“Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”
(Stitch in Disney’s Lilo & Stitch)
Kids Haven is reminded of how valuable relationship is as we move out of Lockdown Level Four and into Level Three. And the most powerful of all relationships are those held in FAMILY. For most of us, we have been isolating with our family for more than eight weeks. Here at Kids Haven our Incare family is made up of 151 children and 39 carers and social workers attending directly to the children – initially starting with 21 day shifts and now on 5 day shifts. Our other ‘family’ members including our drivers, charity shop staff, security and maintenance teams are coming and going in line with the Corona protocols for businesses.
In our Children’s Home, we have seen increased trust building between our children and our staff through shared activities. Simply spending time with each other has been incredibly valuable and we are in many ways grateful to have been living through this time.
We would like to honour our childcare staff and programme staff for prioritizing the needs of the children INCARE over anything else and making sure that they are safe, happy and healthy. Our children are also carrying on with their school work – mostly without computer-aided or online learning, although those with online lessons have been able to work on the social workers’ computers. Our bridging school has carried on during this time, and our Youth have been learning skills around the home that still add value.
Kids Haven has increased the size of the family with four new admissions and two pending admissions during May. Kids Haven was always expecting two siblings to join their older siblings who are already living at Kids Haven and we were happy to welcome the two younger children on Friday, 15th May. Our new teenager arrived at the beginning of May and our latest arrival, who is just three, came last week. We are awaiting two other children who are transferring out of a baby home but everyone is waiting for paperwork to be signed off by the Department. Their beds are ready but they remain safe and well cared for where they are.
Kids Haven does have bed-space, and will always make space, to offer children a safe home when needed. Our Managing Director, Moira Simpson anticipates that if the Gogo’s who are responsible for so many children in our communities should be severely impacted by this virus, we can expect to find many more children coming into care. We are ready. Sadly, for now our admissions are due to the never-ending violence and abuse of children which continues to thrive and seems immune to this pandemic. We are ready for these children too. The most important help that we can give right now is to be a stable, secure and nurturing environment to hold the children while the world tilts around us.
Celebrating life through birthdays
Our lockdown birthday celebrations have been extraordinary. When schools closed in March and during the hard lockdown, we lost our steady supply of baked birthday cakes from school children earning community hours. Using Facebook, we shared our need for birthday cakes so that we could continue to celebrate the children’s special days. It is an important family ritual to us and one that makes every child feel special and wanted and unique on his or her birthday. The wonderfully talented bakers of the Cake Decorators Network, Benoni came to our rescue and have not stopped. They deliver delicious amazingly decorated cakes – each one with the name of the child. Our kids are loving these. We have celebrated three 21st birthdays (including our child in Aftercare) while our big boys baked Mum Annie a beautiful chocolate cake for her birthday.
Life in Community – standing in the gap that Corona has created
Head of Community, Sam Mokgopha says “I have come across poverty in many communities but COVID just exposed me to another level of worse poverty I could ever imagined in my scope of work at Kids Haven”.
Through our efforts, and with incredible help from donors and individuals, Kids Haven has been able to issue 220 food parcels (on average R 500 each) and 41 food vouchers (on average R360 each) this month from 1 May to 31 May 2020. These have been distributed to individuals (youth) and families in and around Benoni town, eMandleni (Wattville), Marikana Informal Settlement (KwaThema, Springs), eTwatwa Daveyton and Tsakane. We have even sent electronic food vouchers to Phalaborwa in response to an urgent request. Kids Haven has also shared masks, soap, toothbrushes and face cloths in separate mini parcels to youth whom we know.
“Thanks again Lindiwe you’ve helped me out you and your team. I’m from shopping now. My child is very happy with all you’ve done for us.” Mum K connected via Facebook request (Katlehong).
Many of the beneficiaries survive on child support grants supplemented with piece jobs. They have been unable to work but the grant of R 440 per child is not enough to cover basic food for the month. Our aftercare youth have been especially vulnerable. Their work is often part time or short term and they have all lost these work opportunities and their income. On Tuesday, 26 May, presenters from the SABC 1 TV show Expressions came to Kids Haven to film five Aftercare youth to find out how they are surviving lockdown. It was incredible to witness the resilience of these young people. This show should air on 9 June 2020 on SABC 1 at 5pm.
