Department of Society, Human Development, and Health
Dates of Research:
November 1, 2006 — June 30, 2008
NGO’s and government departments addressing the urgent needs of South Africa’s estimated one million orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) face a critical shortage of professional capacity. Beyond survival resources, OVCs require sustained psychosocial support, assistance with concrete coping skills, and effective education to prevent behaviors that put them at risk of HIV infection and other threats to health and safety. Many OVCs do not understand these needs or seek this help, and will only receive it in appealing environments that are protected from stigma and shame. They also need what all young people need: Social activities that are fun and connect them with their peers, schools and churches, and communities. Structured, time-limited, highly interactive groups with clear sequential educational objectives can provide activities that get youth to laugh, and also help them acknowledge and express their grief and fears and recognize their strengths and assets. Focused mutual-help groups also enable participants to experience themselves as valued supporters for their peers while they are being helped themselves. Well-trained and carefully supervised peer educators can plan and facilitate these groups, and serve as role models of resilience. Building on its ongoing PEPFAR-funded work to promote a sustainable intersectoral system of rigorous peer education standards and practices, the Harvard School of Public Health will collaborate with outstanding OVC service providers to develop, implement, assess, and refine tools and materials, training and technical assistance packages, and monitoring and evaluation protocols for peer education strategies to help OVCs apply their own considerable strengths to the creation of sustainable community-based supports.