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The ~ espresso Project ~ is an open and collaborative community project originated by the 24.com Blogging communityto create a master plan and a means of addressing specifically the socially related problems created by the large number of South Africans living with HIV and AIDS.
Based on a report by aid agencies, BBC Health Correspondent Chris Hogg estimated in 2002  that there are more than 13 million AIDS orphans worldwide.
It is now estimated that more than 15 million children under the age of 18 have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. More than 12 million of these children live in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it is currently estimated that 9% of all children have lost at least one parent to AIDS . In 2005, South Africa had 1 200 000 children orphaned as a direct result of AIDS. It is estimatd that there will be approxiamtely 15,7 million AIDS oprhans in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2010 .
Hogg points out that in many parts of the world when one or both parents die from AIDS the stigma of the disease is such that those left behind are tainted. Shunned by their extended family and forced out of their communities, they become outcasts and stop attending school.
Without the necessary schooling, these "outcasts" battle to find a job and earn a decent amount of money to keep themselves and their siblings safe and fed.
Hogg also points out that many become angry and disenfranchised, and large numbers of these children growing up on the margins of society have the potential to destabilise what are often fragile democracies struggling to cope with the poverty of their populations. In the worst affected countries in Africa one in five children will have lost one or both parents by the end of the decade. The scale of the economic and social problems that it will produce will mean it will no longer be possible to ignore it.
Impact on Demography
Incorporating reports from the South African Medical Research Council, the Centre for Security Studies' report on AIDS, orphans, crime and instability  and the South African Institute for Race Relations, WASP postulates that South Africa is a ticking demographic time-bomb with a very short fuse.
Based on the ISS report, he states that the under-40 population in South Africa will, within the next five to ten years, consists mainly of poorly educated blacks with a huge propensity for violence and crime while the white population will consists of mainly over-50's who no longer reproduce.
The whites will represent wealth and privilige - a soft target for a young, violent, lawless black population.
According to the SAIRR report, one million white South Africans - almost a fifth - have left the country in the past ten years; mostly 20-40 years old with their young children. Most of the white emigrants are economically productive people. The SAIRR envisages more whites leaving because of crime figures not declining and the continuation of affirmative action.
WASP considers the group who left to be that group of citizens who reproduce and help grow the population, but because of the factors already stated, are now adding to the population outside the borders of the country.
Since they tend not to come back, they are leaving behind an older, non-reproducing white population, which ultimately means a decline in the numbers of the white population. The SAIRR's population pyramid of white South Africans shows a definite loss of young people and children under the age of ten, and the remaining white population is getting older.
According to Nconde Xundu, head of the Health Ministry's HIV/AIDS section, the black adult population of the same age group are being decimated by HIV/AIDS. It is estimated by government that in South Africa there are 5 500 000 people infected with HIV/AIDS - 11% of the population.
According to The Demographic Impact of HIV/AIDS in South Africa: National and Provincial Indicators, a report published by the Actuarial Society of South Africain conjunction with the Centre for Actuarial Research and the Medical Research Council, a third of South African women between the ages of 25 and 29 years are infected, while 19% of the country's working-age population (age 20 to 64) is HIV positive.
The report states that 1,8 million South Africans have already died as a result of the epidemic.
The dead are leaving behind hordes of orphans without family, the necessary support structures, and moral guidance and values, however tenuous, which manifests in one of South Africa's biggest problem: unrestricted violent crime in schools varying from assault to rape and gratuitous murder. Teachers are threatened and assaulted and headmasters are forbidden by government from taking any action against such individuals.
A report just released shows that literacy and numeracy levels amongst blacks in South African schools have declined since the advent of democracy in 1994. In 2005, only 3 000 black learners passed matric with higher grade mathematics.
The White Euro-African component is becoming top heavy on the elderly side with its birthrate being severely compromised, while the black component's old age brigade will be virtually non-existant in 10-20 years due to AIDS. The uncivilised, illiterate youth brigade will be reproducing at a high rate.
Crime levels will continue to soar at an unimaginable rate in a situation that will be impossible to police. The safety and security of an aging population will be severely threatened as a result of this massive demographic and economic imbalance. In the next 20 years South Africa could very well deteriorate to the level of just another African state characterised by poverty, disease and lawlessness.
In the conclusion to his paper: "Age and AIDS: South Africa's Crime Time Bomb", Martin Schonteich, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, writes:
"As a result of an increase in the number of juveniles, especially orphaned juveniles, as a proportion of the general population, South Africa is likely to experience a sustained increase in crime levels in the short to medium term (5 to 20 years).
"... Governmental policy makers would be well advised to brace themselves for an increase in juvenile related crime as the number of orphaned juveniles increases over the next two decades. Traditional methods of fighting crime, such as tougher laws, more police officers and more prisons, will do little to counter this...
"... Unfortunately, barring a miracle whereby an inexpensive cure is found for AIDS, the coming decades will be harsh on South Africa. AIDS will decimate the country's pool of young workers... This and the resulting surge in the number of orphans, will create a sustained upward pressure on crime rates throughout the country...", and thus cause greater numbers of economically active young whites (specifically) with transportable skills and family-building potential to leave South Africa.
- AIDS is not only a health issue. It also creates social, political, educational and demographical problems.
- AIDS is contributing to the high crime rate.
- AIDS is contributing to the decrease in family and social values.
- AIDS is creating an increasing number of orphans who need proper care and education.
- No short term solution exists for the problems created by AIDS.
