According to a World Vision study conducted in 13 countries, 71% of children around the globe feel isolated and lonely due to school closures and 91% said they were experiencing emotional distress and feelings of anxiety, anger and worry due to the uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
While many children have families to help them navigate through these difficult times, children in care facilities feel a severe sense of isolation, as they are away from their families and communities.The children who live at the SA Children’s Home in Gardens, Cape Town can only see their families every now and then because of the regulations surrounding the COVID pandemic.
The cancellation of visits and holiday plans, as well as school closures, means these children have become strictly confined to the home for most of 2020.“I was upset and disappointed when it was explained that we can’t go out, can’t go home, can’t see our friends and also can’t go to school any more. I had lots of things planned, and I’ve missed out on activities and family gatherings. It ripped away from my normality,” said one 17-year-old at the centre.
SA Children’s Home acting GM Dawie Marais said the children have experienced a range of emotions. “At the beginning, like all of us, the children were in shock. Their first reactions were of disbelief; they could not understand what we as adults tried to tell them. Some were scared, some got angry and frustrated. Staff had to patiently keep explaining what was happening, reassuring them that it wasn’t only happening to them. Schools were closed for everyone and unfortunately, for them, the regulations did not allow for any of the visits, outings and holidays that were already planned,” he said.
Seeing that they couldn’t do much because of lockdown rules, this year they decided to spend their 67 minutes picking up litter in their garden. Social worker Vasti de Villiers said it has helped to involve the children in watching President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Covid-19 briefings, and they have been quick to adopt preventative measures and become part of the effort to keep themselves and others safe.
“We started an organized programme for each section of the home on the hour, including sanitising routines, to keep them actively involved with the process. We have managed to maintain regular individual therapy sessions with social workers, and children in therapy took part in online counselling. We also introduced sibling sessions to foster family contact and support for each other,” said de Villiers.
With 44 children in 17 different schools, the centre’s staff had to find a way to link the students with their teachers for continued education during the lockdown. Senior childcare worker Foezaile Booysen said: “As lockdown eased gradually, we started taking the children out for morning jogging and exercise. This is playing a crucial role in getting them active and releasing their energy.”
To keep the youngsters occupied these past months, the home had to get creative with resources like art and hosting cooking events.
To help support the SA Children’s Home you can add them as a beneficiary on your MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card or you can visit www.sakinderhuis.org/donate/.