolation’ cases (MDR or measles). Currently our sick bay employs both home based care workers and auxiliary nurses. Further, in early 2010, we were privileged to bring a new local doctor, Dr. Baba, on board to further assist us in ensuring that all of our residents receive a high quality of care.
The sickbay has been tremendously beneficial for our residents, many of whom were very sick due to AIDS related illnesses and are now responding magnificently to the ARV’s.
The library at Nkosi’s Haven is a good example of how a library could become a safe and caring environment where the needs of love and belonging, education and aesthetics could be met. We realise the importance of the connection that could be built between a good fiction book and a child. The library provides space for homework, reading for pleasure, art sessions, and various workshops, including HIV/AIDS awareness sessions for children and workshops on life skills for women. One of the most recent services offered to residents of Nkosi’s Haven is bibliotherapy – the practice of using books to help children cope with their physical or emotional problems. The librarian from Canada who is currently volunteering at Nkosi’s Haven will be conducting bibliotherapy sessions with children using picture books on HIV/AIDS. The library continues to raise funds to expand its collection and make it more relevant to the needs of the resident’s of Nkosi’s Haven.
In line with requirements to register as a “Child Care Centre”, a huge leisure room has been built onsite. The new leisure room is “L” shaped accommodating for both a large recreation and relaxation space as well as for ballroom and ballet lessons, which take place in the hardwood dance studio in the bottom of the “L”. Painted in bright, bold, energetic colours, and outfitted with colourful lounge suites, 30 bean bag chairs for the children, a large TV, and foosball tables, this room has been a wonderful addition to our village and is enjoyed daily by our children and mothers.
Workshops and Classrooms
Currently on site we have two workshop cottages designated for skill building and one classroom that functions both as a site for afterschool programs and homework, as well as for life skills and skill-specific workshops. Currently, we are offering educational programs about HIV/AIDS, self-esteem and confidence. Further, multiple skill-specific workshops are hosted weekly covering sewing, knitting, pottery, crafts, and career related skills such as resume writing.
In 2009 we were able to complete construction on an industrial size kitchen allowing us to cook for and feed a large number of additional residents. With the help of our onsite cook, our volunteers, and resident mothers, we are able to provide three well balanced meals every day for all of our resident mothers, children, and volunteers.
Thanks to a generous donation from the South African Whole Grain Bread Project, Nkosi’s Haven was able to open a bakery onsite that enables us to produce whole grain bread for our resident moms and children as well as for organizations in surrounding communities. Further it offers tremendous opportunities for skills building and economic sustainability.
Music and Arts Center
The music and Arts Center is now fully operational. It comprises a keyboard, some drums and is mostly used for our choir. As we continue to grow and accept both an increasing number of children and mothers at the Village we are in need of more space to operate programs, and are eager to explore further the multiple benefits of Music and Arts programming. In the last few years we have been host to a number of small workshops at the Village that are oriented toward teaching the children and mothers both art and life related skills. Due to limited space and resources, however, such programs are largely unsustainable. From these workshops it is clear that many of our residents (mothers and children) show tremendous talent that needs to be developed. By building a Music and Arts Center for the mothers and children are able to run programs year round and bring in volunteers to teach music and art lessons (both of which are not offered in local schools).
Preschool (under construction)
Constructing a preschool on the premises has multiple benefits in the contexts of early childhood development, skills transfer, and cost effectiveness. In the context of early childhood development, having a preschool on site will enable us to begin interventions earlier and allow us to integrate our play therapy and occupational therapy at an earlier development phase and throughout the day. To date, a child must be held back from school if he or she is undergoing forms of therapy. This project is also beneficial in the context of skills development and job creation as we will be hiring certified teachers and training three or four of our resident mothers to assist qualified teachers at the preschool. Finally, to date, we pay ZAR 1000 per month per child to attend preschool outside of Nkosi’s Haven Village. Having a preschool on site will enable us to save a substantial amount on school fees that can be directed toward necessary costs at Nkosi’s Haven Village.