Philani Child Health & Nutrition Project
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PERSONAL STORIES

Mothers | Outreach coordinators | Volunteers

Outreach coordinators

Assistant Coordinator: Novakuye Sijeku’s story
I am Novakuye Albertina Sijeku, mother of 2 children, boys, an 18 year old one and a young one, 4 years 8 months. I am 49 years old this year. I passed Grade 12. My ambition was to be a nurse, because of my subjects I was not qualified. In 1992 I was working as community health worker in SACLA health project. In 2002 the project closed because of lacking of funds. We were all retrenched.

In 2005 I started working in Philani under the IMCI (Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses). When I started working in Philani I noticed that Philani was specialising in malnutritionand caring for vulnerable children. I learned a lot about how to raise a child and within 3 months I was promoted as an Assistant Coordinator for supervising 10 Outreach workers.

It was the time where I proved my leadership skills. It was not an easy thing because every Friday I brought feedback to my superiors. I think I was taking time to understand the growth monitoring and how to prioritise your cases because we are working with folders. I remember when I was called by Ingrid, I became so nervous, I didn’t know what can I do. As time went on, I got what Ingrid expected from me. I like being called by her now because I’m getting trained by correcting my mistakes. I’m feeling happy by working in Philanii, although it is not easy. I am a hard working person and believe that hard work is the only way to accomplish your goals and dreams. I also want to learn day by day. I have self respect and respect for others. Today I am fully developed in malnutrition by the knowledge I have got from Philani.

Senior Assistant Coordinator: Khanyisa Peter’s story
My name is Khanyisa, mother of 3 children who are attending school now. I grew up in the rural areas with a single mother because my father passed away before I was born. We were 4 children, I’m the last child. I went to school, passed Matric and I came to Cape Town for a job.

I met this guy who abused me when we had a child. I cried almost every day, depressed, and the child refused the breast at 3 months and the man didn’t want to buy milk for the child. I went to Philani to ask for milk, but the weight of my child was fine, but I asked about other programmes that they did.

I broke up with this man, went to stay at Delft with my family and I applied for a child support grant to support the child. I joined the unemployed people’s organisation where I was on the project committee and I wrote a letter to Philani to open their programmes in Delft because I saw the need for the Outreach programme.

We came to interviews and I passed and trained as an Outreach worker in Delft in 2002. I had +/- 80 cases in my case load and heard stories that motivated me to do this job with love and care. I remember the day I met a mother with twins. The mother was HIV+ and also one twin was HIV+, but not attending clinic because she was shouted at there. She was closing herself inside, said she was waiting to die, but I spoke to her and went with her to the clinic. Everything went well, she got a disability grant, treatment and the children got immunised. They even got a place to stay because they didn’t have their own place to stay.

The second story is about triplets. They were severely underweight and also had severe diarrhea. I took them to the Red Cross Hospital as Dr Ingrid referred them. They were diagnosed with TB. I supported this mother by feeding every day and making sure that they finished their treatment. This mother said she used to have twins, but only one survived, but now thanked us because the triplets are alive and they are at school now, doing Grade 1. These two stories motivate me to do this job.

Now I became employed by Philani from 2006 as Senior Assistant Coordinator, with 12 Outreach workers that I support to visit their case loads and do more education for both the Outreach and Mother to be programmes.

I always had a dream of being a social worker, but as a single parent it is not an easy thing. I also dream of being a nursing sister because I used to work with such people training for community health.

Nursing Sister: Nomvuyo Macaba’s story
My name is Nomvuyo Macaba. I am 64 years old and have 2 grown-up sons and 4 grandchildren. After retiring at the age of 55 years from the City of Cape Town, as the area manager with 6 clinics under my supervision, I went on a 3-month holiday. Thereafter I was home for quite some time. I became bored and started looking for work. One of the places that I worked for was a hospice, where I looked after retrovirally compromised patients.

One afternoon one of the carers was reading a local newspaper and saw a Philani job advert for a nursing sister. She urged me to apply as the job would suit me so well, she said. In order to please her because she was nagging me, I sent in my CV and application letter with all other documentation to Philani. I was then called for an interview and after the second interview I was employed as coordinator for the Mother to be programme, starting on 16 November 2006. My first duty was to train the Outreach workers. I dealt with female reproduction; antenatal care; postnatal care; neonatal care; breastfeeding; child health; HIV and AIDS and the pregnant woman; retroviral treatment for both mother and baby. After 2 weeks of training we were ready to start work in the community.

