The Dakuza Clinic: Providing Hope for Young Mothers in South Africa

A young mother holds her newborn in the Dakuza Clinic in South Africa where Pathfinder staff help train health workers on providing youth-friendly services.

Stepping into the Dakuza Clinic in rural South Africa was like jumping through a door to a new world. Outside of the clinic, barefooted children played soccer on a dirt road littered with trash. Mothers nursed their babies in a haze of dirt kicked up by the soccer game, mixed with smoke from a firebreak burning in a nearby field. The land is not clean. But step into the clinic and bright walls, sterile waiting rooms, and smiling, calm nurses welcome patients. This is the Dakuza Clinic, and it acts as a safe haven for hundreds of patients each day.

What I learned in my few hours at Dakuza was both heartbreaking and warming. Nervous faces walked through the door, but nerves gave way to relief once they took in the clinic surroundings. Here, young girls found answers, education, and assistance.

Coming from America, I had no idea what to expect when visiting a primary care clinic in the middle of South Africa. I was there to learn about Pathfinder’s work and to create a video that I would use to help raise money for Pathfinder as part of an around the world rock climbing tour I’ve designed. This tour is called Lead Now and through it I’m trying to complete difficult rock climbs around the world as a way to raise awareness and money for various nongovernmental organizations. It’s similar to running a marathon for breast cancer, except I’m better at climbing than running. My fundraiser is based online at Crowdrise, where I hope to raise $120,000 for 12 different organizations, including $10,000 for Pathfinder.

What I learned in my few hours at Dakuza was both heartbreaking and warming. Nervous faces walked through the door, but nerves gave way to relief once they took in the clinic surroundings. Here, young girls found answers, education, and assistance.

A small staff of nurses at the Dakuza Clinic serves up to 200 patients each day. These nurses administer HIV and AIDS tests, provide counseling for positive testers and their families, educate patients on HIV prevention, provide pre- and postnatal care, and deliver babies, on top of an endless list of other tasks. But most notably, these nurses are certified as “youth-friendly”, thanks to Pathfinder. When frightened young girls walk into the clinic, nurses know how to reassure, comfort, and educate young patients.

While at the clinic, I met a young woman and her newborn baby, just a few hours old. This woman, two years my junior at 21, told a nurse that this was her second child, but her first had not lived past infancy. The nurse added that for the birth of this second child, the ambulance had not arrived in time, so the woman had given birth at her home, alone.

As heart wrenching as these details were, I knew that this new baby in front of my eyes had every chance of surviving, thanks to Pathfinder and the Dakuza clinic. Nurses would oversee the health of the mother throughout the following weeks, immunize the child, educate the mother on HIV prevention for both herself and her child, and be a guiding light through the new life of this young baby. At the heart of their work, Dakuza provides hope, and Pathfinder fuels that hope for children, teenage girls, and young mothers.

A huge thank you to the nurses at Dakuza who took time to show me around the clinic, and to Pathfinder for organizing my visit and supporting such an important institution as Dakuza. The work you all are doing is saving lives, hearts, and hope!

Paige Claassen is a professional rock climber and the founder of the Lead Now Tour. You can read more about her global travels on her blog.

Watch to see Pathfinder's work in action in the Dukuza Clinic of South Africa:

The Dukuza Clinic: Providing Care for Young Mothers in South Africa

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