Creating safe spaces

2010-12-01 00:00

TEN years ago today Liesl Jewitt, a courageous woman, began an organisation that for the first few years ran out of a big green box from the back of her car. The core intention of that organisation’s work back then was to create safe spaces for children to reflect on their experience of death and loss using play.

Today dlalanathi, formally known as the Rob Smetherham Bereavement Service for Children, celebrates its 10th birthday. Birthdays are important days to remember. They say this is where you began and look at how far you have come. They are celebrated with cake shared among friends and family, and our wish is to do the same with our Pietermaritzburg friends on this day.

In South Africa today there is no one who has not been touched by death, and conversations and expression of the affects of this on one’s life are essential for healing to enhance resilience and to learn to cope.

As our work grew, so we recognised the importance of working with caregivers who are asked to take up the responsibility of care and support. A family support process was designed that runs for nine weeks. Once a week, a group of care­givers gather in someone’s home in their community. Here they are given a safe space to talk about the impact of death on their lives. For many this is the first time they have had the opportunity to tell their story. While making a doll they remember how they played as children and the role of play in their children’s lives, and they look at how they can strengthen their listening and communication with their children. For dlalanathi, our desire is to strengthen what already exists in families, to affirm what caregivers are doing and to teach simple, meaningful ways of connecting with children through the language of play.

Over the last quarter, seven care­givers from Mfakathini in Elandskop who had participated in one of our processes invited us into their homes to share their family stories. A photographic essay of their lives was captured as we spent time with them and these photos were exhibited in their community last week. As we celebrate our birthday we share their visual story with you today.

dlalanathi’s vision and passion for children and caregivers is wrapped up in its five core values which are love, hope, respect, courage and play. Our work both in communities and with key strategic partners is to build their capacity to provide meaningful psychosocial support to children. Over the past 10 years we have worked in 19 urban and rural communities in and around Pietermaritzburg. We have reached 8 005 children and 837 caregivers. We have worked with 47 partner organisations training 2 069 people who have worked directly with individual or groups of children. Just this year we trained five organisations to train others. In this process we trained 16 people. They in turn trained 436 people who worked with 1 163 children. We have much to celebrate.

Join us today at the Liberty Midlands Mall to view our photographic exhibition, ice cupcakes with your children and see how we make dolls. We will be at the back of the main food court.

• While all the individuals photographed have been affected by the HIV/Aids epidemic, not all of them are HIV-positive.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.