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SOME 20 children, all disfigured in fire and mostly from Orange Farm, attended a two-day Theatre Camp aimed at helping them find inner healing, as part of the Mayor Spousal Programme.

The camp, which took place on 9 and 10 June at the Joburg Theatre Complex in Braamfontein, was spearheaded by Pilisiwe Twala-Tau, the wife of Executive Mayor Parks Tau. Various activities during the camp were part of the children’s rehabilitation, and the theatre was used creatively to help them heal.

Counselling, performance workshops and script development were part of the camp. The children also worked on a dramatic piece which they performed as industrial theatre at the end of the camp.

Other activities included self-development, to build their self-esteem; skills development, which comprised a theatre tour, information about theatre production and a backstage tour; leadership skills; the spirit of entrepreneurship; and growth of the self within the industrial theatre context.

The camp was held to help seriously burnt children get emotional healing and overcome bullying because of their appearance. It was also to inspire them to become more confident and reclaim their self-esteem, despite their fragile state.

According to Twala-Tau, the burn survivors programme is focused on children firstly to help their families or parents accept that their children are burnt and that their lives have somehow changed. Secondly, it is to help the children understand that other children will treat them differently because of their burns.

Her team also needs to help the children come to terms with their condition and for them to accept that their families cannot afford plastic surgery. Many of these children come from impoverished families. They have been drawn from the city-wide database of burn survivors and organisations that help children who are burnt.

An estimated 15 000 children are burnt in South Africa each year, which highlights the dangers of fire, especially for small children, and the need for them to get emotional healing. Informal settlements are particularly prone to fire, especially in winter. Unfortunately, most of the victims of these fires are children.

Twala-Tau says the programme is also aimed at educating the general public, by raising awareness about the difficulties burn survivors face.

The burn survivors programme is part of Joburg's Growth and Development Strategy (GDS) 2040, a document that describes the type of society Joburg wants to become by 2040. Within the GDS, health and poverty are approached as inter-related dynamic forces, with the term "quadruple burden of disease" used to describe the state of residents' health. This burden covers chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiac arrest arising from an unhealthy lifestyle, diseases of poverty and underdevelopment, high levels of injuries, and HIV/Aids.

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