By Lisa Cohen (Project Lead: Home Visiting / Parenting interventions)
Last week, I visited the final round of home visitor training in two new districts in North West province and I was struck by the personal growth in the women enrolled in the programme.
I first met the home visitors – or family community motivators (FCMs) – when they had just embarked on their training in March. They seemed nervous and overwhelmed by the new knowledge that would challenge many of their pre-conceived notions about children and care giving.
Four months later, it’s hard to believe that these are the same FCMs. They are now self-proclaimed change-agents! The training room was alive with enthusiasm and energy and everyone was eager to share their personal experiences because they truly feel that they are making a positive difference to the 20 vulnerable families they have each recruited from their own communities.
Here are three of their stories – enjoy the read!
I come from a middle-advantaged background but life was still a continuous struggle for us – especially after the death of my mother. This job has helped me so much. I love being an FCM because I’m deeply in love with children. As an FCM, you get a chance to explore other people’s worlds. I have learned a lot in these last few months. Mostly, I didn’t know the different cultural practices that people do, especially when there are newborns in the home. I am learning about my own culture and about respect for families.
I’ve learnt that I can give hope to children and caregivers – especially those that need me due to the lack of documents like the birth certificates, child support grants (CSG), etc. For example, if it was wasn’t for me, one my caregivers wouldn’t have the birth certificate and the CCG and would not have gone to the clinic for the antenatal classes.
My dream is to become a geologist because I love nature – I love working with natural things. Maybe one day I will be able to do that. My wish for the FCM programme is that it can become a permanent feature in our community.
I come from a very strict family in Ngobi. Education is most important to my family. Cleanliness is second. And respect above all! When I first came here, I didn’t know what FCMs did but when I found out that we will be working with children then I was very excited. I love working with children because a child is not like an adult, they are more open to learning. Their minds develop so easily. I have my own child and I see how easily and fast they learn – they want to learn and copy whatever you do.
At first when I entered the households some mothers were very shy and didn’t want us there but I continued and got to know them better and now I can see that when I go in the homes they are so friendly they say “hello, come in”. I’ve really learnt how to be patient – some caregivers don’t even know how to write. I must write an S and an M and sign the forms for them. This makes me so very sad but at least I feel like I’m making a difference in the homes. My biggest challenge is to convince caregivers to come to the monthly cluster workshops.
My village is very sad – you could also cry when you see some of the children I see. Some of the mothers are spending the grants on gambling and there’s… I just can’t explain it…shame. There’s too much shame. I can provide for my child and these families I am working with I can give support but some other child is not getting the support that I can give. It makes me emotional.
I grew up in a family of four. It was a dysfunctional family whereby my mom and my dad were both alcoholics. They used to drink a lot. They used to fight a lot. I had to do the adult chores at a very young age. I would go to school come back and find the house dirty and had to start cleaning. I guess I was a mother to my little sister and both of my parents would come home drunk.
It was a very difficult upbringing. I started becoming rebellious. And at 18 my mother chased me out of the house and I came to live with my grandmother in this village (Ngombi). I started volunteering and the FCM programme was recruiting volunteers. At first the FCM training was frightening but now, I feel I am changing some people’s lives although I know it will take time. One of my colleagues asked my caregivers at my workshops how am I as an FCM and they said: “she’s patient, she respects us, we really love her”.
There’s this family – the mothers are not the main caregivers and they neglect the children. The children are dirty, not wearing the appropriate clothes for the weather. They receive the grants and don’t spend it on the children. There’s this one child who is very underweight and we are working with her.
I’ve seen that caregivers are now spending more time with their children, teaching them. They are not saying “you are just children and my only job for you is to wash and feed you and nothing else”. They give their children time now. I think with more hard work, I can change some more people’s minds.
I like being an FCM because it is helping me in my career as I am studying to be a social worker.