Rena Le Lona

Rena Le Lona translated means ‘we are with you’. The aim of the Centre is to provide children who have lost their parents to AIDS with the support that a normal society would render its children so as to give them the chance to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives.

The establishment of a Creative Centre aims to stimulate the healing process by:
A

Immersing the children in various forms of the Arts, thereby providing an outlet for their emotions

B

Giving them access to their creative side, thereby allowing them the opportunity to tap into their inherent source of power

C

Providing them with a support base of staff, artists, teachers and psychologists

D

Demonstrating that adults in the greater community do care for them

Our aim is to meet the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical and financial needs of each child, using the Arts as a medium of healing. To this end the children learn art, dance, drama, song. They learn to play musical instruments, to be comedians and to express themselves in all aspects of their lives.Once a child can create a picture from a blank sheet of paper, that child realises that the power to create can filter through to life itself...

Situated in a huge friendly house, Rena le Lona offers 117 children a safe place to spend their afternoons with coaches skilled in their art-form and committed to the children. All our coaches are male. This is unusual but welcome as almost all of our children have never known a father. A carefully planned program is put in place and each child chooses their particular timetable. Currently we offer two drama coaches, one for the beginners and one for the Advanced.
Two dance teachers offer ballet and a blend of Hip-Hop and jazz. The children have formed a choir; there is a drumming circle, and a constant input of Art from our resident Art teacher plus help from the University of Witwatersrand School of Teaching students.

Soccer is a must and a tennis team is now in place. A group of children study the recorder and a few have learnt to play the guitar. A full and nutritious meal is offered daily and the children take sandwiches home. Fifteen children do not have breakfast at home so one of our staff take their breakfast to their school early each morning.

Rena le Lona attempts to take the children out to the theatre, to art exhibitions, to the zoo or wherever they have the opportunity to experience another aspect of life. They have been to a Cheetah Park, to a holiday in KZN, to Snowscape to ski and have watched a number of Ballets.

The Rena Le Lona HIV and AIDS Syllabus

Rena Le Lona offers the children support in the form of an HIV/ AIDS Syllabus, which redefines the virus and the disease in such a way as to meet the intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional and financial needs of each child. The syllabus is integrated into Arts activities on a holistic level. The crux of what our outlook is the following: HIV and AIDS is an opportunity for us to become beautiful human beings.

1

REACH OUT!

H = Heart. When I feel sad and you see that and you come up to me and hold my hand, your heart is speaking. You care about me and I know that you care. When we are able to care for each other and be together in our joy and our sadness, we are beautiful.
2

FIND OUT!.

I = Identity. Who am I? Who are you? When I see me in you and you in me, are we one person or two? I wonder what happens to us when we stop breathing – where do we go? What do we do?

3

SPEAK OUT!

V= Voice. There is one of me in the whole world and one of you. We do not look the same and we like different things. This is the way we were meant to be. When I enjoy being who I am and you enjoy being who you are, we can have a lot of fun together. I do what I can do and you do what you can do and together we get double done.
4

HELP OUT!

AIDS is about helping, about making someone else’s life more beautiful. If I think about myself all the time I become lonely. When I want to do something for you or when I say something nice to you, I feel full – like I have eaten a bar of chocolate. If we all do this, imagine how happy we will be. It is not difficult to do. It is in the little things that I do for you that make me feel like an angel.

Growth


Personal Growth

Each child receives individual attention. Their homes are visited twice a year at least, to ascertain exactly what her/his situation is. Detailed notes are recorded and action is taken where necessary to facilitate the best possible environment for the child.

Rena Le Lona liases with schoolteachers and assists each child by tutoring them in particular subjects. We encourage the child to grow in every way – to face the past, feel it, process what needs to be processed, move on and chose a future. They develop a sense of belonging, of being an individual within a nation with a language they can be proud of and a religion/philosophy they choose. They learn values, ethics and morality.

Emotional Growth

Through drama, art, music, song, dance and writing the children express their feelings related to all aspects of their life and to world issues. This helps them grapple with their problems and overcome them in time. They are part of a facilitated support group where they can talk about their life with others. Personal counselling is available from a full time auxiliary social worker and/or from a part-time social worker. We show the children we love them by honouring their parents, remembering their birthdays; rejoicing with them in their success and grieving with them in their loss. We exhibit their work in art, print their writing/poetry, offer opportunities for them to perform for the public in drama, song, dance and in public speaking. The first section of the HIV/AIDS Syllabus focuses on the Emotional aspect and runs for one year.

Intellectual Growth

Rena Le Lona’s aim is that each child understands what they are doing and why. They develop the ability to integrate their emotional and spiritual development with their intellectual growth. They learn to reflect on personal issues, local issues, national issues and international issues. They use their minds. They see themselves as part of the world and uniquely African. Reading is essential and their need to know will be met by a fully equipped library including film, access to the Internet and interacting with visiting lecturers and speakers on a wide variety of topics. The intellectual aspect builds up into a two-year service project in a community where the children, in groups, can apply all they have integrated and report back on their findings and experience. Currently Mecer has donated four computers to the centre and the children are learning computer skills. Each child will be introduced to dance. Currently this takes the form of Ballet lessons and Modern Jazz dancing. When the children are older they can learn ballroom dancing and traditional dances from various cultures. Rena Le Lona has its own soccer team. Yoga teaches the children respect for their bodies, flexibility and breathing techniques for stress management. The art of Fencing teaches self-control, speed of movement, accuracy, mental strength and self-knowledge. Tae-chi is used to attain balance of mind, body and spirit. It gives one an appreciation of the natural world and one learns to focus and be disciplined. There are plans to build a tennis wall and then access a regular tennis court. From September 2006 soccer and netball will be played in the garden. Rena Le Lona is working towards one bicycle per child. This will assist them in travelling to the Centre.

Spiritual Growth

Under ‘Spiritual’ Rena Le Lona creates an essential environment in which the HIV/AIDS syllabus combines with the physical and personal aspects as we approach subjects such as the nature of the world, human nature, the nature of God, prayer, death, unanswerable questions, good and evil, prejudice and injustice, God and sex, God and money, African, Western, Eastern, South American, Native American, Aboriginal and Asian spiritual practices. We encourage visits from people of all faiths. We have an African Prayer-Basket into which all the names of people the children and staff value are placed. We honour the deceased parents of the children by laminating the drawings of them by their children and placing them on the memory wall. The prayer basket is a focus for the children. When artists who have spent some time with them leave, we have a closing ceremony which includes the giving of thanks to one another plus the leaving of names in the basket. If a child loses a loved one, the basket holds the name of that person. We share the writings of African thinkers and visionaries such as Credo Mutwa, Steve Biko and others. We do not teach religion but rather a sense of the intangible within the tangible. In this way we aim to offer each child a possible route for life that will sustain her or him spiritually.