Addressing the psycho-spiritual bereavement needs of HIV and AIDS orphans

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Coming into being: The Tree of Life (TOL) camps

Professor Müller introduced Juanita Meyer (fellow PhD student) and myself to the TOL metaphor by handing us the article entitled: “The Tree of Life project: Using narrative ideas in work with vulnerable children in South Africa” written by Ncazelo Ncube (2006) in 2008. His instructions were to develop a workbook from the article, directed at orphans who lost their parent(s) and or caregivers, as the greater Departmental research project focused up to that point on orphans left bereaved by HIV and Aids and aptly entitled SMALL SURVIVORS OF HIV/AIDS. We thought it would be ideal to structure the workbook in such a way to help these orphans work through bereavement issues related to HIV and Aids and the role it played in their bereavement. Juanita and I actually reinvented the wheel the weekend when we came together to compile a workbook and facilitators guide according to the article. We couldn’t find any reference to it on the internet at that stage, and decided to create our own based on the article. When I eventually found the workbook on the internet (http://www.repssi.net) months later, it was with a feeling of pride that I called Juanita to tell her the news. Not only did our version cover everything the original workbook covered but, our workbook was specifically orientated to our own unique research situation. Looking not only into the psychosocial wellbeing of the children who took part in the TOL exercise, as did the original version, but also incorporating the psycho-spiritual wellbeing of the children that took part in our specific TOL exercise. A copy of our TOL workbook and facilitators guide (first camp) can be accessed on the SMALL SURVIVORS OF HIV/AIDS website (http://www.hivorphans.co.za).

We narrowed the research field down to only working with one NGO previously involved in the research project, namely PEN. We contacted Dr Marinda van Niekerk, director of PEN to help us to identify teens who adhered to the criteria. She referred us to Susan van der Walt and Jasmyn van Heerden whom were involved with the Teen Ministry at PEN. We had a meeting with them and
Dagmara du Plessis as well as other role players in the process. This proved to be a very difficult meeting for us, because, as I would later describe Susan – we were battling with a lioness protecting her cubs against intruders. Rather reluctantly Susan and Jasmyn agreed to find eight (later changed to ten due to good funding) teenagers who met our criteria. They however warned us that due to disclosure issues on the part of the teenagers they themselves were unsure of what the direct causes of deaths were of most of these adolescents’ parent(s) and or caregivers. This issue relating to disclosure impacted on our initial inclusion criteria for the TOL camps, and we had to therefore broaden our criteria. The final inclusion criteria for the first TOL camp were as follows:
• Adolescent (13-19 years) boys and girls
• Who were recently bereft (last 24 months)
• Lost a parent / parent figure / caregiver
• Possibly from HIV and Aids
• Actively involved with the activities of PEN
• Willingness to partake in the TOL camp and research
• The same number of boys and girls in the group
And so our research journey with our TOL co-researchers commenced. We chose to use the TOL camps and group discussions in working with the adolescent coresearchers. Van Niekerk (2006:33) states that teenagers are at ease within a group. They get the opportunity in a group to compare themselves and their experiences to that of the other group members.

Selecting stories: On design, sampling and data collection

This research project situated within the TOL camps’ context falls within the qualitative paradigm to research as explained in chapter 1. Furthermore, it is descriptive in nature (Neuman 1997:19-20). Neuman (1997:20) states that “(d)escriptive and exploratory research have many similarities. They blur together in practice… The outcome of a descriptive study is the detailed picture of the subject”. To put it in narrative research terms, the idea is to present a thick research story at the end of the research process.
The method of sampling that was used – by asking facilitators at PEN to provide us with possible co-researchers for our research – is called purposive sampling. It uses the “(j)udgement of an expert in selecting cases or it selects cases with a specific purpose in mind” (Neuman 1997:206). These facilitators know and work with these adolescents on a regular basis and therefore know at least something of their life stories.
The research made use of field research (the TOL camps) to collect the research data. The stories of the ten co-researchers, can be seen in research terms as case studies, however Müller (2005:74) warns against using the concept of case studies with reference to practical theology, because “… it carries with it the idea of a linear approach”, where the case study is seen as “… the empirical confirmation and verification …” of theories (Müller 2005:74). The stories of my co-researchers presented here is therefore more than mere case studies.

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Leedy and Ormrod (2005:12) also describe the researcher herself as a “…tool of research…” in the research process. The TOL workbooks compiled during the two camps also yielded data to be used in the research process. Leedy and Ormrod (2005:88) describe data as: “…those pieces of information that any particular situation gives to an observer”. Furthermore, by making observations during the research process, the qualitative researcher becomes “… a participant observer” (Leedy & Ormrod 2005:145), by entering the lives of her research participants or co-researchers (Marshall & Rossman 2006:72). Marshall and Rossman (2006:73) go on to describe these interactions as “… usually highly informative while remaining informal”. All of which the TOL camps definitely were. Not only did we as researchers observe our co-researchers and their interactions with us and each other, we also used the TOL workbooks to ask specific questions, which we then followed up in our group discussions. As part of these camps, the two groups – the boys and the girls – were issued with disposable cameras with which to also take photos. Even these photos – as seen in chapter 3 – formed part of the data we collected. In light of this, it is therefore evident that we did not limit ourselves to only one method of data collection. Concerning the various data collected during these TOL camps, the concept of triangulation comes to the fore.

