Our busy and vibrant centre is a place of safety where all of our programmes begin. From here they reach far into the communities of Maun, getting to the core of the issues facing orphans and vulnerable children in Botswana, and making a real difference to the future of our children.
The Bana Ba Letsatsi centre operates throughout the day and our dedicated staff team is on call 24-hours a day to manage critical cases. The centre provides a safe and caring environment, however, days are managed to implement structure and discipline and the children play a key role in the maintenance and upkeep of our facilities.
Counsellors hold individual and group counselling sessions, facilitate art therapy, drama therapy and theraplay sessions, carry out regular home visits and school follow ups, and advocate on behalf of the children. Those that are not currently in a position to enter mainstream school are enrolled in our non-formal education initiative. Homework support, sports and games are key aspects of the services we provide, and we work in partnership with numerous governmental and non-governmental organisations.
To give the vulnerable children of Botswana hope, they need an education, and our key goal is to support at-risk children in getting an education through our Back to School programme. Working with the Department of Social Services, we support children by providing school fees, uniforms and transport, and for those at boarding school, toiletries and bedding. Children are also provided with psychosocial support to empower them as individuals.
Our non-formal education initiative also plays a major role in this programme, where a Government of Botswana teacher facilitates lessons in our classroom for children who are not in the position to enter mainstream schools. These lessons are designed around the needs of our children and reintroducing a lesson environment. The syllabus mainly focuses on reading, writing and basic maths. When assessed to be ready the children are enrolled into mainstream schools and their progress is closely monitored.
The school holidays are some of the most worrying times of the year for Bana Ba Letsatsi staff, as it is when the children who attend school begin to feel the pull of the streets once again. To counter this we offer well-planned days with workshops, projects, sports and fun activities, as we are well aware that what we offer at the centre must be more enticing than the streets.
Additionally, we organise camping trips and visit lodges and campsites in the neighbouring Okavango Delta. Ironically, the underprivileged children of Maun – the safari capital of Botswana – experience almost no positive contact with nature. These trips are therefore essential in helping the children to develop an interest in the wildlife upon which the region’s economy – and their future – depends.
Not everyone’s future potential is ignited in a mainstream classroom hence in our youth programme we support those in need, and who show the potential to succeed, in finding what it is that they are going to be successful at in life. This includes supporting them through re-sitting school exams and progressing through the mainstream educational system, or through providing vocational skills training such as brick laying, plumbing or even becoming a professional chef.
Once enrolled, the youth are monitored closely by our Head of Youth Development to ensure that they are disciplined in their learning, and that they are in the correct program for their own abilities. When they graduate we work hard with the individual youth members to secure future employment for them.
The issues that children in this community face on a daily basis are complex and often harrowing. The broad range of such issues has meant that we have had to discover different ways to connect with the children, and so to help them.
The mentoring program is designed to give children at Bana Ba Letsatsi the space and support to discuss issues that they are facing as young people in this community. Single sex groups are taken by our counsellors – outside of their normal working hours and to a venue outside of our centre – to discuss stigmatised issues and gain an insight. Many of the children that we support are hugely affected by the results of HIV/AIDS, and many of these issues are discussed in these sessions. Experience has shown that this forum is one of the best to air and discuss the complex problems that the young people in this community face.
There is no lower age limit for this community’s children in need. However, at our centre we do not have the required staffing and facilities to cater for children of preschool age, and yet we simply cannot turn them away. Instead we sponsor these children through private preschools in the surrounding area. These littlest children are collected early in the morning and brought to Bana Ba Letsatsi where they wash, climb into their freshly ironed preschool uniforms, and eat breakfast – all before they are dropped off for day at school.
After preschool closes they are brought back to the centre where they mix with the other children and engage in our well planned activities before being taken home. We have to start thinking about the future of the children in this community often before they even know the meaning of the word.
The aim of every Bana Ba Letsatsi staff member is to eventually say goodbye to each child knowing that they will now return to a safe, supportive and loving home environment. We do not believe in dependency and by empowering the caregivers of the children in need in this community, we seek to rehabilitate the natural family environment of care and support.
Through this programme caregivers are trained in skills and given the means to earn a small income. Literacy lessons are given as is the personal support needed to enable their own growth and development. Through this process they discuss and analyse their care-giving skills and the impact this has on their children. The skills taught through this programme enable these women to support themselves and their children in the future.