Voluntary care workers' perceptions of the effectiveness of their training to provide psychosocial care and support to children affected and infected by HIV/AIDs.
The AIDS epidemic has a severe impact on South Africa's population. One of the most disastrous consequences is the thousands of children affected and infected by HIV / AIDS. Various non-government organizations (NGO) take responsibility for orphan and vulnerable children's relief activities within a community development model. Efforts are often made by NGO's to identify natural leaders (volunteer care workers) from the community and to train them to help with their OVC-psychosocial outreach programmes. However, the voluntary care workers need to be guided by appropriate, goal orientated training and to be provided with a vision to guide them in their community work. Ongoing training is important to reinforce existing and to develop new skills. However, not all programmes used by the various NGOs who are involved in the care and support to OVC are based on sound theoretical principles, nor carefully monitored and evaluated. Evaluation is thus an essential tool to improve care and support initiatives through identifying the shortfalls in a training program that may impact negatively on its effectiveness. In light of the above, St Josephs Care and Support Trust, an NGO involved in the care of OVC, approached the researcher to evaluate the effectiveness of its care and support programme. The research focused on gaining insight into and exploring voluntary care worker's perceptions and experiences of the effectiveness of the training they have received in providing care and support to children affected and infected by HIV / AIDS with the view to improve St. Joseph's community outreach activities. The use of participatory evaluation was viewed as an appropriate method to use for the study in facilitating an understanding of the voluntary care worker's own experiences with regard to their work and problems they experience in a specific setting. The study is qualitative in nature and utilized focus group discussions as a means of data collection. All (twenty one) voluntary care workers that form part of the St Josephs Trust psychosocial programme participated in the study. A thematic analysis technique was used to analyze the data of the present study. The present study concluded that the training programme equipped the voluntary care workers with knowledge and skills enabling them to provide comprehensive care to the ave and to mobilize existing resources. The training was also instrumental in providing the voluntary care workers with opportunities for critical reflection and self-development. However, working as voluntary care workers proved to be stressful at times and became apparent in the difficulties they experience in coping with the demands made on their professional and private lives. The much needed basic counseling skills did not form part of voluntary care worker's training and contributed to them feeling inadequate at times, that in turn contributed to increased experiences of stress. Although support efforts by the NGO was seen as helpful by the voluntary care workers, a greater focus and acknowledgment of their role and needs would strengthen their efforts in providing care and support to the ave. Recommendations are made with regard to programme improvement, protocol development and supportive strategies for the voluntary care workers.