Friends in Ireland is a child-centred Irish and South African development organisation, where the mission is to provide and promote care, protection and opportunities for selected orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa in partnership with local communities. From humble beginnings, the story of Friends in Ireland is proof of the power of dedication, perseverance and vision to make a real difference in people’s lives. Originating in the desire of the organisation’s founders John and Marian to help marginalised children affected by HIV and AIDS, Friends in Ireland has grown year-on-year and now cares for 1 000 children in nine different communities.
Friends in Ireland was initially requested to build a hospice in Khayelitsha in Cape Town by Mèdicins Sans Frontières (South Africa), where mothers dying of AIDS could receive care. Following this initiative the geographical focus of Friends in Ireland moved to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in 2006.
Since moving into these provinces, Friends in Ireland has been in an almost constant phase of growth and development moving firstly from provision of basic needs to a more holistic care approach. Working alongside grass root community-based organisations (CBOs), Friends in Ireland’s vision is one of empowered communities in which children and young people are able to grow up without discrimination, and in a healthy, safe and caring environment, where they are equipped with the necessary skills to realise their aspirations and potential.
Main activities programme and projects
The overall aim of the Friends in Ireland programme is to contribute to reducing extreme poverty in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, by supporting marginalised children affected by HIV and AIDS, through community based development. Friends in Ireland aims to contribute to changing the social and economic circumstances for children who attend Friends in Ireland’s centres by ensuring that they are provided with a programme which enables them to become healthy and well-nourished, and capable of accessing their constitutional rights to enable them to learn and develop in a South African environment.
In order to improve the lives of the children in Friends in Ireland‘s care, the organisation supports them at all stages in their development. This aim is achieved through three targeted project interventions as follows:
Project one: Community Development
While the primary focus of Friends in Ireland interventions is to provide care for children, an overriding concern of Friends in Ireland is sustainability, partnership and community owned development. With this in mind since 2007, Friends in Ireland has been working with local communities to build partnerships with six CBOs. To achieve this Friends in Ireland has provided training, and support to build the capacity of the CBOs. The organisation has empowered over 40 CBO members to manage the centres, apply for government funding and advocate for more services on behalf of their communities. The fact that the centres will be community led, means the communities are investing in their success and increases the likelihood of the centres making a long term difference to vulnerable children, long after Friends in Ireland have ceased involvement in their day-to-day management.
Project two: Early Childhood Development
This project is concerned with reaching the most marginalised children under school-going age and providing them with care and services that are otherwise unavailable to them. Research conducted by World Bank indicates that the long-term impact of quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) is higher school completion rates, reduced dropout and repetition rates, improved school achievements, greater adult productivity, and higher levels of social and emotional functioning. Furthermore, this research found that ECD programmes are a highly cost-effective means of strengthening society as a whole by ensuring that its individual members live up to their full potential .
Four ECD centres have been constructed by Friends in Ireland. They are all operational, registered and catering for selected vulnerable children aged three to five years. Currently, (2013) 190 children are enrolled at the centres and receive quality early education, nutrition and care on a daily basis.
Project three: Drop-in Centres
This project is concerned with supporting older marginalised children of school going age. Seven drop-in centres have been constructed and are attended by 810 children (2013) aged between 5 and 18 years. Drop-In centres are crucial in providing support to orphans, especially those coming from child-headed households, and those being supported by grandmothers.
The drop-In Centres guarantee that a child receives two meals a day and relieves the burden on poor households to have to provide this. In addition the health and well-being of the children is monitored and any incidents of abuse or health deterioration are reported and interventions activated.
The impact of this project is that children receive assistance with their development needs through educational, emotional, physical and social support.
Friends in Ireland’s strategy is to expand the programme at these centres to include an after schools programme (ASP) which will help support the educational and psycho-social needs of the children. This is already in progress and has been rolled out across five Drop-In centres.
The Friends in Ireland Trust is a registered Trust (IT1148/2009), nonprofit organisation (NPO-086-581) and public benefit organisation in South Africa. The Trust supports orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa through community-based interventions.
Friends in Ireland is also a registered Irish Charity (No. 14933), where the chief mandate is to ensure the continuance and sustainability of the organisation’s programmes in South Africa through fundraising for their future. Friends in Ireland encourages and supports the engagement of the Irish public with the organiation’s development work in South Africa and with development issues more broadly.
Friends in Ireland’s strategic focus in the period 2013-16 is on consolidating and building on past achievements, empowering local communities and ensuring the continuation of the organisation’s work into the future.
To view Friends in Ireland in the Prodder NGO Directory, click here.