South Africa is one of the worst affected countries in the world, as far as the HIV/AIDS epidemic goes. With some 6.1 million people living with HIV, South Africa is the country with the largest number of infections in the world. In 2014, the South African Child Gauge estimated that 30% of pregnant urban women (15-24) were carrying the virus.

The dramatic increase in the number of orphans, as a direct consequence of the pandemic, is often forgotten. According to the 2013 South African Child Gauge, South Africa counts some 3’850’000 orphans (0-17) having lost either parent or both. That is 62.5% of the total number of orphans. One must understand that most AIDS orphans are not infected.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic leaves behind a devastating trail of suffering and despair. Family structures are destroyed and income flows disappear. Even before the death stage, children are most hit by the consequences of the disease. Their schooling, health, and socialisation processes are at stake. More globally, the human and financial losses incurred through the pandemic put the young South African democracy at risk.

Considering the scale of the pandemic, institutional care of these orphans cannot be a sustainable solution. The solution lies at a community level.

Despite or due to the limited capacity of the South African government, rural communities have mobilised themselves and their community to find innovative solutions to the problems created by the pandemic, and particularly to help AIDS orphans. However, these pro-active and motivated informal teams often lack the financial and technical capacities to achieve their potential. Children of the Dawn has been created to change this situation. We take a community approach to orphan and vulnerable children care, by empowering communities in their mobilisation around affected children.