Few of us actually understand the amount of work and dedication required to care for and rehabilitate children that have been abuse and neglected. The journey may begin with the removal from the place where they are being abused or off the streets and into a place of safety but, that is only the beginning. From the dedicated house mothers and fathers, volunteers, therapists, counsellors and teachers to the generous individuals and businesses who help provide the necessary funding to make it all happen, these are the people who truly make a difference to the lives of these children every day.
The earliest years of a child's life is known to be most critical because it is during this time that they develop a bond and a trust with their primary caregivers. It is this trust that forms the foundation for the healthy and normal development of a child however, if this trust is broken the child suffers a devastating blow to the very foundation of their being. Abused and neglected children often have very serious emotional, behavioural and cognitive issues which, if not addressed, will continue to affect them in their future. Their ability to associate with others, build normal relationships and integrate into society may be compromised. They may suffer from emotional and psychological disorders, be unable to maintain a steady job and will be at a greater risk of developing alcohol and drug related issues. The sooner someone intervenes to remove the child from the abusive environment and into a place of safety, the better their chance to overcome these obstacles and become fully functional and capable members of society.
Coach is a children's charity in Johannesburg that has been an instrument for many children and young adults who have been abused, abandoned or have been living on the streets. By placing these vulnerable children in a family-structured home that provides security, nourishment, education, structured schedules, extracurricular activities, therapy and counselling we can ensure that they have the opportunity they deserve to become caring and happy young adults that will make a positive contribution to society.
Therapy is essentially based on a variety of studies on abused and neglected children from after the period of abuse and well into their adult lives as well as practical experience. Therapy helps children understand and work through their emotions and thoughts. Another part of therapy is to provide children with the coping skills and tools they need to control their behaviour and develop normal relationships with others. There are many stages of therapy and each child has their own individual set of needs that needs that must be addressed and constantly evaluated and updated throughout the therapeutic process. The therapists and counsellors that work with these abused and neglected children also serve as role models for what an appropriate and healthy adult-child relationship should be. They strive to form a trust-based relationship with the child that enables them to address the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that occur as a result of the abuse or neglect. They are also tasked with the responsibility to encourage and support the child to grow out of the role of the victim. This is done by building the child's self-image through support and encouragement as well as ensuring the child learns how to make good choices, care for themselves and control their behaviour through coping skills that are taught.
Extracurricular activities are also a very crucial part of the therapy. Sport in particular, not only helps provide the physical activity that is necessary for the children to stay healthy and sleep better but it also helps children learn how to work as part of a team, build friendships with peers and, as many research studies on the topic have shown, help them overcome many psychological, emotional and behaviour problems. Sport also helps gives children hope for a brighter future and improves their self-confidence and independence. This is why Coach places a strong emphasis on ensuring the children partake in extracurricular activities in conjunction with normal schooling, therapy, counselling and general day-to-day scheduled routines.
Routines and schedules are important because all children need them in order to develop normally, learn important life skills and self-discipline but, children that are abused and neglected need structured routines even more so for many reasons. It provides them with a strong sense of security that enables them to rid themselves of the fear associated with the unknown and the vulnerability they so often feel. Through routine children can improve their self-confidence, independence and behaviour because a routine provides them with a sense of mastery and control of their own lives. They learn how to control themselves, their lives and their environment which is something that is key to stabilising a child that is out of control or suffering from emotional problems.
In addition to the St Nicholas and St Joseph's Homes, Coach also runs the Life Campus at St George's Home in Kempton Park. Although counselling and therapy is also employed where needed, this home and its associated programmes focus on young adults between the ages of 16 and 18. These young adults have either been living on the streets or cannot cope in mainstream schooling systems and require specialised training and development that must have sustainable outcomes. This sustainability is achieved by empowering them with the skills needed to become fully integrated into society and support themselves in the future.
Essentially they are taught the many basic life skills they need to be able to lead a normal life, get a job and develop normal relationships with others. These skills include basic numeracy, literacy, vocational and IT skills that are crucial to our efforts enable them to enter the workforce and sustain themselves. Research has actually shown that adult literacy education will, assist these disadvantaged youth to get a job, have a positive impact on their continued learning, improve their self-image and confidence as well as reduce the likelihood of returning to the streets or becoming dependant on others.
The Life Campus at St George's Home also provides youth with entrepreneurial skills training which effectively opens up the fruitful world of self-employment. This is our solution to the general lack of job opportunities available to these youth and ensures they become aware and prepared for the other opportunities and possibilities available to them.
These children and youth deserve a fighting chance Coach is dedicated to ensuring they receive the love, care, skills and necessities then need and deserve. In order to both house and rehabilitate these children and young adults, Coach relies on donations and sponsorships from individuals, small business and Corporate SA. If you'd like to find out more about how Coach makes a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children and youth, please visit www.coach.org.za.