HOPE for Babies: Meet Elfrieda
As we continue our focus around HOPE for Babies, today we meet another care worker, Elfrieda Leroux. Elfrieda joined the HOPE Cape Town Family in October 2016 as Community Health worker at the Scottsdene Clinic. Since April 2016, she has been working for HOPE for Babies at Tygerberg Hospital.
Elfrieda grew up on a farm in Paarl where she spent most of her childhood. At the age of 8, she moved to Kuilsriver where she completed her schooling and worked in a factory for a few years. In 2010, she joined Scottsdene Clinic situated in Kraaifontein, where she worked as a TB assistant – conducting sputum tests and ensuring patients received and were adherent to their medication.
Elfrieda always wanted to maximize her knowledge, grasping as much information as she could which resulted in her gaining enough knowledge to become a drug resistant counsellor. What she loved about this role was the fact that as a mobile unit, they were fortunate enough to travel to various clinics. It was through this interaction with various HOPE Cape Town staff members that she decided to join the HOPE Cape Town family in 2016.
As a care worker, Elfrieda enjoys the interaction with mothers, especially those who are new mothers. Part of her role is to ensure that mothers and their babies are tested for HIV before being discharged and provide counselling to those who need it. When babies are tested after birth and the results are negative, it does not mean that it will remain negative – it could change, however only after 18 months, once the baby has developed its own antibodies can the final status be determined. During this period, mothers are encouraged to remain adherent to their medication. There are times that patients forget their medication at home before being admitted and for Elfrieda, its important to communicate this to the doctor beforehand as it plays a vital role.
Some of the challenges experienced is dealing with young mothers who considers abortion. During this difficult time, Elfrieda is always there to provide the necessary support and encouragement and the highlights for her is seeing those same mothers enjoying their precious bundles of joy!
HOPE FOR BABIES: Meet Mariam
Mother-to-child transmission of HIV is the most common way infants contract the virus and this happens when HIV is passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth or while breastfeeding. Hope Cape Town conducts a project in collaboration with Tygerberg Hospital, situated in Cape Town, South Africa which aims to support these pregnant women who come to Tygerberg Hospital for care.
Today we meet Mariam Roelofse, Care Worker for HOPE Cape Town for Babies who shares her journey with us and why she loves doing what she does.
Growing up in Bontheuwel, a former coloured township in Cape Town was not easy for Mariam as it involved daily crime activity, gangs, and poverty. Without a matric certificate (graduation) it is not easy to pursue a career as a teacher, doctor or nurse, something Mariam always dreamt of - but because she failed matric, she could not fulfil this. Without a matric certificate, she had no choice but to find work and ended up in a jewelry factory where she spent 5 years. Soon realizing that this was not her passion as she loved engaging with people, Mariam quit her job and decided to look after her children instead.
During her time at home, she decided to empower herself by doing a 6 month Home Based Training Course which she completed and started doing voluntary work at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) clinic unit in Vangate, close to her home.
She then moved with her family to Bishop Lavis and found work at the Bishop Lavis Clinic where she worked in a voluntary capacity as a Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) supporter, handing out medication to TB patients. This role continued for 2 years until she applied for a permanent position with HOPE Cape Town as a Care Worker. To date, Mariam has been part of the HOPE family for 15 years!
A typical day at the office for Mariam starts at 7am where she follows up with patients and assists the nurse on duty with PCR (HIV tests for babies). Starting at the labour ward, Mariam needs to ensure that all moms have done a recent HIV test and if not will arrange to have one done. For her, its important to build relationships with these moms and gain their trust as in most cases these new moms do not know what to expect during and after their pregnancy journey.
Part of her role is to get as much information as possible from mothers while they are in the labour ward – things like checking if they are adhering to their medication and the general well-being of the patient.
During the COVID- 19 pandemic, many mothers feel alone as they are not allowed any visitors, however we try to bridge that gap in order to make it as comfortable as possible by providing them with useful information, like what to expect, breastfeeding tips etc. We also allow them to call their loved ones just allow them to connect with someone who they cannot physically see.
The most rewarding part of my job is the feedback we receive from patients who are so thankful for the support during the whole process and especially the fact that we were there every step of the way. This gratefulness really makes me feel proud as an employee of HOPE Cape Town.
HOPE to Home: Meet Samukelisiwe Nyamathe
For the month of October/November, we will be focusing and exploring two of our exciting programmes, HOPE for Home and HOPE for Babies. Situated at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, working closely with doctors and professors, these programmes have impacted many lives for the past 20 years!
To kick start this series, we chat to Samukelisiwe Nyamathe, Medical Doctor for HOPE Cape Town.
Samukelisiwe grew up in the south of Johannesburg in a small suburb called Elandspark. She was brought up by her grandparents and went to both primary and high school in a neighbouring suburb. In her matric year, she decided to go study in Cape Town where she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town and then went back to work in Johannesburg.
