Using a microbus as a mobile clinic, registered counsellor, Andreas Banetsi Mphunga, is gearing up to provide trauma counselling to the marginalised youth of the Khayelitsha township situated outside of Cape Town.

Mphunga realised the need for a mobile counselling service while working as a programme facilitator teaching social skills to high school students in Khayelitsha. Mphunga noticed that some of the teenagers were battling with issues related to depression, substance abuse and domestic violence that required professional intervention. “During the workshops emotions would manifest themselves and I’d have to intervene then and there,” said Mphunga.

When Mphunga enquired about why the learners had not made use of the school’s counsellors, the overwhelming response was that the waiting periods were too long. “They would have to wait two to four weeks before a counsellor could see them,” said Mphunga.

In order to bridge the gap between the long waiting times and a shortage of registered psychologists and counsellors in the township, Mphunga decided to open his own independent practice. He however soon realised that he wouldn’t be able to reach the youth he wanted to help as they wouldn’t be able to afford a consultation. Mphunga therefore decided to use his savings to buy a microbus which he has turned into a mobile counselling clinic.

Mphunga describes the minibus as a tool to familiarise the children with therapy and once they are comfortable, treatment will continue in an office donated to him by the community.

Other than providing a valuable service to the impoverished community, Mphunga believes that the minibus will help drive out some of the fears and stigma associated with therapy.

“There’s a fear of the clinical environment. It’s intimidating to speak to someone about your problems and there’s a belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness or madness. We are saying it’s OK to ask for help,” explained Mphunga.

Mphunga has registered as a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO), called Cape Township Children and Parents Counselling Centre (CTCPCC), and aims for the mobile clinic to be operational by the end of August so he can begin taking his service to schools in Khayelitsha and surrounding townships.

During the roadshows, he will cover topics from mental health to health promotion and substance abuse. He’ll also provide training to teachers on how to identity children who may need therapy or rehabilitation, who will then be referred to Mphunga for counselling.

While Mphunga’s reach has been limited due to lack of funding and having to rely on donations from the community, he is feeling optimistic about the future because his mental health mobile clinic initiative has attracted interest from the private sector. As part of its corporate social responsibility programme, a private psychiatric clinic intends to fund the mobile clinic and provide its psychiatric staff.

“We’re currently in talks with potential partners and sponsors who are offering free psychology courses for our counsellors. One of the institutions will provide us with a psychology students and the guidance of their psychology lecturing staff,” concluded Mphunga.

To find our more or to get involved with the project, contact Banetsi Mphunga on 0737227268 or email therapist.banetsi@gmail.com.

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