Resilience in uncertainty

How do you break the cycle of violence and abuse against children in a city where things are seemingly getting worse, not better?

Kay Lorentz from Resilient Kids in Cape Town, South Africa says Viva’s collaborative model through the Connect Network is crucial in shaping children’s futures.

For the majority of children in South Africa, life involves poverty, violence and political uncertainty.

Cape Town is justifiably a worldwide tourist destination and yet is one of the most difficult places for children to grow up in. The divide between rich and poor is wide – and increasing.

The levels of domestic and gang-related violence are some of the highest in the country – 181 children were murdered in 2016-2017.

Approximately seven in every ten children in the Western Cape live in households that are income poor, which means that the wealthiest of them have just enough for basic nutrition and other essentials such as clothing.

Almost half of children in the Western Cape are beneficiaries of the child support grant, which is not enough to feed a child for a month.

The aim of Resilient Kids is to empower community adults and organisations to provide ongoing psychosocial support to children and the adults who support them.

We focus on safety, trust, emotional regulation and emotional agility. We do this by collaborating with other organisations from Connect as they address the broader needs of children.

The problem is so big that no single organisation can address all the aspects required for a child to thrive. We value being a part of Connect who facilitate mutual support and collaborative projects across the city, supported by Viva.

Working together as part of Connect we reach more children in more ways than we could on our own. We have collectively a larger voice at government level and have been involved in a child ombudsperson being appointed for the city. We are currently working together to have a proposed amendment bill redrafted.

Within Connect, Resilient Kids’ are lead agents in trauma-informed care, support in advocacy work, and in shaping the Child Ambassador programme and its roll out in the network.

In short, the Child Ambassador is a child who is able to name their feelings and emotions, emotionally regulate themselves, and ask for help when needed.

These children behave in such a way that shows their peers that we don’t have to be caught in a negative cycle of violence and abuse.

Through the Camp Africa holiday camps for disadvantaged children camps, and their follow-up, 10 and 11-year olds are given tools to help explain this alternate way of behaving to their peers and family.

The Camp Africa process involves training adults from Connect’s Community Lead Agents to model this way of behaving and support the children as they teach others.

We recently asked children who are in the Child Ambassador process and have attended Camp Africa for the last two years: “Did the things you learnt at camp help you at home?”

Their responses included things like:

“Yes, my grades went up. I started working harder at school.”

“I think about my emotions and how I act.” 

“It helped me at home, at school and with my friends.”

Please pray for:

  • Connect’s organisations working directly with children in the most violent communities to remain hopeful and refreshed.
  • Churches to work together and more adults to get involved in the cause.
  • The proposed Amendment Bill to the Children’s Act to be recalled and reworked.

Kay Lorentz is Director of Resilient Kids, a member of Connect, Viva’s partner network in Cape Town, South Africa