Sophiatown Community Psychological Services is a non-profit organization which renders a range of psychological and psycho-social support services to families from marginalized communities, with a special focus on those affected by HIV/AIDS, poverty, war and forced displacement. One of our centres in located in Bertrams which is part of sprawling ghetto of migrants and refugees, mainly from the DRC. Many of these families have fled violent conflict in their home countries and are subjected to severe daily stressors in the form of extreme poverty, xenophobia and various forms of social exclusion. For many of the children school is the only place where they can experience some measure of integration and accomplishment. Unfortunately, however, most have missed out on years of their education, are struggling with language, and lack of support in their home environments.
Study Buddies is one attempt to help children integrate into the school environment, to grow in confidence, and to take pride in their academic achievements. The programme was initiated by a group of young professionals, offering their time and expertise on a voluntary basis to help children with homework and to make learning an enjoyable experience. The programme is currently led by Katelyn Smith who has provided the following account of her involvement with the Study Buddies programme, together with an appeal of support in maximizing its benefits to the children involved:
Study Buddies is a programme that provides a space for school kids (from grade 5 to 12) to come and get assistance with their homework. Study Buddies is hosted at a place called the “The House of Dreams” which is a house that is rented by The Shophiatown Council. The house not only offers us a space to set up tables and do homework, but a space where the children can feel safe and have fun. Each Saturday we set up some trestle tables and chairs and there are a number of tutors that are available for the children (our number fluctuates between 4-10 per week). Our project has grown over the past two years and our attendance and numbers have risen to 34 kids. We tend to have at least 80-90% attendance each week and this shows how much the children feel they are benefiting from the project. We not only aim to help the children with their homework, but to expand the worldviews and offer them opportunities to develop themselves and empower them to make a better life for themselves. At Study Buddies, we feel strongly about education as a means to better one’s future.