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					             Empower Group
               Moedwil School

“Children Empowerment and Emotional Health”
    Developing Child Centred Communities

                Pilot Project
              Summary Report
                 June, 2009

        Rustenburg, North West Province
                 South Africa

                   A Project by

                  Supported by
Dear Reader:

What follows is a summary concerning a focused programme seeking to develop the emotional
well being and mental health of young children at Moedwil School in Rustenburg, South Africa.
Although the following information involves a corporal view of the children impacted by the
programmes, one must know that these young men and women are very much individuals; each
of their characters unique, their stories poignant and their dreams staggering.

                                            There is little Zach, who is diligent and takes careful
                                            notes on everything. Already he has taken a group of
                                            youngsters under his wing and has started a gumboot
                                            dancing group, practising daily with them. There is
                                            Maria who always has a warm smile on her face and
                                            wants to be a nurse one day while Belmiro, who has
                                            blossomed into a natural and confident leader, for the
                                            first time in his life, envisions himself as an
                                            accountant even seeing himself going up an elevator
                                            to his future office one day. These are the future
                                            professionals and leaders of South Africa.

And there are also very real challenges opposing these young dreamers. Many face conflict in
their homes with abusive parents, divorced or deceased parents, absent fathers or fathers in jail.
Some have lost parents, friends or relatives to HIV/AIDS or other illnesses, many don’t have
enough money for the most basic of toiletries and all have faced critical inner and external voices
telling them “they won’t make it.”

But what we saw in working with these young people was a group of devoted, motivated leaders
with a promising future that could transform their school and their community.

In the year ahead, we continue to partner with them, growing together with them to a place of
wholeness and maturity so that they will not be hindered in achieving all that they have been
called to be.

Yours Faithfully,

Sebastian and Natasha Mathews
on behalf of
The Moedwil Empower Team
 "There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more
     important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected,
         that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace."
                                             Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General

1. Introduction

In South Africa today the impacts of HIV/AIDS and the phenomenon of absent fathers and broken
families initiated by the legacy of apartheid labour practices is taking its toll on the country’s
children. For example 3 million children, some 21% of all children in South Africa, are orphans
(defined as the loss of one or both parents) and according to various studies about 25%
percentage of all children can be termed as “vulnerable” or at risk of child abuse, neglect or
exploitation (CANE) as defined by the recent South African Children’s Act. As these children grow
up in the vacuum of proper care and parental guidance, the impacts on their personal
development as well as any meaningful contribution to society could be devastating.

We have been entrusted with such precious and valuable resources to the future of our nation.
The creation of child centred communities requires timely and effective intervention for these
orphan and vulnerable children (OVC) to equip them with the confidence, care and skills necessary
to build themselves and their community up. To this end the Empower programme was initiated
at Moedwil School as a pilot study of the effectiveness of such an intervention.

2.   Background

Moedwil School is located some 20 kilometres outside of Rustenburg, the mining hub of the
platinum rich North West province of South Africa. The school, first opened in 1938, was set
amidst expansive lawns to initially serve the local white Afrikaans farming population.

Today, these once beautiful and gracious old buildings, are increasingly dilapidated and now cater
to 670 students aged 6-18, all of whom are extremely poor black children from various rural farm
schools in the surrounding areas that had been closed down by the government as well as street
children collected from as far a field as Mafikeng, a town about a 150 kilometres away and
relocated to the school.

Some 450 children of all ages stay at the hostel during the school year and approximately 100 are
orphans. Most of the children in the hostel do not even have bedding or blankets, nor do they
have access to basic toiletries or even shoes, and there is virtually no adult supervision of the
children outside of school hours. It is no wonder, as one of their teachers stated, that “most of the
kids struggle with an inferiority complex compared to kids in the other schools in the region.”

3. Empower Programme

The empowerment project at Moedwil School began in response to the extraordinary need
evident at the school. Following a fact finding trip to Watoto Children’s Village, a faith based
initiative in Kampala, Uganda that has emerged as one of the more successful Early Childhood
Development (ECD) programmes in the developing world, the organisers of this project identified
a trauma counselling programme, called Empower, to build up orphan and vulnerable children.
This highly regarded curriculum, designed by a leading Australian child psychologist and trauma
counsellor, was used in war-torn Uganda to bring child soldiers, orphans and other traumatized
children to a place of healing and wholeness. However, the programme is flexible enough to be
adapted to any set of stressful or traumatizing experiences facing young people and was thus
deeply contextualised, tailored and introduced to a select group of 15 boys and 15 girls at
Moedwil School as a pilot study.

