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Grannies show children what love is

The Granny Programme has brought colour and love into children’s lives since it was established at Othandweni Children’s Home in 2011. It pairs surrogate “grannies” from the local community with children who are growing up in the home.

“Our sponsor, Spence-Chapin, saw that children in institutional care do not get enough one-on-one love,” says Thandi Twala, head of the Granny Programme at Othandweni.

Staff are often overburdened and can’t provide each child with the daily physical nurturing and emotional contact that’s so important to their development. But the Granny Programme gives the children a chance to form a healthy human bond with a trusted adult.

“There are 15 grannies. They each have two grandchildren under the age of four and spend two hours a day with each child,” explains Thandi.

These grannies show children what love is. They give children basic human interactions like hair braiding and tickles; warm hugs and kisses; and story time and games.

“We are only here for the children. We are working with innocent lives. We attend courses to learn the skills to bond with children and to help them grow and develop. We also take children on excursions to places like the zoo and fire station.”

The strong bonds that the children form with their grannies are testament to the success of the programme.

“We see incredible progress made by children who are matched with a granny. A special language develops between the two,” Thandi says.

And when the children are adopted or reunited with their families, these positive social bonds are transferred to their families.

The benefits of the programme are clear and JCW is in the process of expanding it to more centres. Thandi would also love to see her grannies get access to more early childhood development (ECD) training and educational toys.

“Children need bonding and attachment; and when you combine that with ECD, the child grows beautifully. They become confident, their self-esteem improves, and they become more open to their peers.”

Thandi says it’s not only the child who benefits from the programme. “It helps us grannies too! Through the love we give, and the exercises we do, we feel healthier and happier.”

We thank Spence-Chapin for having the vision to sponsor the Granny Programme. Click here if you’d like to support the Granny Programme too.