Fostering Resilience in Children Who have been Orphaned: Preliminary Results from the Botswana Balekane EARTH Program

Masego Katisi, Philip Jefferies, Olebogeng Dikolobe, Onkarabile Moeti, Joshua Brisson, Michael Ungar - Child & Youth Care Forum



Contextually relevant interventions are needed to support the well-being of at-risk adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, the large number of children who have been orphaned, such as by HIV/AIDS, are in need of interventions to foster their resilience.


The goal of this study was to investigate the efficacy of the Balekane EARTH program, a 2-week wilderness-based therapeutic intervention in Botswana for children who have been orphaned.


A quasi-experimental pretest–posttest design was used. At program entry and again at completion, participants (n = 650) aged 11–17 from communities across Botswana completed a questionnaire containing contextualised versions of the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM-28), the Inventory of Complicated Grief, the Future Aspirations/Peer Leader scale, the Conduct Problems subscale of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and questions pertaining to school engagement.


Following participant in the camps, there were improvements in reported resilience. Female participants also reported improvements in problems related to grief and future aspirations. The half of the participants who scored most poorly on measures of resilience, problems with grief, and future aspirations (those most at-risk) were found to report the biggest gains on these measures following the intervention.


These preliminary findings indicate the promise of programs such as Balekane EARTH that address the trauma experiences of children in sub-Saharan Africa who have been orphaned, though further research is needed to identify appropriate target thresholds and to investigate the longer-term impact of the program.