Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Arts.Advocacy+Wellness: "Torya and her Notes on Ubuntu"

More Than a Check Mark
Jonathan Lang
Ubuntu Education Fund

Bongie and Xolelwa knock gently on a rusty, tin door. A young girl, Aviwe, opens the door sheepishly and

greets her counselor with a reluctant smile. She runs her hand through her hair and escorts her counselor’s into the small, single room. She offers her counselor a seat in an old, wooden chair; the only furniture in her house barring a wire-bed that Aviwe shares with her younger sister. Bongie begins the conversation, while Xolelwa moves throughout the space with her clipboard making notations, each mark potentially changing the life of this child.

Aviwe has begun seeking counseling at Ubuntu after her mother has recently passed-away from HIV complications. While talking about her recent tragedy is part of healing, it will not fully give her the tools

she needs for academic success. The Home Assessment is the first part of ensuring the child’s physical well-being after they have left the safety of Ubuntu’s facilities. The visit by Ubuntu’s highly-trained counselors is one of Aviwe’s first interactions with Ubuntu; the impression made will be indelible.

Xolelwa moves throughout the room, double-checks the lock on the front door, pulls aside a moldy curtain concealing a spider-web of cracks on the single window in the house. She ticks a mark on her clipboard. Though Aviwe is a serious student, she lacks a proper desk and lamp; tools even the brightest children require to do the homework. Another check-mark is made.

In the corner of the room there is a bag of corn-meal on the floor. Xolelwa notices a tear in the corner of the bag. Bongie smiles at Aviwe, “do you always keep this on the ground?” Their conversation is peppered with questions, but far more conversational than interrogative. Bongie picks up the bag and places it on top of some shelving. “This will help keep the critters away,” she says through a warm smile.

Bongie and Xolelwa will return to Ubuntu’s offices with this information and make recommendations. From there, the counselor who will ultimately take over Aviwe’s case will formulate an executable action plan.

The plan will take into accounts all of Aviwe’s needs: medical, psycho-social, and educational. Addressing the complexity of Aviwe’s needs is necessary to bring stability to her life that has been absent.

Taking stock of a child’s well-being is a process that transcends strictly material concerns. Issues of hygiene and health, such as if toothpaste or soap is absent from the house, are taken into account. The goal is not to fashion the child’s surroundings into something unfamiliar, but rather to make their existing space as safe as possible.

While the Home Assessment is undoubtedly an intimate process, its thoroughness is demonstrative of the multi-tiered concern that Ubuntu Education Fund has for its clients. A child is far more than a check mark, but such a rigorous evaluation process ensures that each child is given
the highly- individualized care they deserve.

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