Spearheading Positive Change Among South African Communities This February – And Beyond

SIOC-Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT), in conjunction with the Northern Cape Department of Health (NCDoH) and loveLife, continues to bring essential health and social services to the Northern Cape

Amidst the grip of a global pandemic, this month sees a focus for continued awareness across many other pressing health and wellness areas across South Africa.

“The onslaught of Covid-19 on South African (and the world’s) society and healthcare resources has been unprecedented and unrelenting,” says Vusani Malie, CEO of SIOC Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT). “However, the need for continued focus across all areas of health and wellness remains essential in the management of both terminal illness and preventable conditions in addition to the empowering of both ourselves and each other to make informed choices.”

With this month’s upcoming emphasis on World Cancer Day (4 February), Pregnancy Awareness Week (10 to 16 February), STI/ Condom Week (12 to 16 February) and Health Lifestyle Awareness Day (19 February), SIOC-Community Development Trust (established in 2006 by Sishen Iron Ore Company to invest in the uplifting of the communities in which the mining company operates in the Northern Cape and Limpopo), remains committed to its vision of empowering its beneficiary communities to thrive beyond the lifespan of the mine through the implementation of sustainable socio-economic initiatives through partnership with key stakeholders.

“What this in essence means,” continues Malie, “is the implementation of various community based projects in conjunction with our partnership network – all of which are focused on our key three areas of education and skills development, enterprise development and social welfare.” Two such projects that will see continued emphasis during February include the Re a Fola Health Promotion Project and the Maria Masilo Leu Youth Centre situated in Dibeng within the Gamagara local municipality jurisdiction.

Originally launched in 2018 in conjunction with the northern cape’s department of health (NCDoH), re a fola provides for one mobile clinic rendering essential healthcare services to three fixed healthcare establishments (weekly) and five mobile points (fortnightly) across tsantsabane in the northern cape.

Project outcomes per visit include:

·     The screening of at least 20 people for HIV and/ or TB and 20 women for cervical cancer, with the enrolment of any positive cases in a treatment programme; 

·      The screening of at least 30 people for eyecare, the prescription of spectacles where needed and treatment of any further eye conditions discovered, particularly with regards to preventable blindness;

·     Dental screening and extraction of teeth

·      Health promotion activities

“Access to regular and reliable healthcare is paramount for a family and community’s health and wellness and in their sustainability,” says Refilwe Sebogodi, Head Stakeholder Relations and Communications at SIOC-CDT. “Our goal, through strengthening the community’s health system effectiveness, is to provide the resources for, amongst other, early detection of female cancers, disease prevention and treatment services. We aim to increase life expectancy, decrease mother and child mortality and play our role in helping to combat HIV/ AIDS and lessen the burden of TB on these communities and, in that, our country as a whole.”

The Maria Masilo Leu Youth Centre, in partnership with loveLife, is another key component of SIOC-CDT’s delivery within the Northern Cape.  Its goal is to provide the community’s youth of approximately 2,500 between the ages of 10 and 30 with the opportunity for further development across areas such as key skills and to be able to access employment opportunities (as relevant). Another important element is to promote health services and awareness with a particular focus on reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, STI diseases and HIV/ AIDS. This is further facilitated by the provision and encouragement of participation in sport and recreation programmes, the latter of which addresses key societal and community issues including that of gender-based violence (GBV).  

Says Floyd Mpolokeng, Centre Manager of the Maria Masilo Leu Youth Centre: “Our objective is to help decrease many of the social ills identified in the Dibeng region by creating a one stop shop with a myriad of services available for young people in the community. The Dibeng Youth Centre serves as a hub to inform, educate, develop and link young people to opportunities that will improve their quality of lives and livelihood.” The month of February, in particular, will see the role out of various youth focused workshops to coincide with World Cancer Day, STI/ Condom Week, Pregnancy Awareness Week and Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Day.

Apart from the empowerment and educative leg, the two initiatives combined provide employment opportunities for approximately 40 individuals in the area. With unemployment being a huge challenge across much of South Africa, the ability to positively influence the earning potential of these community members is by no means a small feat, adds Malie.

“Throughout the years, the projects we have implemented have had a positive impact beyond the beneficiary communities,” he continues. “We have no doubt the same will hold true for both Re A Fola and the Dibeng Youth Centre. Reliable and readily available healthcare is a basic human right. It affords individuals the power to make informed decisions and to take preventative measures, all of which is impossible without education and early detection. Our goal is not only to provide necessary skills development, create job opportunities and provide educative forums on critical social issues but, so too, to provide the opportunity for longevity and increased quality of life for all our community members.”

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