AIDS Africa Best Practice: SOS Social Centre Qwa Qwa

SOS Community Social Centre Qwa Qwa, South Africa

Programme Description

The Community Social Centre is piloting a form of alternative foster care through “community family homes” that are located in the community, built and equipped by SOS. These homes provide long-term family-based care to local children, which is delivered by a volunteer foster mother from the community. The project has been developed in close cooperation with the local municipal government, the tribal authority and the Department of Social Development.

In addition to the long-term care, the programme is developing community-based responses for the care and support of orphans and vulnerable children who are not suitable for the community family homes. Activities focus on enabling children to remain within their community of origin by building and strengthening the capacity of the families. The families are offered a range of social and material support whilst strong emphasis is put on developing the self-reliance of the families. The activities are being developed in close cooperation with local partners.

The existing community family homes have a capacity of 24 children, and the community-based child care and support programmes aim to serve 500 children/125 families in the greater community. The programme runs at an average cost ratio of US$18 per month/child beneficiary.

Relevant standard and good practice

Planning and evaluation ensure that programmes are relevant & effective.

Local stakeholders are actively involved at every stage of the planning and establishment of the programme.


  • The programme works hand-in-hand with all local stakeholders.
  • Child Care Committees mobilise communities and guarantee community ownership.


The Department of Social Development (DoSD) was consulted in the very beginning to share our plans about piloting an alternative form of foster care and exchange on how these plans fit with the department’s approach to the care and support of vulnerable children. Since they have perceived the project as both relevant and cost-effective, they have become actively involved in the further development and support. The location for this pilot project has been selected according to the following criteria:

  • High numbers of orphans and vulnerable children according to census data and foster placement statistics
  • Limited community resources to respond to the situation of orphans and vulnerable children.
  • Degree of genuine community support and commitment to collaborate.
  • Basic educational and health care services.

In consultation with the DoSD it was agreed the project would be established in the Free State province within the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality and within the former Qwa Qwa homeland. In the next step, relationships with key stakeholders were established; the initial consultation process also included the Executive Mayor and district municipality, as well as the House of Traditional Leaders. All these entities perceived the project as both relevant and cost-effective and became actively involved in the further projects development and support. Together with the DoSD and the municipality it was decided that the village Makeneng (within Ward 19) would be most suitable as the location for establishing the community family homes given the high level of already existing community commitment. The child-care and support programme would not only focus on Makeneng but also on the other two villages within Ward 19.

The DoSD assisted with the recruitment and training of key staff members and the Tribal Council allocated land (Permission to Occupy Certificate), temporary office space and other in-kind contributions.

Leutloa Moteetee (SOS representative) negotiated land with Chief M. Green Mohale. Further on it was decided that community participation and ownership of the programme would be best secured through Community Child Care Committees. The Local Aids Council has already initiated the establishment, training and support of such committees, however the proper functioning of these committees still needed to be developed. The purpose of such forums is to identify orphans and vulnerable children, assess their needs, coordinate initiatives, evaluate the effectiveness of services available to them, create awareness and build capacity within the community. The SOS Project Coordinator who was formerly employed by the Department of Social Development has experience in establishing such Child Care Committees from two communities where she previously worked, and thus was able to make a valuable contribution in facilitating the establishment of such committees.

Community members

The Executive Committee is chaired by the ward councillor and consists of representatives from each village, preferably nominated by the communities themselves. The SOS Social Centre coordinator meets with the executive committee weekly to give advice, guidance and support and to facilitate the establishment of sub-committees in each village. The sub-committees are made up of representatives from relevant groups, organisations and institutions within the community, who are involved in the care and support of orphans and vulnerable children.

The child care forum’s executive committee carried out a baseline survey and based on this information, a register of orphans and vulnerable children was compiled. Together with the child care forum’s sub-committees, criteria for the most vulnerable target group were defined. Mass community meetings in each of the three villages were held to share the plans of the SOS support programme with community members.

After that a participatory research was conducted to find out from the households caring for orphans and vulnerable children about their social and economic situation and to identify available resources that could be used to address their own problems. Particular emphasis was given to children’s participation in this process, to ensure that their voice was heard and ultimately reflected in the programme action plan.

Lessons learnt

Establishing relationships with the stakeholders is not done by a one-off meeting. This relationship needs to be nurtured and kept alive: stakeholders are to be constantly informed about the programmers development and included in any decision making process. When working with set community structures and with various stakeholders, we have to be aware to balance different perspectives and vested interests and guard against becoming a vehicle for political interest groups.

Key people

Douglas Reed has been working for SOS Children’s Villages in the regions of Southern Africa I+II for almost 12 years. He has worked in many different roles at different levels of the organisation and as such gained valuable insights in all aspects of our work. Over time he has moved across from focusing on the work of SOS Children’s Villages, to supporting the development of prevention and family strengthening programmes in Africa. As the Community Development Advisor for Southern Africa II he was strongly involved in the set-up of the Community Social Centre in Qwa Qwa. “Our organisation was born from a recognition of the plight of orphans and vulnerable children, and from a desire to respond to their situation in a relevant and meaningful way. Following from this, we cannot ignore the unprecedented orphan crisis that has been unfolding on our doorstep and have to take action, to reach many more children than we have ever reached before. For me, the families and communities of these children hold the key to effectively addressing their situation. We have to recognise that ultimately families are responsible for the protection and care of their own children, and that the wider community has a valuable role to play in supporting vulnerable families. Whatever we do, it must be rooted in the firm belief that families and the community can find the best solutions and that they have the capacity to bring them into reality. SOS can only support them to make it happen.”