She then completed her medical internship at Far East Rand Hospital and community service at South Rand Hospital, both in Johannesburg. She then worked for a while under a mentor doctor in a private practice in Johannesburg before coming to join Hope Cape Town. Subsequently, she completed a diploma in Public Health and in 2019 completed her coursework for a master’s in science in Child Health, pending examination of her thesis.
Was becoming a doctor always something, you wanted to do? Was their anyone who inspired you to choose this career?
I don’t recall when I made the decision to become a doctor, but it was largely influenced by my grandmother who happened to have many chronic illnesses and was sick for as long as I can remember. I had a great passion to be of service to people and that led me to the career of medicine.
How did you find yourself at HOPE Cape Town?
While I was doing work in private practice in Johannesburg, my mother came across an advertisement with the job for an NGO in Cape Town. She knew how much I wanted to explore my career in research much further and it was an excellent opportunity to come back to a city that I love.
Take us through your typical day/week before and at office
My day starts at about 5am, I wake up for an early morning prayer and breakfast. I do some reading and then get ready for work.
On a Monday I am in the office either for a staff meeting or doing administrative work. On a Tuesday I am at Delft South Clinic where I see paediatric patients in the infectious disease clinic together with 3 other doctors at the clinic.
On a Wednesday I am in the office and then I drive in to Tygerberg Hospital to see the Hope to Home and Hope for Babies Team.
On a Thursday I am in the Neurodevelopment Clinic at Tygerberg Hospital where I see some of the established patients alongside Dr Springer and Dr Thomas.
On a Friday I alternate with Dr Ana Houston to work at the Delft CHC clinic where we see the paediatric ARV clinic patients.
What are some of your challenges?
It has been quite challenging as a person with a background in medicine to work as a supervisor of projects where majority of the role was human resource and admin related however it was probably my biggest learning curve.
What are some of your highlights?
I got the chance to do a research project describing the risk of adolescent girls and young women becoming HIV infected where I interviewed hundreds of women at Tygerberg hospital and got the chance to get a glimpse of how young women navigate their environments and also to understand the challenges that they face as young women.
I also love working with the children in the clinics. Sometimes it is difficult to have the patience required to work with people and their commitment to the well - being of their children but when you see someone who was struggling actually doing well and being optimistic about their future it really makes it all worth it.
What do you do in your leisure time?
I take a lot of walks. During the lockdown period I came to appreciate the peaceful power that nature brings. I read at least 2 books a month, one with my book club and one other one of interest to me.
I spend a lot of time with friends and family and explore new places like coffee shops, small towns, new cities. I mentor other young women who are working their way out through life.
Hands down: Pasta!
Reading. Yoga. Gardening.
Exploring the Process of Occupational Therapy
In our previous articles we had the privilege of meeting occupational therapists who shared their stories with us. Today, Robyn Meissner explains the process of patients requiring OT sessions and what these sessions entail.
Referrals come mainly from doctors and nurses in the clinics we currently work in (or their referring hospitals).Children are referred to us when a they are behind on or have missed developmental milestones in any developmental area, if their caregivers and teachers are worried about problems regarding writing and learning or if they have congenital or neurological disorders already diagnosed. We can see anything from sitting and walking delays, to behaviour problems, to writing backwards/upside down, to not holding their pencil correctly.
We always start with an assessment so we can try identify where the difficulties and problems are and so that we have a baseline of their abilities to use - we can use this at a later stage to compare and recognise improvements.
Therapy involves using play to practice/exercise/teach and improve their difficulties or delays. We try to involve the caregivers as much as possible within the therapy sessions and provide them with ideas and support on how to help their children at home as they are not always able to come to the clinic frequently in between their doctors’ appointments. These therapy sessions all take place at the clinic where the child is seeing their doctor, on the same day as their doctor and medication appointments. Children and caregivers will continue to see us for appointments until their difficulties are resolved and they are confident in their abilities.
Seeking early intervention (as soon as they start experiencing difficulties) is always best for the child! If there is a delay referring to therapy the difficulties are often more difficult to help resolve and could cause other problems.
One case that comes to mind:
I was referred a little girl at one of the clinics, who was 2yrs8mo old. She was born 1 month premature, weighing 1.62kg and tested positive for HIV after birth. Unfortunately, her family did not attend follow-up appointments and defaulted her medication, they were in struggling with a very poor socioeconomic situation at home. She now had pulmonary TB and malnutrition. My initial assessment placed her at a 1-year old level – she was not walking or talking yet, a delay of about 18months across all developmental areas. She was also extremely traumatised and would cry through her entire clinic visit, she would not let me come near her, even to give her a toy.