3.1 Empower Programme Description
The Empower programme is designed to nurture and equip a small group of young people to build
the prerequisite emotional well being and mental strength necessary to successfully overcome
significant levels of experienced stress and prior trauma, in order to achieve their goals in life. The
programme consists of two parts:

    The first part is about building emotional strength to readily deal with stressful or traumatizing
    experiences; past, present and future. It involves a personal analysis of one’s challenges, goal-
    setting and the development of skills to cope with stress and trauma. This first part was
    completed by the pilot Moedwil group by November 2008.

    The second part deals with forgiveness and leads participants in a process of letting go of past
    hurts, bitterness and anger so that they can be more productive and free in their lives. This
    second part was completed with the Moedwil Empower group by April 2009.

4. Empower Group Composition

For this first pilot group, the teachers and administrators at Moedwil School were asked to
identify 30 (15 girls and 15 boys) of what they considered to be the most vulnerable children at
the school. The children range from 14-18 years of age.

                               Moedwil Empower Group, November 2008

4.1 Empower Group Format
Upon the first meeting of the Empower group, the participants were told that they were selected
as leaders in their school and the purpose of this group was to develop their leadership skills. The
group committed to keeping confidential everything they shared during the sessions and that
nothing would be shared outside the group without permission. The meetings begin with a brief
introduction to the topic as a group and then the session with the boys and girls were held
separately for 75 minutes with an exercise being held again as a group for the final 15 minutes of
the meeting to foster team-building and reinforce the message dealt with that day.

        The Empower group engages in an exercise whereby they must listen to their friend’s
        voice for direction to collect designated coloured balls. The purpose is to develop
        trust and learn to discern the voice of friends to achieve goals.

As part of the customisation of the programme for local needs, a set of physical and creative
exercises were developed that step by step help the students to themselves identify, develop and
affirm their own sense of significance, self worth and security; the foundational elements of
emotional well being.

4.2 Empower Group Facilitators
The groups are led by highly experienced facilitators with psycho-social facilitation training.

    Two male facilitators lead the group of boys – Sebastian Mathews, Program Director at the
    Atlanta International Government Training Centre (CIFAL) of the United Nations Institute for
    Training and Research and Thapelo Maimane, a Christian youth worker for Gap Bridging
    Associates, an NGO focused on children empowerment, who recently joined the school as a
    volunteer life orientation and guidance teacher.

    Two female facilitators lead the group of girls – Natasha Mathews, who currently works with
    the United Nations on gender and capacity building issues and Rosalie Smith, Training Director
    of NeoLife Academy, caregiver training centre with a special focus on pregnancy crisis care
    and HIV/AIDS, who initiated the Moedwil project in 2008.

4.3 Empower Group Emotional Health Baseline Survey
A survey was conducted with the group during Week 3 to gather more information concerning
their respective circumstances and experiences. Below are some of the results of the survey,
where respondents indicated that they experienced the following statements “very often” or “too

       I feel really guilty for
      the things I have done

     I constantly remember
         bad things that

         I see or hear things
           that are not real

             I have difficulty

      I feel sick, have pains
           or headaches

       I am always worried
      that something bad is

        I find I don't want to
           play with others
                Boys              0   2    4       6        8       10       12      14

The above results suggest that the majority of the group experience extreme symptoms of trauma
(i.e. physical manifestations of trauma such as restlessness, sickness or hallucinations, extreme
guilt, etc). The group also gave comment on their traumatizing experiences and some of the
comments to open questions concerning their trauma include:

“I have seen someone drowning in a river. I am always dreaming like I am the one who is
drowning” Boy, 18

“I often cry if I think about that thing that traumatized me. I feel like killing myself or someone
who did that to me” Girl, 16

“After my father’s funeral, I was badly distressed. I thought that if it was possible, I could go and
wake him” Girl, 18

“When my father and mother are fighting, I’m feeling hurt [and I want to] go somewhere I don’t
know or I can die not seeing them” Girl, 15

