Description: The Durban and Coastal Mental Health Society, a Non Profit Organisation renders social welfare services to mentally and physically handicapped children and their families in the Durban and Coastal regions of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The Happy Hours Day Care Centre project was established in 1983, after local communities and parents of profoundly mentally handicapped children were unable to place their children in mainstream schools. Most of the parents lived in deep rural areas, were unemployed and only had the Care Dependency Grant as their source of income. Since its humble beginnings in 1983, and due to the lack of these services in previously disadvantaged areas, the project has expanded to nine-day care centres. These Centres are operational in the Inanda area, Durban north, Cato Ridge, Klaarwater, Mpumalanga Township near Hammersdale, in the Ndwedwe area, Mthwalune near Port Shepstone, Sydenham and Phoenix. The Centres provide employment to 27 caregivers. Training for the caregivers are provided by volunteers from the St. Briavels Child Development Centre in the U.K. The activities rendered by these Centres focuses on providing relief to families from the trauma of continuous caring, educating the communities about there special needs, providing a cost effective alternative to institutional care and providing employment opportunities to the affected local communities. Other activities include providing stimulation to the mentally handicapped children through the use of relevant toys and equipment, the provision of one daily, nourishing meal and engaging in a re-educational programme adopted from a U.K based Centre, the St Briavels Child Development Programme. The provincial Department of Health provides subsidised funding, while the parents and communities are involved in the running of the Centres through their participation in annual Parents Associations meetings.
Innovation: The project is innovative as it provides services to a section of the community who would otherwise not have access to these services. The system adapted from the U.K. has been made accessible to care workers in both rural and urban areas and was easily implemented. In areas were there are no Centres, parents and volunteers have been trained so that the effected children experience an improved quality of life. The project is also available to train communities who need to render these types of services in their communities.
Effectiveness: One-hundred and sixty-four children have been enrolled in the nine Day Care Centres, thus giving caregivers and parents much needed relief from the burden of continuous care. They are also given an opportunity to pursue other interests. This much-needed respite gives them an opportunity to rest and allows them to be better caregivers. The health and psychological well-being of the children are also greatly improved. For example, children who were spastic and difficult to feed and nappy change on admission, after four months, they could crawl, speak clearly and sing during activity time. In an area where no Centre existed, a training programme was worked out for a mother of a four-year-old child who had no movement, on her last visit the child had progressed steadily to the point where he started crawling.
Poverty Impact: The project has succeeded in assisting communities to establish facilities for the mentally handicapped children. Children are provided with a nutritious meal during the day, which may be the only meal of the day. In this way their development is not further prejudiced by malnutrition. Families are mentally healthy as they are relieved from the trauma of continuous caring for the handicapped child with special needs. Parents and caregivers are also afforded an opportunity to seek employment while their children are cared for. Employment is also provided to locals from the surrounding areas. The Centres also ensure family preservation, as children are cared within the communities and do not become institutionalised. The model costs a third of what it would cost the State if the child was institutionalised.
Sustainability: The estimated total cost of the project is R 1396 334 per annum. Funding is sourced from private donors (50%), the Department of Health (40%) and fundraising (12%). Funding is assured for the next three years. Care Management meetings between the Centre Managers and the Programme Co-ordinator occurs on a monthly basis and the Programme Co-ordinator reports on a forth-nightly basis to the Director of the Mental Health Society.
Replication: The project is ongoing and the model can be replicated in similar settings, what is needed though are committed individuals who are able to network and access resources and who are able to motivate volunteers.