The problem:

A staggering proportion of learners are living in a state of fight, flight or freeze due to witnessing or experiencing loss, neglect, violence or abuse. If this trauma is not addressed, there is a risk of individuals becoming trapped in a downward spiral where they begin to engage in high risk activities, self harm, develop a motivational deficit or, tragically, repeat the patterns where the victim becomes the perpetrator. Trauma is a barrier to mental well-being and most mental health issues develop before the age of 18.

The antidote / solution / opportunity:

Learners who are offered a safe space to share their story, the supportive presence of an engaged and caring adult and the opportunity to build resilience, agency and self efficacy – are able to change the trajectory of their own lives, to escape the trauma cycle and to thrive.

What we do:

At CK the child is at the centre of all that we do and we meet them where they are at. We offer therapeutic interventions, psychosocial support, we table difficult conversations and we create a platform where learners and their caregivers (parents/guardians and educators) build resilience, self efficacy, agency and a culture of well-being.  The child/learner is at the centre, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

How we do this:

  • We place a dedicated mental health first aider on-site at schools, supported by specialists who are on-call and available when needed.
  • We offer therapeutic, individual and/or group, counselling sessions at no charge.
  • Through workshops, we facilitate open discussions on age appropriate themes such as self care, self harm, positive communication, boundaries, anger management, bullying, GBV, sexuality, aggression in the classroom, the effect of stress on the body ….and many more.
  • We create awareness campaigns to de-stigmatise mental health through poster campaigns and activity books.

How we measure the impact:

  • We record the number of learners, educators and parents/guardians we engage with.
  • We routinely gather anecdotal and qualitative feedback through before-and-after surveys, quotes and case studies which are shared with consent.
  • We follow the United Nations in using the SDG 3.4.2 indicator: subjective well-being and we are piloting the use of the OVC Child Status Index measures.
  • We continue to investigate other indicators such as heart rate variability.

A solution that is scaleable and sustainable:

There is an opportunity to recruit, and train, community health workers to manage the frontline, support initiatives, supported by a team of specialists. There is also an opportunity to unbundle our service and introduce a customisable modular approach for schools and funders to handpick a range of services. Schools could then have the flexibility to scale additional
services, up or down, based on need.

Once proof of concept of this new model has been completed, Community Keepers intends to apply for SETA accreditation for these community mental health workers with training modules including:

  •  4STMF (4 Steps to my Future) CBT-based programme developed by the Universities of Stellenbosch and Bath and funded by the Wellcome Trust
  • NLP Neuro-linguistic programming
  • ASPIRE peer counselling developed by University of Cape Town

The outcome of this new model:

  • A more efficient service where uniquely skilled therapists are freed up (40%) from an administrative burden and front line support, to focus on case load
  • Increased flexibility, where services are provided based on need
  • An opportunity to scale, sustainably
  • Avoiding unintentional dependency by placing community workers at partner.