4.4 Empower Group Sample Curriculum
Below is a brief summary of topics covered in the first six weeks of Part 1.

    Week 1: Trust – learned that building relationships means sometimes being vulnerable, but
    one must be wise about who you share your story and your life with. Friends are those people
    who are looking out for your best interest. Children must learn to discern the voices calling
    out to them. Everyone in the group committed to treating one another and their stories with
    respect and confidence.
    Week 2: Setting Goals –described climbing the mountain of life, question is where do you
    want to get to? Important to have goals/vision, because what you set your eyes on is the
    direction you are going to go and what you are going to have. Each person in the group set
    short and long term goals for themselves, identified potential challenges and brainstormed
    means of coping with these challenges.
    Week 3: Stress & Trauma Signals – learned to read body signals that indicate that something
    is wrong and identified issues behind those “symptoms.”
    Week 4: “Snake Bite” – further explored the reason behind symptoms, what is the stressful
    event/experience causing pain, sleepless nights, worries, etc? Identified and killed the “snake”
    (problem) by sharing with each other. As long as shamed into keeping quiet, that problem still
    has control over you, conversely by sharing participants gain greater freedom and confidence.
    Week 5: “Snake Bite” Recovery Plan- developed a plan to recover from stressful/traumatizing
    experiences. This “snake bite recovery plan” consists of:
        o remaining calm – deep breathing,
        o getting rid of the poison – producing natural “happy” chemicals in body through
            exercise, arm wrestling, jumping, tensing and relaxing muscles,
        o making sure not to get “bitten” again – learned to identify lies that we believe about
            self and situation, how to interrogate those lies and how to identify truths about one
    Week 6: Controlling Negative Thoughts – identified when it is not ideal to dwell on negative
    thoughts (i.e. at night when trying to sleep) and also affirmed that it is appropriate to deal
    with negative thoughts at a predetermined time for a set period. This gives the students
    control of their thoughts. Also discussed that if negative thoughts trouble them, they can
    change their mind – think about doing something special for someone else and by shifting
    attention away from self unto others, can see more clearly and feel better about self.

The final exercise dealt with overcoming trauma, by again having participants share their
trauma with a fellow peer or the facilitator, this time in more detail. The amount of openness
expressed by the participants during this session was markedly greater than two weeks prior.
The participants then rated how they felt during the exercise on a scale from 1-10, 1= not
stressed at all and 10= extremely stressed. The group then had to choose a new partner to
share the same story with. As the participants in the group shared their experiences with more
people in the group and in more detail, the shame, guilt and bitterness accompanying those
stressful and traumatizing experiences was greatly decreased.

4.5 Empower Group Programme Outputs
Though the outputs of this first pilot group are far more personal and significant than this report
can possibly reflect, there were qualitative outputs produced some of which are enumerated

                                        Skills learned:
                                                  Control over one’s body, feelings and thoughts
                                                  Public-speaking and effective communication
                                                  Trust and team-building
                                                  Peer to peer mentoring
                                                  Coping mechanisms for stress and trauma

                                        The Empower group engages in an exercise whereby they
                                        must decorate hearts and then write down on the heart a
                                        word or phrase that positively describes. The purpose is to
                                        view themselves, both boys and girls, as beautiful and special,
                                        worthy of respect and love.

5. Outcomes

More importantly, the programme delivered outcomes well beyond initial expectations.
Numerous informal surveys, personal one-on-one discussions and observable behaviour
revealed that the group had developed significantly increased levels of emotional maturity in
the form of improved self confidence, more positive peer to peer interaction and better
decision making capability.

In addition, after just four months into the programme, some 70% of the students in the
Empower group were selected by a panel of teachers to become school prefects, based on a set
of criteria that included academic performance, civic responsibility and emotional maturity.

The Empower group continue to be mentored so that they can themselves identify, develop and
execute projects that will impact their school and community. It is the aim, that upon
completion of this programme, the participants will not only be emotionally equipped and
mentally prepared to achieve their goals, but as well the teachers and school leadership will be
empowered and supported by a group of student leaders selected from the first pilot group to
lead further groups, thus creating a multiplier effect of leaders in the school. The programme
can then be disseminated to other schools and areas in need of such an intervention.

       "The economic benefits of investing in children have been extensively documented.
Investing fully in children today will ensure the well-being and productivity of future generations
   for decades to come. By contrast, the physical, emotional and intellectual impairment that
              poverty inflicts on children can mean a lifetime of suffering and want –
                          and a legacy of poverty for the next generation.”
                                             Carol Bellamy, former Director of the Peace Corps and
                                             the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

6. Conclusion

In the face of daunting challenges, that exist personally in the lives of these children, that are
evident locally and pervasive nationally; there is enormous opportunity to make a difference,
not only in the lives of these 30 children, but also in the wider community as a whole. The
creation of a child centred community requires intent. By building a child, we build a community.

It has become clear to us that children are vital to the future of any community, and investing in
children’s lives has perhaps one of the greatest long-term returns from any other investment of
time and resources in a community. We hope you too will see the precious value of investing in
these children’s lives.


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