“We try to manage as best we can. We don’t like to ask for help but we know that Kids Haven is here if we need it. We can always call them and they help. I was working as a bar tender in the beginning of the year but that work is gone. But I’m ok. I have food and toiletries now.” NT.
The Protection that comes with Nationality
“The arrival of COVID has highlighted the shocking and extremely worrying state of affairs with regard to documents qualifying children and families but languishing in poverty due to lack of documents.
For instance, on Saturday in Marikana (Kwa Thema) we have found a mother born in 1988 with four children aged between 3 and 10 years who survives on recycling to support her four children. She is originally from the Eastern Cape and had obtained her ID only recently in late 2019. She is waiting for the Dept. of Home Affairs (DHA) to reopen and call her for an interview which may be in late 2020 or 2021 who knows? I cannot stand the fact that her life is dependent on waiting for this DHA call before her kids can get birth certificates and begin to get grants or access to all other government services. They are all are living in abject poverty as we speak, in a squashed room of a shack with NO hope for these kids and her. There is no difference between the inside and out due to recycling stuff all over. Where do they even sleep? At least we have given her healthy food that will help her to feed her family for the rest of this month. We will be approaching the DHA to accelerate her case.
A documented South African mother in Katlehong applied for a birth certificate for her child who is now about 8 years old if I remember well. The birth certificate came back from DHA with a wrongly spelled surname. Consequently, the mother has been struggling for years to change it without success. She has been moving from pillar to post although the error came from DHA not herself. The child cannot receive the child support grant because the mother cannot prove she is the mother. They have a different but closely pronounced surname with one missing letter. One can clearly see that it was DHA error no doubt about that. Despite the correct proof of birth with the correct surname DHA has made a mistake. A lot of advocacy is still needed to challenge DHA service in this and other instances. I will be taking this case to the office of the public protector to resolve this case once lockdown is eased because it is their scope of work to be government’s watchdog on poor service delivery.” Sam Mokgopha Head: Community Development
Kids Haven records our thanks to the HCI Foundation who this week, confirmed their financial support for our Kids Justice Project to secure documentation.
A gap in work
One of our Aftercare youth, PB, received food vouchers and toiletries. He was included in informal panel-beating training which we have helped to create in Daveyton and was due to start ‘formal’ work at Cranbourne Panelbeaters in April just as the lockdown started.
In the months before the pandemic, our goal has been to secure training for our Youth in local businesses working in the township economy where there is less emphasis on certificates and more focus on ‘can you do the work’. They have fewer barriers to entry and a willingness to support young people without formal schooling or even identity documents. For us, this process has been the first step in young people participating in employment; learning at the same time but needing to report to work daily and be accountable to an employer. Kids Haven has 12 youth participating in the panel beating business, a carpentry and metalwork business and a bakery.
PB represents the outcome of this training and has been able to start his formal employment in the mainstream economy on 1 June at the start of lockdown level three. He only needed help for the gap in his employment and we are happy that we could step in to provide for that need. Our two young men have also returned to their wood working and metal work business.
“I am happy to go back to work. I enjoy it. I am learning a lot and I believe I can make a career of this one day. There is a mistake on my identity card. I was born in 2001 but it says 2011. Uncle Sam is fixing that. For now, I am learning and this job is good”. MS
Looking ahead – remaining in the gap if we need to
Lockdown Three opens up more businesses and we are hoping to see some of our beneficiaries in the community being able to manage on their own again. They simply needed a caring hand during the most severe lockdown months. But we have also identified families who we will continue to help in different ways into the future. We have met a father with two boys age six and eight. His wife passed away and he has been let down by his family who did not adequately care for his sons. He is beginning to trust us and we will work with him to strengthen his family. For now, they need urgent and continuous food support because their child support grants cannot adequately meet their needs. Life is a desperate struggle and we are concerned that the younger child is stunted through malnutrition.
It is useful to remain positive and optimistic in our work. The Corona pandemic has allowed us to meet families like this father who we did not know. It has allowed us to witness first-hand the resilience of the Matriculant in a youth-headed household who is absolutely determined to pass Matric this year whatever it takes. She has so much determination to succeed. We are excited to support her through mentorship and resources as she needs them, along with the rest of this young family.
Kids Haven is also deeply and profoundly grateful to businesses, foundations, networks and ordinary people who share our passion for child protection and the well-being of children. We are honoured to be your hands and feet bringing relief to families while nurturing our children in care. We are only able to do this with your help.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Stay warm and well this June
All of us at Kids Haven
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