SOHO’s service model focuses on (HOPE) Health of body, mind and spirit, Opportunity to learn and grow, Purpose for life and Empowerment to achieve and overcome.
The odds are against orphans and vulnerable children (OVC’s) in countries like eSwatini. 57% of the population is under the age of twenty with over 100,000 of them orphaned and vulnerable. There is an estimated 15,000 of them heading households. While the country’s leadership works to address some of the social issues, children outside the traditional safety net lacks adequate health care and nutrition. In addition, they do not have equal access to education because of school fees and are at risk of abuse and human trafficking.
SOHO’s programs are geared to developing a culture of hope, integrity,
resourcefulness, contentment and productivity among the children and youth. Relying on faith in God to enable them to achieve their full potential and to become contributing members of their community and their country.
Health: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual
Opportunity: Learn academically and life skills
Purpose: Pursuit of attainable goals,
Empowerment: Overcome adversity, embrace opportunity
In spite of progress over the past decade, eSwatini still has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world at 27.3%. With life expectancy at 48.9 years, children have lost parents and the traditional safety net of extended family is unwilling or unable to take care of them. Children succumb to preventable health issues such as poor nutrition, unavailable or inadequate medical care and depression. Clinics require bus fare and even the small cost of service is prohibitive for those who have so little.
In the face of deep seated stresses, professional counseling services are virtually non-existent even for children struggling with loss or abuse. This has resulted in unusually high numbers of juvenile suicides.
SOHO provides meals for OVCs participating in the pre-school programs and food parcels are delivered monthly to sponsored families. Every year, a team of psychologists comes to provide assessments, counseling and training for teachers and care givers in crisis and suicide as well as substance abuse prevention.
In 2020, SOHO will begin development of a holistic children’s Village with safe housing, education, agriculture, health care and all infrastructure needed for a child to thrive. Healthy nutrition will be an earmark of the program with children tested for quality of health as well as of performance periodically.
Faith in God will be encouraged as key to emotional and psychological wellbeing and children will be nurtured to embrace their God-given worth and to develop inner strength.
Extreme poverty, orphan hood and illness are some of the factors that deprive children of the opportunity to thrive. According to a recent study, child-headed households account for 10% of the population. Children in these situations have limited availability of nutritious food, lack the finances for school uniforms and bus fares or the ability to leave homemaking chores to pursue education. Therefore, they continue the cycle of grinding poverty and desperate need.
Another vulnerable population in eSwatini is children with disabilities, for many years considered cursed. Abandoned and abused, they live hopeless lives. Hope Discovery Learning Center (an all-inclusive classroom setting) at Nhlambeni is a new concept in eSwatini. This pioneering effort sponsored in part by the Kirsh Foundation, allows SOHO to provide opportunity for learning where previously, there was none.
At a Career Camp held at Mhlosheni Welcome Place, children were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. The responses were typical. Some wanted to be soldiers because they liked the uniforms and they would stand a better chance of having jobs. They were interested in becoming being doctors and nurses, teachers and pilots. Their frame of reference was television, hearsay or personalities they may have encountered who made an impression on them.
A 14-year-old boy on one occasion wanted to be a nurse but he could not read. Aspirations that are not rooted in any reality pave the way for failure and discouragement. SOHO’s programs lead children to self-discovery and an appreciation of their individual skills and abilities.
According to a UNICEF study on violence against children in eSwatini, one in every three girls is sexually abused. Where household responsibilities don’t keep girls out of school, bus fare, books, uniforms, personal care supplies and school fees do. Although 90% of children complete primary school which is government subsidized, only 20% complete high school and 5% get into college.
Poverty is at the heart of much of the inequity, with 67% of the population living below the poverty line on less than two dollars per day. Poverty in this patriarchal society perpetuates physical and sexual abuse and vulnerability of children to human trafficking. With inadequate access to schooling and lack of some of the basic needs, children fail the competitive exams that would provide scholarships to higher education, and the cycle of poverty continues.
SOHO is building the personal esteem of children and providing opportunities for them to be mentored and encouraged. Malvin Moyo, a Chaplain who serves as Outreach Coordinator counsels with the discouraged, visits homes and provides mentoring for boys as a means of building interpersonal skills. Character development is an important part of the program with boys and girls who are encouraged to believe in a mighty God who loves them and will support them in their life’s journey.
The newest SOHO initiative, INTSABA Farm is a place that will encompass a Children’s Village where life skills and livelihood skills will be provided so that the children reach their full potential and become productive members of their society.