Coping with Grief in Cape Town, South Africa

By Tamania J. Naqi, Social Media Coordinator Death in the family strikes all of us with shock and grief. Children are more vulnerable as they have not developed the skills to communicate or cope with their feelings. Having recently dealt with the death of a dear family member, this recent project that CEF was involved with resonated deeply within me.

CEF has funded a grief-support program through our partner organization Victoria International Development Education Association (VIDEA) in South Africa. The Khayelitsha Grief Support Program provides grief-support groups for children in the Khayelitsha area in Cape Town, South Africa. Ongoing support and training is given to volunteer facilitators of these groups. These groups give hope to sad hearts and have been appropriately named Rainbows.

Death by HIV/AIDS, violence and illness is common within the community. Children who had experienced the death of a parent were finding it hard to adjust with the loss.  Three hundred of the most urgent cases were identified in one primary school alone, which unfortunately is a fairly typical number for the schools in the area. Children in Khayelitsha are living in one of the poorest townships in Cape Town where unemployment and poverty are severe.   The facilitators of  The Khayelitsha Grief Support Program are comprised of 20 volunteers who are trained by VIDEA to provide various services to their community.

The children are organized into thirty 'Rainbow Groups', where each one is taught that they are not alone in the battle with grief. The goal is to equip each child with the coping skills they need in order to grieve naturally. They share their experiences of loss and pain with people they trust and eventually develop their own support systems. Those dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are referred to a trauma centre in Cape Town. CEF hopes that through these support groups, many of the  children will learn to overcome their personal tragedies and live more joyous and fulfilling lives.