Living Hope battles two plagues

The Living Hope non-profit organisation in Capri.

Living Hope, a non-profit organisation, is taking the fight against two of the country’s most pressing problems – Covid-19 and gender violence – into the heart of communities.

A mobile Covid-19 vaccination unit was launched by the director of Living Hope, Reverend John Thomas, a month before the discovery of Omicron, the new Covid-19 variant and ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pleas on Sunday November 28 for more South Africans to vaccinate.

“Every person vaccinated in this valley is one less person for the False Bay Hospital to deal with,” Reverend Thomas says.

The mobile vaccination unit has created 12 jobs. It runs in conjunction with the Department of Health, which donates the Johnson & Johnson vaccines; Cape Medical Rescue, whose staff administer the vaccinations; and False Bay Hospital, which stores the vaccines.

The mobile vaccination unit, the cost of which is covered by the Solidarity Fund, helps those who do not have clinics in their areas or whose working hours prevent them from getting the vaccine elsewhere.

While most government sites are open from 9am to 3pm, the mobile clinics are open Tuesdays to Saturdays from noon to 6.30pm or 7pm. The mobile clinic has gone into Redhill, Masiphumelele, Ocean View, Capricorn, Vrygrond and Overcome Heights, areas which do not have their own clinics. It has also been set up at taxi ranks so commuters can get a jab on the way to work.

Reverend Thomas says the success of the unit lies in the fact that Living Hope has 90 carers who live and work in the communities it serves.

“It is quite a complex system and requires very high organisational levels,” he says. “There have to be trained teams on hand with wi-fi access both to administer the vaccines and watch the people for 15 minutes afterwards. We take care of the whole process from registering them to the administering of the vaccine. All they need is their ID book.”

Darren Zimmerman, managing director of CMR, says they have an ongoing working relationship with Living Hope. “Our ’support’ in this has been by way of some of our paramedic staff who have been willing to give up off-time to vaccinate people, and we applaud their community spirit.”

According to Natalie Watlington, spokeswoman for the Western Cape Department of Health, the Fish Hoek civic centre vaccination site’s last operational day was Tuesday November 30.

“From Wednesday December 1, the vaccination site will be set up at the False Bay Hospital.”

Enquiries for this process can be directed to the provincial contact centre at 0860 142 142.

Meanwhile, Sive Vaaltein, who runs Living Hope’s family strengthening programme, says they have had growing reports of gender violence in the area with several involving nurses and restaurant staff who return home in the dark.

“Especially in the wetlands of Masi, these women are at risk of being attacked by strangers in their own community,” says Ms Vaaltein.

Living Hope runs a Crisis Pregnancy Counselling Unit, which also has a counsellor stationed at False Bay Hospital. And it has seen a sharp increase in teens and older women asking for help with the termination of unwanted pregnancies as a result of rapes.

In one week alone, four teenagers came in to ask for help because they were pregnant from rapes. Reverend Thomas says that while the unit provides counselling and options, it does not perform terminations. There is a section at False Bay Hospital that deals with any terminations resulting from sexual assault.

Reverend Thomas says he knows of a case of a teen who was raped by her father and became pregnant with his child, becoming a mother at 14. “That’s not happening ’out there’; it’s right here,” he says. As a pastor, he has also dealt with a case of bestiality.

Living Hope staff held a march and information drive about gender violence, in Masiphumelele, on Thursday November 25, the start of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign.

Ms Sive says victims of gender violence tend to not want to be seen, for fear of being victimised further.

Living Hope teams that deal with gender violence as well as HIV/Aids, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis were at False Bay Hospital for World Aids Day on December 1.

On December 5, from 6.30pm to 7.30pm, Living Hope will host a Covid-19-safe drive-through Christmas experience, mimicking the journey to Bethlehem. It is a one-way journey, in cars at all times, and will end at the lit Christmas tree. Take a hygiene product as a gift, to donate at the tree.