OTSK was founded in 2008 to provide much needed support for marginalised children and young people in South Africa
The partner organisation to Off The Street Kids, The Siyaphambili OTSK Trust (OTSK), was founded in South Africa in 2010 to provide support to young people making the difficult transition from residential care to independent living. The programme is called Transition to Independent Living (TIL) and it provides each young person with a mentor.
TIL programme participants are young people living in residential care (children’s homes) who have reached the age where they are forced to leave because government funding ceases when they are deemed to be too old. The usual leaving age is 18, but in certain cases they may stay on beyond that age if they are still in school.
Coming from backgrounds where they have experienced abuse, neglect, poverty, addiction and HIV/AIDS, the TIL programme participants are made up of former street children, orphans, those who have been removed from their families by the courts and those who cannot be cared for at home due to unemployment and poor living circumstances. On leaving care these young people are often ill equipped for independent living.
Before deciding on how to best meet the need, OTSK carried out a one year assessment study. The study involved meeting with social workers, child and youth care workers, youths who were preparing to leave residential care and youths who had already left care and were living independently.
The TIL programme is being piloted from January 2010 to December 2012. Each young person taking part in the programme is carefully matched with a mentor with whom they meet each week for a minimum of one hour. Each mentor and mentee goes through the application process and attends compulsory training before being accepted onto the programme and being matched. This match provides the mentee with a consistent, non-judgmental friendship with an adult. In many cases, this is the first positive relationship they will have had with an adult, which OTSK believes is crucial to their personal development.
OTSK is working in partnership with the following Homes in Cape Town: Beth Uriel, Marsh Memorial Homes, Heatherdale Children’s Home, Girls and Boys Town, St George’ Home for Girls and St Michael’s. At the end of the 3 year pilot the TIL programme will be made available to children’s homes throughout the Western Cape.
During the first year (2010) there were 15 mentor-mentee matches in the programme. In year 2 (2011) the numbers have increased to a total of 26, and in year 3, they will increase to a total of 40. These figures will be assessed every 6 months, in accordance with our 3 year plan.
They believe that young people leaving care in South Africa need a programme to prepare them for living independently. The TIL programme provides trained mentors who offer guidance covering the following 5 areas: education/training, employment, housing, personal development and community reintegration. Access to the programme is not only available to young people while they are preparing to leave care but it continues once they have left and are living independently. This period can be the most difficult where loneliness and isolation is often overwhelming.
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