By Mrs. Hartwell
On Monday our group was invited to a primary (grades5 -7) school for their assembly and to visit classes. Arriving just as the more than 200 children were singing, all in unison, all in straight lines according to grade, we were treated to songs, and a presentation by grade 6 of the eight millennium goals set out by the United Nations. Remarkably unselfconscious, the children presented either in small skits or role playing the topics of rising above poverty, working towards a salaried job and avoiding the “hourly wages of prostitution.” They also tackled the importance of respect,education, and community, among others. Their world is one of AIDS, poverty, but in spite of the almost overwhelming odds, the children conveyed optimism. We visited classes, saw the “feeding” program, which is a kitchen where women were preparing rice and vegetables for lunches,for many children their only real meal of the day. We also saw the garden in which some of the vegetables are grown, and any not used are sold to the local township to raise money for the school.
Nellie is the life skills curriculum coordinator for the school and works closely with Marcus and Whizzkids; she has great heart and is devoted to her students and the school, always thinking of ways to improve the children’s education and quality of life. Next to the school gate are several women selling snacks for the children, and Nellie will only allow these “aunties” to sell snacks if they sell fruit and healthy food since many of the children have tested positive for HIV and need a healthy and nutritious diet.
We walked with Nellie’s class to Whizzkids Health Academy, in the grounds of Edendale Hospital and next to the adult clinic, where the staff of Whizzkids will do life skills training using soccer, and where young people can come for HIV testing, counseling, homework club or to see a doctor two days a week.
When we arrived at the Health Academy, a TV crew from National South African Television was there filming for two days. Apparently it is not uncommon for various national and international TV crews to want to film the work of Whizzkids, one of the most effective organizations working with young people in the fight against AIDS. Later in the day Whizzkids held an inter gender soccer tournament, and we watched a very skillful game, with several players playing in bare feet. Over the few days we have been with Whizzkids, the GFA students were immediately and very happily accepted by all the children and made several friendships.
While the students were working with the Whizzkids staff, the author met Dr. Wilson at Edendale hospital; he talked of the research in which he is engaged around the effectiveness of circumcision as preventative measure against contracting AIDS.
One of the main goals of the day was to run into an acquaintance from the Youth Day Tournament on Saturday. Towards the end of the WhizzKids day, our little friend made an appearance to the delight of the students.