They drive for kilometers on dusty, narrow roads without meeting other cars. In between the rolling hills, a single house can be seen once in a while. There are no shops to buy food or any other resources visible and the transport possibilities are scarce. Cows are taking a rest on the road and goats are strolling wherever they want. Children are walking long distances to school and teachers rent rooms in the area to be closer to work.
It takes time to get to the destination, but GCF’s community workers will arrive eventually. Once again, they have been invited to an awareness event at a school.
Sitting in their office having a conversation about these kinds of awareness occasions shows that they are a part of something bigger. The Municipality and principals, who send the invitations, want them to join in the important work of making learners’ lives safer. Sometimes they go as a team and sometimes one of them go alone.
The awareness events normally include other non-profit organisations and governmental departments too, who all present the topic for the day in their own way. It can be about gender-based violence, teenage pregnancies, child or drug abuse. Not surprisingly, GCF repeatedly shares the Protective Behaviours message, which easily can be adapted to most areas of concern. It can take place in a hall full of learners or be an extension of the morning assembly in the gazing sun.
Knowing how schools often struggle with various problems, the community workers enthusiastically talk about the last school they visited, where the matriculants had a passing rate of 100% with distinctions and Bachelor’s passes in 2021. The Municipality wanted to honour the school and motivate this year’s Grade 12 learners to work hard and aim for the same excellent result.
Asking how the general response is at an awareness event, I get the following feedback:
“The learners enjoy our visits. The municipality and the principles recognise GCF. They are thankful and the outreaches are helping us get invites to other schools. We are helping children and adults when they learn about PB (Protective Behaviours). We can cover many topics.”
The community workers share that it feels good to be involved in the awareness events, but at times they wish it would be different and point out how it may take time for a child to build up the courage to come and talk about themselves with them or someone else on the panel. Then the opportunity might already have passed.
The GCF community workers always have children at heart and are referring cases to relevant people when they are aware that someone is mistreated in any way. Would you have a chance, take some time and sit down with them (or any other South African community worker) and they will tell you the real stories about the lives of children and families, the things that newspaper articles do not cover.
Written by Anna-Karin Öhrnstedt