Tackling Aids, poverty - the Thanda way

30 November 2011

Five years ago, at the age of 22, Angela Larkan established non-profit organisation Thanda.org to fight the impact of HIV/Aids and poverty in rural communities. Today, her project supports over 300 children daily, and she is working to bring hope to thousands more through her model for community change.

Last year, Larkan was named the winner of Brand South Africa's inaugural Mzansi Soul Awards, which recognise people who express the spirit of ubuntu in contributing to a better country for all South Africans.

Recognition of her work went international in September this year, when she was chosen to be featured in Levi's "Go Forth" campaign, which rallies for positive change in the world by showcasing the work of "pioneering individuals from across the globe who are tackling the greatest challenges of our time".

The Thanda After-School project

Thanda, which means "love" in isiZulu, is a non-profit organization under Orphans Against Aids which provides support for Aids orphans and other vulnerable children in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Larkan, who says she grew up in South Africa "not understanding why some people lived in luxury and some were sleeping on cardboard", decided to tackle one of the country's biggest challenges, and began researching HIV/Aids and its impact on poorer communities.

This formed the basis for a unique, workable, sustainable model for supporting South Africa's orphans and vulnerable children. The Thanda After-School project was created three years ago as a prototype of this model to help overburdened communities care for their orphan children.

Thanda After-School makes use of existing resources to provide daily after-school support to vulnerable children, enabling them to stay in their community while acquiring the skills they need to break out of the cycle of poverty and HIV/Aids.

Based on traditional community structure

"Thanda is based on the traditional Zulu community structure, where family members and neighbours help children in need, no matter how thinly stretched resources are," Larkan explains

Created alongside the community members of Mtwalume on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Thanda provides after-school support for over 300 children from within existing buildings such as classrooms and sports fields.

Thanda gives the children a meal and the skills to help them reach their full potential and become active members of their community. All the staff members are role models employed from within the community.

Levi's said of Larkan: "This inspiring young woman is defining a new approach to ending poverty and HIV/Aids in rural communities, and developing a new model of orphan care that could be implemented throughout Africa."

Says Larkan: "I would like to show people that although it's scary to start something new or to go against what everyone else is doing with their lives, the rewards are invaluable, because when you help a crying child in need, support a grandmother who feels alone, or enable a teenager to have hope, we all feel that lost humanity once again."

SAinfo reporter

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Thanda: helping communities help themselves (Photo: Thanda)

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