Having a sense of belonging begins with an identity, which includes a name, and an official birth certificate. Those born without their documents are especially vulnerable. During our early years of service, most people we helped did not have birth certificates or identity books. As a result, they spent their lives missing out on opportunities they were entitled to. However, once a person has a birth certificate, he/she is officially known and recognised as a South African citizen. This vital document, in turn, helps children and their caregivers to access social grants that may, at the very least, help to ensure that their basic needs are met. Sizanani’s work these past ten years has focused much attention on advocating for clients in need of documents, so that they may claim their rightful place in society.
When we began more than ten years ago, nearly every family we served had members who did not have a birth certificate or an identification book. To make matters worse, many who died were not granted death certificates. Children who lost their parents, and those who were orphaned or abandoned were most vulnerable. Sadly, those who cared for these children were often unable to access the resources they needed to provide basics like food, school uniforms, and more.
In 2006, Sizanani collaborated with Absolute Return for Kids (ARK), Home Affairs, SASSA, SAPS, the Departments of Social Development and Education to host multiple Jamborees where community members could receive needed services in a “one stop shop”. Under the leadership of Sr. Hedwig Maphumulo and our team of caregivers, we helped 2,749 clients (more than half of our total client population) obtain their documents. Sizanani managed to assist another 21 families in their efforts to obtain a death certificates for loved ones. After clients received their documents, Sizanani helped them apply for child support grants, foster care grants, disability grants, and old age pensions. These efforts brought needed financial aid to families, relieving suffering substantially.
Statutory services that include placing children in foster care and helping them obtain government documentation, offer stability, and a sense of belonging at a time when children have lost their parents and are seeking answers. Foster care grants also contribute to the socio-economic status of children and reduce the financial burden of care. However, missing legal documents jeopardizes this opportunity. In spite of the efforts made in the past, there are still children without legal documents. There are others who do not have death certificates for their deceased parents. Consequently, Sizanani continues to provide this important service.