Pregnant mothers are secured during house to house visits; by meeting them in the street and asking their permission to open a folder, sometimes mothers to be refer to us other pregnant women they know. I enjoy working for Philani because it enables me to continue to utlise my intellectual abilities fruitfully at this age, otherwise I would still be bored and inactive, had I continued remaining at home.

Outreach worker: Ntombohlanga Buzani
On 31 March 2009 when I was doing house to house visits I came across a house where, after introducing myself as usual, I weighed an 11 months 3 weeks old child whose weight was 5.5kg, which is severely underweight for age. Usually we fill in a folder for underweight children. When I was filling in the folder the child’s mom told me that she had not been tested for HIV during pregnancy because she didn’t book for antenatal treatment. I referred the child to the Philani doctor because he was also sick. On 1 April 2009 I visited with my Assistant Coordinator and the child was left with his father and the child’s mom was at the clinic. We just weighed the child and promised to visit again.

I kept on visiting, but the house was always locked until I met them on 21 May and fortunately the mom was at home alone with her child and that was my chance to advise the mom to take the child to the clinic for an HIV test. She did and the child was quickly given an appointment for ARVs because he was very sick at that time and I started doing counselling to the mother and advised her to go and check her CD4 count. I keep on visiting, but the house is always locked and the neighbour also doesn’t know where they are, but I promise I’ll never give up on them until I know they’ve followed my advice.

Nyameka Gxokonyeka, Assistant Coordinator
I visited a family today in the T section where everyone is HIV-positive: mother, daughter and grandchild, with one daughter already dead of HIV. There is no disability grant, although they should have it because of the HIV. The whole family depends on R 420, which is the one daughter’s child support grants for her children. There is nothing to eat in this family, which makes me feel shy to visit them, because I always wish I had something to help them with. I helped granny to apply for the foster care grant, but it is still in process.

I feel so thankful to Philani because I have learned a lot, such as advising people who have lots of problems and doing counselling about childhood illnesses and how to raise children. The people even come to my house at night for help.

Novakuye Sijeku, Assistant coordinator
I found a newborn baby fed with mielie-meal porridge in the bottle with no clothes to wear. The mom is sick in hospital. The family and granny to this baby were so angry for the mother because they did not know that she was pregnant until she delivered. As a result the granny did not want this child she was not interested whatsoever. The mother of the baby became blind after delivery and was very sick because she is HIV-positive. She also has heart problems. She is still in the hospital. Philani is now supporting with milk and this baby, who was a low birth-weight baby, is growing well. The baby is not yet tested for HIV, but it will be done soon. I am also counselling this family and now things are going better the child is kept warm and is fed.

Khanyisa Peter, Senior Assistant coordinator
The story that touched me is a story about a lady called Nomathemsanga, whom we found sleeping in bed and she was very sick. Before we could do anything we cleaned the house because it was not hygienic and the house was leaking everywhere. This mother told us that the child we had come to visit was burned on the head and she took the child to hospital. She did not get better and the child was transferred to another hospital where she got better. The doctor tried to find a grant for the child and the mother, but the mother had no transport money to go back to the hospital. When she had borrowed the money they told her at the hospital that the child had been taken by social workers and she does not know where the child is.

Nomathemsanga also told us she is HIV-positive and waiting for TB test results. She has had TB twice before. I gave her money to go back to hospital for her results and there was no food for her to eat. She was positive and we took her to another clinic to start her TB treatment and she is waiting for her CD4 result. There is no information about the child, but our social worker is trying to find her whereabouts. We also managed to trace the family and they are now helping this mother.

Nosandla Gqweta, Assistant coordinator
This young girl Nomasibulele, aged 16, had a baby at 9 months 3 weeks, weighing 5.9 kg. Both her parents have died, the father in 2003 and the mother in 2007, caused by stress. Her parents were married and had 5 children. Nomasibulele is the first born and is now looking after her own child and her siblings. They have family, uncles and aunts, but they do not care for these kids. The child support grant was refused. Two of Nomasibulele’s siblings have now moved to Eastern Cape and stay with an old granny there. The mother had an income from the father’s work pension after he died. A friend of the mother is now the beneficiary of that pension and is not supporting the children but using the money for herself. Nomasibulele, her child and siblings do not have money for food. I have referred this problem to Social Services and they are investigating. In the meantime, they are receiving emergency relief from Philani, I am helping Nomasibulele to get an ID book and encouraging her to go back to school.

