During his Kirstenbosch concert Elton John praised fellow singer/songwriter Annie Lennox as someone who ‘walks the walk when it comes to the fight against HIV and AIDS’. Earlier in the day, Elton and Annie had been in Vrygrond, a small community 30kms outside Cape Town to mark the official opening of the Vrygrond Community Centre (VCC).
The VCC is a joint venture between the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Annie Lennox’s SING Campaign, and the Vrygrond Community Development Trust. It will provide vital services for adults and children living locally, up to 13% of whom are already infected with HIV.
“The needs of the Vrygrond community are complex” comments Abraham Lincoln Taylor, VCC Centre Manager. “ Very diverse groups co-exist: black Xhosa-speakers, brown Afrikaans-speakers, and many migrants from the Congo, Zimbabwe and Somalia. What they have in common is their poverty and a high vulnerability because of HIV/AIDS” .
The VCC will be owned and run by the local community as a hub of support, treatment and care for people affected by HIV/AIDS. It will run skills training and job creation; vegetable gardening for the users of the centre; income generation and marketing support for women; provide a social worker with a team of community care workers to address social problems and gain access to social grants; and “Fit for Life, Fit for Work” life and work skills training and job placement programme for unemployed young people.
A similar centre, the Etafeni Daycare Centre in Nyanza, received a grant from Elton’s AIDS Foundation some years ago that covered costs to the train HIV-positive builders the constructed it. Etafeni is now well established in the community, working with local health and social services and serving some 20,000 adults and children a year. It received recognition for its design excellence, and is the consultancy team behind the VCC project.
“I visited Etafeni in 2007” said Elton John, “and found it a place of such warmth, purpose and hope. We were keen to work with them to replicate the programme elsewhere. When Annie Lennox and The SING Campaign approached us with the offer of raising money via RTL’s Spendenmarathon charity telethon, it was an ideal partnership for a second centre. Fantastically, Annie’s performance on Spendenmarathon covered the entire construction costs. “
“It was absolutely inspiring to see the transformation that has taken place on what was once a piece of waste ground” said Annie Lennox. “Vrygrond is a haven, an island of positive influence and loving care, serving the most vulnerable in the community. It is such an honour and privilege to have been part of its creation.”
“This centre is like a dream come true” Lizzie Everson of the Vrygrond Community Development Trust. “We are so grateful to Annie and Elton for their support, and to the community of Vrygrond for getting behind this project. It will be an amazing resource, which they will own..”
Visit the timeline here on the SING site to see Vrygrond Center as it was being built