The ComaCARE Trust

The ComaCARE Trust

Joahnesburg, South Africa
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Brain trauma can cause aggression and violence. In South Africa, ComaCARE's Imbizo Yamadoda (gathering of men) and HeadsUP! projects are breaking the cycle of male trauma by addressing alcohol misuse, violence and by supporting men and boys to get "back in the picture" of their own development.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Trauma is one of the top five health burdens in South Africa and brain trauma accounts for 25% of trauma in tertiary hospitals. Victims are mainly young, unemployed, black men - many living in shacks around major cities. The brain injuries are caused by violence fuelled by alcohol misuse and they result in aggressive behaviours which lead to further violence. This men's injury cycle; alcohol-violence-injury-violence is invisible and unaddressed.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

ComaCARE addresses upstream and downstream factors of brain injury. Upstream, the Imbizo Yamadoda (gathering of men) listens to men without judgement as they discuss alcohol, violence, masculinity and invisibility. Imbizo launched BOYZ BUDDIES, working with boys using locally developed comic books and the boys' own dramas asking", "What does alcohol do?" They also encourage men to join entrepreneurship and savings schemes to divert energy and funds from alcohol misuse and train men as health advocates to bridge the gap in previously male-unfriendly health clinics. Downstream, the HeadsUP! injury prevention programme trains families and educators to rehabilitate brain injury survivors to avoid aggressive outbreaks and future violence.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In the first Imbizo yamadoda (gathering of 140 men) anything could be said without judgement. This was new for many men. Men said they were in pain, felt invisible, they were labelled perpatrators and were only engaged around reproductive health and HIV issues. They felt traumatised when they witnessed or took part in violence and mob justice and wanted something different for their sons. They formed a committee to take positive activities forward and developed a seven point plan to get their wellness back. They have been taking part in listening and witnessing groups of other men and are developing a status of men and boys report for the Western Cape and are training as alcohol and violence counsellors.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

1. Two Imbizos of 140 men make men's issues visible. 2. 3 x 3 x 60 men discuss their issues led to a new research project on the status of men and boys in the Western Cape hich wwill guide health, social and job creation policy. 4. 200 boys in ten schools in high risk community engaged in Boyz Buddies.facilitated by ten Imbizo men and drama facilitators.(20 part-time jobs). The impact will be boys becoming change agents in their schools. 5.Alcohol survey of 300 men being undertaken in informal drinking houses involving short term intervention programmes (most violence is caused by alcohol misusers not alcoholics) If consumption is reduced by just 15% the burden of injury will drop and this can be measured. 6. Department of Health has endorsed Imbizo and is developing men's health strategy. 7. 122 parents report fewer aggressive outbursts at home from well managed survivors.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

1. Lobbying the Department of Health to put men's health on the mainstream agenda has resulted in a new project around men's health being driven by the DoH and a tender for work. 2. We have joined with the Extended Public Works Programme to support and pay men as patient advocates. 3. We have partnered a violence prevention programme to fund work in schools, Local and International funders are being sought. We will launch a men4men fund.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There is no other programme working with coma survivors in South Africa, few in the world. There are two organisations working with brain injury survivors providing day care facilities but they do not address upstream factors in poor communities experiencing high rates of violence nor train parents to be rehabilitation experts to avoid future violence. Programmes working with men focus mainly on gender based violence and HIV, not around men's own trauma. Our solution differs because we take a systemic approach and link alcohol misuse, injury and violence very clearly. We really listen.

Founding Story

ComaCARE was founded after a night dream where the logo and slogan "Hearing the Silent Voices" were clearly presented. The organisation was started the next day and the founder member asked volunteer lay counsellors using a coma communication technique to be accepted in a bio-medical neurosurgical ICU at a top academic hospital. They were! ComaCARE staff are trained to listen to and counsel comatose and semi comatose patients, their traumatised families and train nurses in our approach. This story is truley a path of crumbs... We then asked, "What happens after the survivors leave here and why is it mainly poor young men in the beds? Why are our beds 120% full?... and so HeadsUP rehabilitation and Yamdoda prevention programmes were born.
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South Africa, Joahnesburg


I love the story of the three medics at the side of the river watching children drowning. One jumped in and saved each child one by one. That is our work in the hospital with coma patients. Another threw a net across the river and caught them down stream and that is our work with brain injury survivors in the community. The third asked, "Who is throwing the children in the river?" That is our work with Imbizo Yamadoda men and boys wellness movement.