‘Tapologo’ is a Setswana word meaning ‘peace and rest’. This expresses the mission of the Tapologo Drop-In Centre in South Africa, which has been helping society’s most vulnerable people for 20 years.
In the Bible, rainbows are a symbol of God’s faithfulness and compassion. So it’s apt that, as you arrive at the Tapologo Drop-In Centre for orphans and vulnerable children, there’s a huge painted rainbow on the side of the centre’s shipping container office.
Serving people affected by HIV/AIDS for 20 years
Located in Freedom Park – one of the largest shanty towns in South Africa – the Tapologo Drop-In Centre has faithfully served the most vulnerable people for over 20 years. But this remarkable outreach could not have occurred without your help.
Established by the Bishop of Rustenburg, Fr Kevin Dowling CSsR, in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1990s, the Tapologo Drop-In Centre has developed to meet ever greater need in a country devastated by poverty, political instability, a failing economy and the world’s largest number of HIV-infected people.
The Tapologo Drop-In Centre originally ran from a single shipping container, with the mission of supporting adults affected by HIV/AIDS. Working with religious sisters, medical staff and trained volunteers from within the community, the Centre provided home based support, medication and end-of-life care to thousands of sufferers.
A Drop-In for children and young people
Thanks to support from your Red Box, the Drop-In Centre became so successful that other centres were established in shanty towns and remote rural communities across the diocese of Rustenburg. Today these centres still reflect God’s faithfulness and compassion. The government now provides free treatment for adults, so the Taplogo Drop-In Centre’s focus has shifted to the thousands of children and young people orphaned by, living with, or caring for family members affected by HIV/AIDS.
Life in the shanty town is hard. There’s no electricity, running water, refuse collection or sewerage system. As unemployment has risen, the area has also become increasingly dangerous. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution and no police presence leaves younger residents at risk of abuse and neglect.
In this challenging environment, the Centre provides a welcome refuge for thousands of young people aged between three and 21 years old. A small team of professional nurses and volunteer carers run after-school lessons to teach children and young people about personal safety and well-being. Those affected by HIV/AIDS are helped to understand the virus and its treatment in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner. This knowledge is vital, as HIV medication is compromised if taken inconsistently or without regular meals. And it’s one reason why the Tapologo Drop-In Centre provides children with two meals a day.
‘They made me feel like I could make it’
Young people like Elinah and Johannas moved to Freedom Park when their parents came to find work in Rustenberg’s mines. Elinah has been supported by the Drop-In Centre for the last four years and succinctly sums up the difference it has made:
If I hadn’t come here I might have died. They counselled me very well here. They made me feel like I could make it.
To support young people better in Freedom Park, Tapologo Drop-In Centre’s child care team also work within the community; liaising with family members, schools, health professionals and social workers. As many of the children are orphaned and cared for by elderly grandparents, this integrated support is vital.
Johannas was just six when his mother died. The Tapologo Drop-In Centre’s outreach team supported him in the years before and after his mother’s death. Johannas remembers clearly the help he received at that time:
Sr Mangolie helped me to help my Mum. The centre explained what was going on. They helped with clothes and food, so Mum could feed me.
Because of you…
Both Elinah and Johannas are aware that God’s love has helped to shape the care provided by the Tapologo Drop-In Centre. Inspired by the faith and service of the staff, Elinah hopes to become a social worker. As for Johannas: ‘I want to learn more. I want to support myself. I want to become a better person in life.’ Elinah and Johannas are just two of thousands of children and young people you have helped over the last twenty years through the Tapologo Drop-In Centre project.
Thank you for supporting Missio
Through your Red Box or regular gift to Missio, you are changing people’s lives every day. Your support is giving the local church the means to offer the hope of the Gospel to people who have nowhere else to turn.
This story was featured in the latest issue of Mission Today, which is now available to download here.