CHAPTER 1
PROLOGUE TO AN AFRICAN RESEARCH STORY – INTRODUCTION, POSITIONING AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 THE ENIGMA OF EPISTEMOLOGY AND POSITIONING
1.3 PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH: PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
1.4 AND SO THE STORY GOES: NARRATIVE APPROACH
1.5 PARADIGMS AT WAR: FROM PREMODERNITY TO MODERNITY TO POSTMODERNITY
1.6 SOCIAL ACHITECTS AT WORK: SOCIAL-CONSTRUCTIONISM AND POST FOUNDATIONALISM
1.7 CUTTING EDGE: TRANSVERSAL RATIONALITY
1.8 THE COLOUR OF RESEARCH: WHAT IS RESEARCH?
1.9 STRUCTURING THE RESEARCH STORY: RESEARCH DESIGN
1.10 WRITING FOR RESEARCH: THE RESEARCH REPORT
1.11 RESEARCH OUTLINE
1.12 CLOSING REMARKS ON CHAPTER 1
CHAPTER 2
IN PERSPECTIVE – CONTEXTUALISATION OF THE RESEARCH
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 SPEAKING OUT: THE STORY OF THE CONTEXT OF PEN
2.3 VOICING CONCERNS: THE STORY OF ETHICS-IN-PRACTICE
2.4 AROUND THE CAMPFIRE: CONTEXT OF THE TREE OF LIFE CAMPS
2.5 SPEAKING UP: THE CO-RESEARCHERS AT WORD 97
2.6 LEARNING TO LISTEN: MY STORY IN RELATION TO THE CONTEXT
2.7 CLOSING REMARKS ON CHAPTER 2
CHAPTER 3
THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLES – TRADITIONS OF INTERPRETATIONS
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 MAKING THE NEWS: AIDS AND RELATED DISCOURSES
3.3 HIV AND AIDS ORPHANS: THE SAD STORY OF STATISTICS
3.4 FROM THE PULPIT: THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS
3.5 AFRICAN STORYTELLING AS A TRADITION OF INTERPRETATION
3.6 YOUNG PICASSO AT PLAY: USING THE ARTS TO EXPRESS
3.7 CLOSING REMARKS ON CHAPTER 3
CHAPTER 4
IN A PLACE OF HUNGER – WHEN A CHILD LOSES A PARENT
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 WHEN HUNGER STRIKES: LOSING A PARENT
4.3 HUNGRY FOR ‘MORE’: DISCOURSES REGARDING THE BEREAVEMENT NEEDS OF MY CO-RESEARCHERS
4.4 THE WAY FORWARD: THE PALAVER MODEL
4.5 CLOSING REMARKS ON CHAPTER 4
CHAPTER 5
TWO HEADS (OR EVEN MORE) ARE BETTER THAN ONE – AN INTERDISCIPLINARY INDABA
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 LETTER OF INVITE AND SELECTED STORIES
5.3 IN CONVERSATION WITH THEOLOGY ITSELF
5.4 IN CONVERSATION WITH PSYCHOLOGY 244
5.5 IN CONVERSATION WITH SOCIAL WORK
5.6 IN CONVERSATION WITH OTHER DISCIPLINES
5.7 CLOSING REMARKS ON CHAPTER 5
CHAPTER 6
2010 AND BEYOND – MOVING FORWARD IN THE SPIRIT OF UBUNTU
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 AN ISIZULU RIDDLE EXPLAINED: THE DISCOURSE OF UBUNTU
6.3 THE CHILDREN OF AFRICA ANSWERING TO THE ECHOES OF LIFE
6.4 MOVING BEYOND BEING THE ‘FORGOTTEN ONES’ TOWARDS BEING FORTUNATE: THE ETHICS OF UBUNTU APPLIED
6.5 A PASTORAL CARE APPROACH UNIQUE TO THE AFRICAN CONTEXT: UTILISING UBUNTU AND AFRICAN STORYTELLING
6.6 MORE STORIES TO EXPLORE: SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
6.7 CLOSING REMARKS ON CHAPTER 6
CHAPTER 7
EPILOGUE TO AN AFRICAN RESEARCH STORY – ON BEING QUESTIONED BY OTHERS AND ONE SELF
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 ADDRESSING THE FEARS AND HOPES OF MY CORESEARCHERS
7.3 ADDRESSING POSSIBLE QUESTIONS BY RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES
7.4 ADDRESSING POSSIBLE QUESTIONS BY THE ACADEMIC COMMUNITY
7.5 SELF-REFLECTION ON THE PROCESS: ON QUESTIONING MYSELF
7.6 MY STORY OF UBUNTU: BRINGING AN ELEPHANT INTO THE HOUSE
7.7 CLOSING THE BOOK ON THE RESEARCH STORY – FINAL REMARKS
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND ADDENDA
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ADDENDUM A – ‘I AM AN AFRICAN’ POEMS 371
ADDENDUM B – INFORMATION OF INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAM MEMBERS
ADDENDUM C – CD ‘KEEP PUSHING’ (INCLUDED IN BACK COVER)

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