Despite South Africa being a middle income country it has huge disparities between the rich and the poor, the reality which is evident in both rural and urban areas.
Many poor people from rural areas migrate to the cities in search of job opportunities. Their dreams are however often dashed because of high levels of poverty and unemployment both in the rural and urban areas.
Many poor people in South Africa also have long been awaiting for houses promised by the government but have not seen the forthcoming of their dream.
Over the past ten years the SACBC AIDS Office initiated among its programmes a house-building project for the poor and vulnerable families in the rural areas, especially for the orphaned children and vulnerable children families.
The simple standardised two-roomed for many have brought a great improvement from the falling down structures, which were constructed by iron sheets or by plastics.
SACBC AIDS Office housing project is mostly targeted towards helping poor people in the rural areas; those who have been left behind to eke out a living while bread winners move elsewhere in search of employment opportunities.
The beneficiaries of the houses often come from very over-crowded circumstances and confined spaces; a situation whereby privacy is totally limited, and with no conducive space for children to pursue their studies.
After receiving the new house the beneficiaries normally continue to utilize old houses to accommodate other members of the family or for other family purposes.
SACBC AIDS Office houses are provided for any families with special and specific cases after conducting a research. The office has partnered with people working in the particular Catholic diocese and local community representatives to identify befitting beneficiaries.
Relating her experience about the poverty of people in the rural areas, Ms Mrudula Smithson, the SACBC AIDS Office Director, said the conditions in which some of the poor people live are horrifying and hard to believe that such conditions exist.
Mr Smithson further said it is heartening to be able to make some improvement, however small it may be. She said there are usual situations whereby there is an average of about five people, both children and adults, living in one room, while in some cases the number of people living in one room are far higher.
In conjunction with building houses for the poor families, Catholic Church has also embarked into ongoing support special programs of providing services to the poor people, such as supporting poor children in their studies, providing them with food, and helping them to access social grants from the government.
The Church also does capacity building programs whereby they empower poor people with training them in different skills, which help them to be independent, such as food gardens, baking, sewing, and training in computer skills.
According to Ms Smithson the programs benefit everybody no matter a religion one belongs to, as long as one meets the criteria of being a beneficiary of the programs. However, she said it is not always easy to run these kinds of a projects. “Sometimes there are many people who qualify but only few can be chosen due to the limited funding. It is heart-breaking while others need to wait till another time when funding is available”, she said. She reiterated that sometimes getting the actual building done is sometimes problematic when there is a delay in delivering material and the builders’ demands advanced monies before they complete the project.
In conclusion Ms Smithson said the vast experience they have acquired in the SACBC AIDS Office during their involvement in the housing project have helped them to overcome most of the challenges they come across, and she is happy about good performance and success in their projects.