Nomonde Zigana, Assistant coordinator
Nonzana’s family touched me a lot from the first day I visited them in lower Crossroads. This is a 44-year- old mother with 9 kids, staying in a small, one- room shack. None of those children is in school, they are staying at home with their mother. The six-month-old baby is underweight. There is no water in the house, they are so dirty and hungry. They are cooking food on an open fire inside the shack and the smoke makes everything dirty. Nobody is working in the house. They depend on the food they ask for from the Muslim church. They have no money to pay the rent for the land where they have built the shack.

The owner of the land closed off the water. They asked for water from the neighbour, only enough to cook and drink. There is no water to wash their clothes or bodies. They are suffering a lot. The mother wakes up early in the morning and takes the baby on her back and goes to the Muslims to ask for food, leaving the other children in the house with no food until she comes back. Mom gave birth at home to all those children, there are no clinic cards, no child support grant. Their father is working in the taxi rank, but not supporting the family. The mother tells me her husband does not want to hear anything about supporting the children. We are helping her to get clinic cards so that she can get the child support grants.

Nomvuyo Macaba Nursing Sister

It had rained the night before and although the sun was up it was the beginning of winter and cold. This was in the afternoon, when I was asked by Nonguquko, an Outreach worker, to visit a desperate family with her. After knocking on the door for a while it was eventually opened and the heartbreaking cry of a hungry baby greeted us. The mother, who did not look well, was sitting on the bed trying to calm the baby with a bottle of water. A 5-year-old boy, who looked small for his age, was standing next to the mother asking for bread.

The following problems were established in this home: the mother had enlarged glands behind her ears and looked very thin. Her feet were swollen. She was stressed because she had no food for her children or herself. Her breasts had dried up and she had no other milk for her baby. There was no food in the house and when we checked the cupboards they were empty. The room was very cold and she had no electricity. She had no grant for the baby.

I always carry a tin of Nan for emergencies and we were able to make a bottle of milk for the baby. The baby literally gulped down the milk and it was gone in a flash. Soon after, he fell asleep. We referred the mother to the Philani clinic for continuous milk supply. I wrote a referral letter for the mother to be investigated for TB and gave her some money so she could buy food for herself and the older child. We applied for, and she was granted, emergency relief from Philani for three months, while waiting for the child support grant. The mother is now on TB treatment and the baby is thriving. This mother’s problems are not over, but we have managed to alleviate some of her concerns and will continue supporting her.

Nokwanele Mbewu, Coordinator
One time I was on a visit with an Outreach worker, Sindiswa, in Site B, Khayelitsha. We were on our way from the day hospital to the M section when we saw this very thin man, walking very slowly with crutches. I stopped and offered him a lift, although giving a lift to strangers is not in our policy. Once he got into the car I identified that he was very sick. He had an injury to his foot and he also told us that he had TB when we dropped him at home. We helped him to get into the house and we were so impressed with the cleanliness of the house, but we also saw that to encourage TB treatment adherence was a challenge when there was no food and he had difficulty to get to the clinic on crutches. We went back to the Philani office for a food parcel and the Outreach worker cooked for him. We observed him eating and I noticed he had difficulty swallowing because of oral thrush. I asked Sindiswa to visit him every day, although he is not from our target group.

One day Sindiswa found him lying helpless in the house. He did not respond and she called me. He was unconscious due to dehydration. We kicked the door in, made Rooibos tea and forced him to drink. After taking some fluids he regained consciousness. We drove him to the hospital, where we fought with the health officials. There were lots of reasons for him not to be admitted to hospital. After a long argument we managed to get him to be admitted for two days, then he came back to his home.

This man disclosed to me about his HIV status. We encouraged him to do a CD4 count, which was 6. He started on ARVs and got more sick. We never stopped supporting him. Today he is both on TB and ARV treatment. I could not believe my eyes when I saw him yesterday. He looked very healthy and energetic, living positively. I am glad I broke the car policy and I thank the Outreach worker for being committed in her service to him. And I thank Philani for saving the life of that young man. I pray that he gets health forever and manages to encourage other young men out there who have lost hope.

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