UNICEF Ambassador and Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson took time out from the Club’s pre-season tour of South Africa, this week, to learn about the impact of violence and abuse on the country’s orphans and to call on communities to play an active role in protecting and supporting vulnerable children.
South Africa has close to 4 million orphans - around 23% of all children - and many of these youngsters have lost one or both parents to HIV. These children often live in extreme poverty, face huge challenges in their every day lives and suffer from trauma, stress and grief. They are especially vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation.
Visiting an ‘Isibinidi’ project in the rural community of Ndwedwe, KwaZulu-Natal, Sir Alex was joined by 22-year-old goalkeeper Ben Amos to see the work of UNICEF and local partner, the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers (NACCW), in protecting and supporting orphans and vulnerable children. ‘Isibinidi’, which translates as ‘Courage’ in the local Zulu language, is a community based project that was developed to care for vulnerable children and to break the cycle of abuse and violence that they face, by providing both practical and emotional support.
Specifically ‘Isibindi’ trains and provides orphan families with individual Child Care Workers. These Child Care Workers conduct regular home visits and provide vital practical support with important everyday activities such as washing, cooking and doing homework, as well providing much needed psychosocial support to children who have been through the traumatic experience of losing their parents and other damaging situations. In addition, ‘Isibindi’ builds and maintains a network of ‘Safe Parks’- areas within communities where children can play safely, study and learn important life skills such as confidence, home management and HIV prevention.
Whilst at the programme, Sir Alex saw a ‘Safe Park’ in action and spoke with Simphiwe* (aged 15), Ntobeka* (aged 12) and Thandeka* (aged 9), who were orphaned when both parents died in quick succession over five years ago. Since their parents’ death the three siblings have been cared for by their aunt and are also receiving regular support and visits from Thulisile, a 26 year old Child Care Worker.
“I found it very hard to look after the three children when they lost their parents,” said Siphelele, the children's aunt. “I was struggling. When Thulisile first visited I didn’t think she would be able to help. But now I see her as a daughter. Her support has transformed the household and provided us all with the help we need. I don’t know where we would be without her.”
Talking from Ndwedwe village, Sir Alex, a UNICEF Ambassador for over 10 years, commented:
“As an UNICEF Ambassador, and through Manchester United’s 13 year partnership with UNICEF, I’ve visited many projects, but to hear how young people, especially orphans, suffer is always shattering.
“Orphans and other vulnerable children often live in abject poverty. They miss out on the love and care of parents, miss out on the rights and opportunities that every child requires, face abuse, and risk being pushed into a life of crime, forced labour and sexual exploitation. This should not be the case.
“UNICEF is calling on all communities to step up and play a more significant role in protecting all children, especially the most vulnerable, from abuse and violence. Projects like ‘Isibindi’ are making a real difference, but to reach the millions of orphans in South Africa UNICEF needs more support. Manchester United is committed to supporting UNICEF in this cause, and I’m calling on others to do the same.”
The visit enabled Sir Alex and Ben Amos to see for themselves the kind of work that has been funded by the ‘United for UNICEF’ partnership which has raised over £2.5 million for UNICEF programmes, benefiting more than 2.2 million children worldwide. The visit to Ndwedwe highlights Manchester United’s continuing commitment to UNICEF’s work with children worldwide.
To find out more about the work of UNICEF please visit there website: www.unicef.org.uk
*Names have been changed.