With so many different programs at Etafeni, I am able to work on different projects throughout the day. In the mornings I usually go out into the community with one of the caregivers or the nutritionist and visit clients. With doing this I am able to be in the community and talking to a variety of people. On some mornings we go to nurseries in the area and weigh the children to see if they are healthy and if not we set them up on a supplement program that Etafeni offers. Other days we visit families that have members to sick to take care of themselves or the families of their own. We sit and visit with them, and see what they are needing. I could be taking clients to the local clinic, delivering supplements, or even building a vegetable garden for a client, it is always different from day to day. When I get back from working with the clients I usually go to the Day Care Centre and help out in the pre-school. I serve lunch and plan activities for them. I am also leading a project to have a mural painted on a wall outside of the day care building. The goal is to bring more attention to the day care centre for the community and visitors. Using bright colors we want the mural to reflect the community of Nyanga and Etafeni's involvement in the community.
The Etafeni Daycare Centre Trust is manifested in a community center on Sihume Road in the Nyanga township. The center's mission is to provide holistic support for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Specifically, a day care center, after school care program, and young adult life skills program are located on site. The beautiful grounds also house an income generation project for parents of the children, counseling services, a dietitian's office, and a task force known as the "community caretakers," who canvass the local community and refer those in need to the resources offered at Etafeni. They also document the living conditions and needs in the local community.
At Etafeni, I work in the after school care program with 36 children aged 6-16. Together with their after care teacher and their music therapist, we have planned several art projects to allow the kids an opportunity to develop their individual points of view and expression, as they are raised and taught in groups from infancy. We plan to have a gallery night and music concert when we can invite the local community to celebrate the kids. I have also assisted the site manager with some ideas for administrative organization, such as implementing better internal record keeping and communication between staff members. We have also begun to organize a directory of community groups and resources available in the community, to compliment the resources offered at Etafeni, and to encourage capacity building in the community to connect resources and individuals in order to make a difference in Nyanga East.
Etafeni means "at the open space," and the opportunities for any impassioned and compassionate individual are really unlimited in terms of working with the kids, learning about the organization, and forming relationships with the Etafeni family.
Etafeni is a community-centered initiative; it has been physically built by previously untrained and unemployed community members, who have gone on to find employment in construction work or have stayed on to help at the centre. The grounds and buildings continue to be maintained by men first trained with Etafeni. The centre also has extensive food gardens, which are used to make breakfast and lunch for the preschoolers, after-school kids, and income generating women. The centre is described by community members as a ‘one stop shop’ for those affected by AIDS, poverty, and unemployment because of its multi-faceted nature. Often, there will be a parent learning skills or working in the income generating program, while her child is in pre-school, or perhaps in the youth skills training program, and it is circumstances like these that makes the centre’s variety of programs so valuable to those utilizing them.
Fittingly, my time there was as multi-faceted as the centre. I worked in the mornings with the project manager, Luvuyo, to generate feedback from the community regarding the centre’s perception and ability to meet community needs. This project began as a very detailed and specific document, but as I began work on it, really became about a few interviews with community members and people who had been at the centre since its construction in 2002. I also ended up working on organizational and random projects throughout the semester; if something more pressing came up I would help with that as well.
My afternoons were spent with the children in the after-school care program. I would usually work with the program coordinator, Vuyo, before the kids arrived, to get things ready or prepare projects. Then work with the kids for a few hours doing anything from homework or spelling to drawing and playing games. It is a very laid-back program, mainly focused on providing a space for kids to hang out after school and provide additional enrichment. The coordinator is also very open to ideas and new programs that could be implemented or introduced to the kids.