I was able to show her parents how to stimulate her development without having to buy toys. We worked slowly for her to gain my trust and eventually she stopped crying and started to play more in therapy sessions, all the while her parents were playing with her at home based on the guidance given. She started walking 4 months after I first saw them. She also started speech therapy which has helped her communication to catch up. She is now 5yrs old, I still see her for monthly sessions - she has continued to improve. Unfortunately, we think she will always be behind her age group in some developmental areas and she is being seen by specialists to help provide appropriate support. Her parents understand her health condition better and are committed to care for her.
This story highlights a couple things:
- the significant importance of home stimulation in a child’s development and the difference it makes when the caregivers are encouraged and recognise their responsibilities,
- this is also a great example of the multi-disciplinary team at work to provide holistic care to save and improve a child’s (and their family’s) life – without the counselling from HOPE’s community workers, doctor’s care, nutritional advice and support from the dietician and occupational and speech therapist intervention, she would not be where she is today.
HOPE Cape Town - Occupational Therapist Zoné Janse Van Rensburg
As September focuses on occupational therapy, we are pleased to introduce Zoné Janse Van Rensburg, occupational therapist at the Helderberg State Hospital in Somerset West, Cape Town.
1. How were you introduced to occupational therapy?
I studied at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein and successfully completed my Bachelor's degree in 2008. In 2009 I completed my community service at the Port Elizabeth hospital complex in the Eastern Cape Province, where I worked afterwards for another four years. At the same time, I studied Neuroscience at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg and successfully completed my studies in 2016.
Subsequently, I worked for three years in a paediatric practice in East London and then moved with my family to Cape Town and founded my own practice in 2017.
This practice has now been in existence for almost 3 years and is in Durbanville at the Stellenberg Therapy Centre. It is a paediatric practice with a special focus on neuroscience and early intervention. Here, I work with a combination of neurological development concept, sensory integration and sensomotoric treatment approach to treat patients either individually or in groups. I also work for various schools, in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Cape Gate Day Clinic and for HOPE Cape Town in Somerset West.
2. Zoné, is occupational therapy what you always wanted to do?
I was so convinced that I would study occupational therapy that I felt it was not necessary to add a second subject to my university application. I knew very clearly that occupational therapy would be my career. Occupational therapy is my passion. I do not think I would have fit into any other career.
3. What are or were the biggest challenges in your work?
Starting my own practice! It is still difficult for me to run my practice because I am less focused on the business and more on the clinical side of things. However, one part cannot survive without the other part if you want to run a practice successfully.
4. What are the best moments in your work?
There have been so many successes in my practice that I feel it is only one BIG SUCCESS. I am happy when I can help my little patients and thus create a basis for a better future for them.
Focusing on Occupational Therapy : Meet Robyn
Occupational Therapy (OT) week will be celebrated nationally this year from the 16 - 20 September 2020. This annual event/ week is dedicated to OT’s and to promote the many ways that OT’s help all people to reach their full potential.
For the month of September, HOPE Cape Town will celebrate their very own OT’s that work so selflessly to help their patients reach their full protentional. We will be interviewing the “people behind the scenes “ as well as getting a better understanding and insight as to what takes place to make this programme successful.
To kick start this exciting topic, we chat to Robyn Meissner, Occupational Therapist for HOPE Cape Town.
Robyn studied at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where she obtained her bachelors in 2009 and master’s degree in 2016 respectively. She then completed her community service at a small rural hospital in Greytown, KwaZulu – Natal. Since 2011, she has always worked in community clinics across Cape Town, focusing on vulnerable children in the community and those infected and affected by HIV.
1. What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy focuses on tasks we need and want to do every day. Being able to participate in these tasks contributes to our health and well-being. In children, the focus is on learning the foundational skills to become independent as they grow older. Often things happen in life, be it ill-health or family circumstances, that disrupt our ability to do what we want or need to do. Occupational therapists help you to get back on track with your goals when this happens. We use play, fun and games to practice skills that children will use to help them learn at school, look after themselves in everyday tasks and play at home.
Not many people know that HIV can also have neurodevelopmental effects on children, causing anything from developmental delays, to neurological disorders affecting muscle tone to learning disabilities. It is important for caregivers to be aware of these effects and for us to provide early intervention.
2. How do you apply OT and where does it take place?
At HOPE Cape Town, OT runs therapy services alongside some of the paediatric ID (infectious diseases) clinics at various clinic locations we are involved in. When children see the doctor for their regular check-up, they also have access to OT if needed. For these children I also run GOKidz program which is a play-informed caregiver-implemented home-based intervention that trains caregivers in appropriate developmental stimulation to do at home to prevent delays.
As an OT I also do outreach to the Blikkiesdorp playgroup – assessing the children that attend and providing activity-based groups to work on their developmental and learning needs.
I am also involved in the TBH NDC (neuro developmental clinic) and help with specific child development assessments to help decrease their waiting list.
