After-school caring just a heart beat away

Building the heart beat centre, an AIDS care facility for AIDS orphans in Mpumalanga

There are perhaps hundreds of thousands of children like them in South Africa – Aids orphans, home-makers who are themselves still children, brothers and sisters linked in a shared loss of parents and a stable home life. But when school’s out, who is there to care for them? Where can they play in safety? Who sees to it that they get their homework done?

Working with orphaned and vulnerable children, attending to their after-school needs, giving them sanctuary when they are in need, are the dedicated people the Heartbeat Centre for Community Development, founded in 2000 to alleviate hardships of such children and to help them maintain close ties in their own extended families and communities.

“Despite their loss of family members, we never remove children from their houses or communities of origin,” says Maryke Venter, Heartbeat’s chief operations officer. “We keep siblings together and ensure that they become the legal owners of their patents’ house, and then mobilize circles of support around the children where they are.”

Among Heartbeat’s key activities – and the hubs of communities where the organization works – are its after-school care centres (ASCs), where children can receive help and advice with their homework, read or play with other children until it’s time for them to go home. More than that, though: the ASCs also aim to harness the existing strengths and infrastructure of each community where they work, Ms Venter says. That is one reason why they are always located close to where their young charges live so that no child has to travel more than 3km to a centre.

“We prefer to have the centres in a central location so that all children will have access to them without being placed at risk,” she adds.

The latest centre at Emthonjeni near Machadadorp in Mpumalanga, which has been funded by Concor Technicrete to the tune of R250 000, which included the purchase of the site, the supply of building materials, including interior and exterior bricks and roof tiles as well as the construction costs.

“We are glad to have this opportunity to contribute to such a vitally important project,” says Concor Technicrete MD Paul Deppe. “The Heartbeat organization is one of the most reputable organizations in the country in the field of the care of orphans and vulnerable children, and it deserves the support of the entire business community. One understands the measure of the wonderful work it is doing when you consider that some of the children being cared for here live in child-headed households where the parents have died, others live with relatives, and others in the care of an adult who is terminally ill.”

As with the other Concor Technicrete-sponsored Serubatho nursery school project in Mpumalanga, local labour and expertise again played a prominent role. Victor Modisa, of Matlapa Construction Consulting, was the architect for this project also, while the building contract went to Masibambane Construction.