A visionary solution to the problem of AIDS orphans and other disenfranchised youth and its potentially disastrous impact on South African civil society in the near future has been postulated by ~espresso~, in essence as follows:
- Create a countrywide ‘youth development program’ by securing funding to build and implement a system of "Girls and Boys Town" type facilities. Each Town, or "Youthville", being a complex of family units, each housing ten students with ‘Mom and Dad’ caretakers. Each Town would contain a medical center - educational facility - and a skills training area. Cooking and general house cleaning would take place in family units - by older family members and parental caretakers. Students who have an interest and qualify would be eligible for advanced educational grants.
- Care should be taken to keep units ’homelike’ and avoid any institutional-like atmosphere - the units would function as the homes these kids never had.
- Each Youthville would be run along civic lines with an elected youth Mayor and elected Councillors and with its own enforceable byelaws drawn up by the Council. This will sensitize the residents of each "Youthville" to the concept of civic structure and order and prepare them to fit into society as they reach adulthood and set out to make a life for themselves.
Defining the Need
Plan to meet the need
The Family Living Center
- Twenty "family living" units - single sex housing - for 10 students and 2 sets of "house parents" each. (Children would be assigned on a 'fair family age range" - a "spread" would be desirable: 18 to 5 on a "fair spread" basis in each "Family living unit".
- Two "nursery units" - housing ten infants and two female infant "mothers". (Infants in "nursery unit"’ until age 5 - could use volunteers as day care "sisters"’ for 1 to 5 year old's)
- A twelve bed clinic with apartment for full time nurse - (living room - kitchen - dining area - bedroom - bath) - local Doctor on contractual call basis.
- A school program that would accommodate and build for the "Youth Village" population - 200 students grades Kinder to Grade 12 - could be programmed for multi class teaching i.e... Kindergarten to Grade 5 - Secondary School to Grade 9 - High School or FET College.
- School grounds would also accommodate athletic fields and Gymnasium.
- Skills course training would be arranged on an "as required basis" with local skills training people (facilitators, assessors and moderators) and would be programmed to absorb students upon graduation.
Family Living Unit
- 6 Bedrooms -3 connected Baths (double sink - toilet - tub/shower) - (2 students per bed room - 2 desks per bedroom - 2 six drawer chests per bedroom)
- 1 Family Living Room
- 1 Kitchen
- 1 Dining room (2 tables for 8)
- 1 Parents Lounge and Bedroom with Bathroom (double sink - toilet - tub/shower)
- 1 Utility Room H/A - W&D - Freezer
Twenty "Family Living Units" assembled around four cul-de-sacs (five units around each cul-de-sac) - acreage would also need to accommodate school building - clinic and nurses quarters - Gymnasium and athletic field.
Annual running costs
Note: The concerns below was extracted from information presented to us on the I-Care Project. "We" must then be read to refer this organisation.
- Youthvilles are a great idea and we have actually tried this approach.
- We even have had available to us land, willing and able staff and all the will in the world.
- Government policy is such that no villages are allowed. Their belief is that if you create a village you are segregating the children and labelling them.
- Government has had many Boys Town and orphanages before that operate on a large hostel like scale and these have unfortunately created little gang scenarios.
- Whilst children in loving separate homes in a village should not have this happen, government is of the opinion that it will and therefore th Social Welfare Department will not authorise any such institution.
- We do have in the communities homes/houses made up of a care worker who is actually not paid as if you pay these staff they tend to view it as a job and knock off at 5pm and leave the kids to their own concerns over night.
- We have identified willing and able parents to undertake out of the goodness of their own hearts to provide for these childrens' needs as they would do for their own children (6-8 children per home).
- We step in as an organisation and ensure that the home partners with government initiatives and other organisations that help these children to lead a full and succesful life and also to provide the "parents" in these homes with support.
- We fund these homes, feed them, clothe the kids and provide spiritual and social input into their lives.
- Government provides education for the children at no cost.
- We purchase their school books and just lately have been successful in partnering with corporates to adopt children and ensure that the child has a secure job once they leave school. Many corporates are even willing to fund the childrens tertiary education.
- The problem is however that we simply do not have enough funding, whilst we currently support over 13 homes and run a hugely successful rehabilitation programme.
- We can't do this fast enough as the funds just don't permit.
- We need more funds and more staff to co-ordinate all these initiatives. The good news is we do have success cases, our head outreach worker is an ex-street child herself and now a budding leader in our office and the first black woman to sail around the world - mentored to do so by the founder of our organisation. What an achievement, she was even interviewed by Operah's local "O" magazine and her story is online on our website.
- One of the homes we support has a child studying medicine as we speak! Another is a deputy head boy and so the success stories continue, we just need to do more!
- The solution is to identify homes in the communities and establish those with parents and then support them - the kids grow up in the community and live a normal life with their new family members.
How can I help?
The Espresso Project was born on 01 December 2006 literally by a process of spontaneous combustion. A blogger posted some observations about a situation, another responded with some ideas on how the situation might be dealt with, yet another saw the synergy and jumped in to co-ordinate it and fan the flames by creating a new blog - espresso Project- and a Wiki page (this page) to encourage and facilitate others to join and contribute.
Others have chipped in with valuable contributions - one designed an avatar and logo for the project, new Blog and Wiki page. Contributions are not only from South Africa but also from the blogger espresso in Georgia in the USA. Others outside the 24.com blog community have also given input via e-mail and the Wiki page.
At this stage ideas are organised and plans suggested helping to materialise something that will hopefully succeed in addressing the huge problem before us.
You can get involved by contributing ideas, commenting on other ideas and once a common strategy have more or less been agreed on, perhaps see if you can initiate a contact group in your 'real life' environment to spread the concept wider and begin to involve other people outside of the blogging community.
We have no idea where this will ultimately go to, but the creative energy that has been generated in this short space of time is remarkable.
Let's hear your thoughts on this matter...