3 Is Occupational Therapy always something you wanted to do?
I always knew I wanted to work somewhere in the health/medical field, I found occupational therapy to be the perfect balance of science and creativity.
4. What is a typical day at the office?
A typical day for me consists of seeing children and their caregivers in the mornings at various community clinics or outreach projects where we work on the needs of the child through play. My afternoons are spent planning and preparing for future therapy sessions and collaborating with other professionals involved in the child’s life (doctors, teachers, social workers, speech, and other therapists).
5. Do you experience any challenges?
Yes, absolutely! Dealing with difficult circumstances that are not the child’s fault and have little control over really makes it hard for me to digest.
6. Any Highlights?
Seeing children and families rise above their difficult circumstances in different ways. – any smile or laugh from a child achieving something new for the first time.
15th HOPE-Gala has a New Venue
15th HOPE-Gala has a New Venue
For the past 15 years the HOPE-Gala in Dresden raised funds worth about EUR 1.7 million, which were donated for the fight against HIV/Aids and a better health care for children in South Africa.
In the first place a magnificent event was planned but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the initial venue would just be able to host 250 people. That’s why instead of the annual Gala an anniversary concert will take place. Numerous artists will perform in a church this year, as it can host more than 800 people in compliance with the COVID-19 regulations.
In addition to this event, Mrs Viola Klein (organiser), plans three charity dinners as support is highly needed at the moment.
Many people in South Africa survive day-by-day with their daily income now being lost due to the Corona lockdown. Therefore, parents and caregivers cannot afford to buy food for their children anymore. Previously, HOPE Cape Town’s main focus was to support mothers, adolescents and children with medical treatment, but food is more needed now.
Many soup kitchens had to close and left behind a hungry population. Children in townships are dying as a consequence of malnutrition. HOPE Cape Town has started a feeding scheme and is able to feed 1000 children a day. Through these donations HOPE Cape Town will be able to continue with saving the lives of children.
HOPE Cape Town in the time of COVID-19
HOPE Cape Town in the time of COVID-19
The work of HOPE Cape Town has never been of greater importance than now in the current challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and what will be the aftermath. HOPE Cape Town had to adjust the way that we work to comply with lockdown regulations, but we have remained operational throughout this period.
Some points of interest:
- Dr Samke Nyamathe has been appointed as the HOPE Cape Town COVID-19 Compliance Officer.
- A COVID-19 policy has been put in place which is regularly updated.
- The HOPE Cape Town main office and research office has been closed on 27 March 2020 for lockdown.
- Clinical staff (HCHWs, Medical Officers, HOPE to Home and HOPE for Babies staff) remain on duty – they are also involved in data capturing, counselling, screening and testing for COVID-19.
- Normal operations at Blikkiesdorp Community outreach was suspended, but as a result of the growing need, we started a daily feeding scheme for the community. We are currently providing breakfast and lunch from Monday – Friday.
- Office based staff work remotely.
- Back office staff work remotely but meet daily to coordinate operations, fundraising and the development of The Nex.
- We are in the process of getting the offices “COVID-19 ready” in accordance to the national guidelines. The main office and research office will be incrementally reopened from 1 June 2020 onwards.
We are keeping a close eye on international COVID-19 developments in terms of travel, safety and guidelines. We are not currently accepting any new applications for international volunteers. Please keep on checking our website for further developments.
Ball of HOPE 2020 – Cancelled!
Experiences of a HOPE Volunteer
The experience I’ve got at HOPE Cape Town is difficult to describe.
Even for me as a journalist it is not easy to find words for this extraordinary adventure. I am grateful, deeply touched and thoughtful at the same time.
When I applied for a volunteer position at HOPE Cape Town I actually just wanted to do something different, something meaningful. Sometimes, my work can be very fast-moving and superficial. Once I was accepted as a volunteer at HOPE Cape Town, I was very excited, but I also asked myself if I am actually able to do that. And what is waiting for me in Cape Town?
But all my expectations were surpassed. The awesome work, the many charismatic and impressive people I met. At the end, I even had the feeling that I’ve got more back from the children than I was able to give to them. Besides my work in Blikkiesdorp, I had the opportunity to work on a film project about the HOPE Community Health Workers together with another volunteer. This work gave me more insight about this well-structured organisation and its real impact on the people.
To be honest, the work in the township was very emotional and exhausting. Sometimes, I experienced difficult situations and I didn’t know how to deal with them. But the team of HOPE Cape Town never left us volunteers alone and we always had the feeling of being part of the team. As bathetic as that may sound, it is true: After a few weeks as a volunteer you start becoming another person. Grateful but also more realistic. Everything I saw on TV in the past, suddenly became realistic, concrete and overwhelming.
I really like to recommend to everybody to get involved in the fantastic work of HOPE Cape Town, be it as a volunteer or through a donation.
Lisa Maria Siewert