|Mrs Joan Adams|
Mrs Joan Adams started the Morning Star Children’s Centre in Welkom for HIV-positive children. The organisation now looks after over 300 children in Welkom and Kutlwanong, as well as providing extensive support for their families. Joan Adam’s story is inspirational and illustrates the transforming power of ‘giving and sharing’, both to the giver and the receiver.
Having helped at the hospice in Welkom, and seen the devastating impact that the AIDS epidemic was having on families in the area, Joan approached the Free State Department of Health for help in setting up a preschool day-care centre for HIV-positive children. She wanted to help them live as full a life as possible and to try and delay the onset of AIDS through appropriate supportive care. She was given the Kopano Complex in Welkom (the ex-provincial hospital) and the Morning Star Children’s Centre opened its doors to 20 young children in January 2000.
The centre presently looks after many more children, both preschool and school going, whose lives have been totally transformed - not only by good physical and medical care but by the loving and stimulating environment that Joan and her dedicated team (35 staff and 12 volunteers) have created for them. Presently (May 2009) there are 88 children attending the Welkom Centre and 16 now attending school. A further 39 children attend a similar Centre in Kutlwanong and over 200 children attending schools are looked after by the Centres. Many of the children are now receiving antiretroviral treatment and the Centres' staff provide treatment support to ensure that the drugs are taken as directed. As some of these children are not yet well enough to attend primary school, a small school offering Grade I, II and III was established. As soon as the learners become well enough they start attending the local school.
And that is not all. Families of the children are helped with food parcels and income-generating programmes such as a sewing and embroidery group, a paper-making project, a recycling project and a food garden initiative. Support groups for the parents and caregivers are also run in Thabong and Kutlwanong. Further day-care centres are being planned in the townships of Thabong and Bronville as there are over 130 children on the waiting list. Joan Adams and her team simply cannot stop giving and sharing, and she says that seeing the thriving happy children and families is more than ample reward.