Buds of Christ was one among the organisations in the region to recognise that the emotional, social and cultural needs of children are as important as their material needs. As a result, since the inception of Buds of Christ we have advocated care of orphaned children in their families rather than institutionalized care arrangements.
Over time we began to realise that, although this policy was being advocated and promoted in principle, the main focus and concern for community members, volunteers and many programme staff has been material needs. This is only natural and has become more pressing as the economic and material situation of communities has deteriorated. We have also noted that these communities are feeling totally overwhelmed with their situation and feeling powerless to support the many children affected by HIV and AIDS in their villages. Many field workers and volunteers report feeling embarrassed to turn up at the households of vulnerable children “empty-handed” and sometimes do not visit these children because they feel they have nothing to offer.
Feedback from the children and young people in the communities, especially from the very young children, however, served to remind us and re-emphasise the fact that, even in times of real material hardship, the “invisible” psychosocial support offered to children by their neighbours makes a real difference to them and that this is valued as much, if not more, than the material support being offered. Communities often do not recognise the impact that gestures of care and love make on children.
It is necessary, therefore, to provide a framework in which we could ensure that psychosocial aspects of our work are given the value and emphasis they deserve and to demonstrate to community members that much of the support that orphaned and vulnerable children need does not cost anything and uses the resources that communities have in abundance.
We also recognise that many vulnerable children, because of their experiences, are not easy to live with and to support. The behaviour that they exhibit, as a result of their grief and trauma, can make children unresponsive and apparently ungrateful for the enormous efforts community members make to support and protect them.