“I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.” Anne Lamott
While this immediate weather doesn’t feel very ‘spring-like’ we are still feeling a sense of openness and optimism about this coming month. The weather will get warmer, our vegetable garden is planted and growing and all our children will be resuming school again. We are proud of our children and staff for coping through these rigid lockdown levels – especially as almost all of the children have not stepped out of the Home since March. Our Youth Manager, Adele, took two girls for a drive this month simply to show them that town was still the same. It has been so long since they have gone anywhere!
But even as the world opens up, we will continue to maintain the Covid-19 protocols to minimize any possibility of infections among our children and staff.
We hope that you have enjoyed our Lockdown Newsletters through this period. Kids Haven has been well-supported in so many ways and we have felt care and kindness even in our isolation. Thank you to the many people who have dropped off delicious meals, biscuits and cakes for our children and for all the food parcels, toiletries, Dettol products, meal-in-a-bag and children’s school packs that we have been able to share into the community. We are also grateful to our friends, Companies and Foundations who have continued their generous financial support.
The best birthday cakes ever!
The highlight of these months have been the magnificent birthday cakes that our children have enjoyed. A special thank you to local bakers of the Cake Decorators Network here in Benoni. Since May, these bakers have supplied incredible, personalized MAGNIFICENT cakes for every child. This has been a wonderful way to celebrate the uniqueness and treasure that is each child.
It seems quite unreal to look back on the past five months – this is our short summary of having done SO much but without going anywhere!
Kids Haven went into lockdown as school closed on Friday, 20 March. We felt like we ought to be a step ahead so that we could be sure to keep our children safe. During the first few weeks of lockdown level five, our staff stepped up and offered to stay in with the children for the twenty-one days of hard lockdown. This made a tremendous difference because there was no commuting therefore less risk of exposure to the virus. It also meant that our children could have continuity in the consistent care of the same people through this very anxious time.
Our Exec management team all kept working. We worried about Moira (the grandmother of the team) but she would not be deterred and was determined to work. Terri did all the shopping and made sure that the children had everything they needed. We issued masks and sanitizer and simply closed the doors. We admitted no new children in April.
By the end of April, Community Manager, Sam Mokgopha HAD to bring his team back to respond to food needs. Ahead of lockdown, we issued food vouchers and food parcels to 150 beneficiaries on our books. These were a mix of Kids Haven’s aftercare youth and precare families that we work with.
By the 28th of April, we had delivered food to 311 beneficiaries and by July that reached 580 beneficiaries. Our team has refined their registers and is keeping tally of the numbers in each family of the primary beneficiaries. We believe that the 580 beneficiaries results in at least 1851 family members receiving food. We have just five people in this team who deliver the food parcels.
We have also distributed donated fertilizer, have supported several families with document applications and advice, and are busy building a toilet for a youth headed household.
We have worked jointly with community based organizations we knew before the pandemic and have been introduced to new communities as we respond to calls for help. We have met the community in the Marikana Informal Settlement outside KwaThema. There is a home-grown church here where the pastor’s wife is looking after girls and caring for the needs of her community. Sam is impressed with her consistency and care. Through the food parcels, we have established good connections within the community and now we will be returning there from September with our child protection programmes, positive parenting and children’s rights programmes. There is definitely much opportunity here for us to partner and prioritize the well-being of children.
On the schooling front, we had to suspend our bridging school programme in April since the younger boys and all girls were locked down at the homes in the village and this programme is based at the centre in town. Priscilla, the Bridging School facilitator, and Terri Heatlie, took on the home schooling responsibility for the 60 big boys at the centre and our youth manager, Adele Pillay, took on the leadership of the home schooling at the Village with around 90 children. All childcare workers assisted. Our international volunteers had to leave in March and no local volunteers have been allowed since the start of the pandemic. Our tertiary students also returned home to the village – for data and for food! Our ECD centre remains closed for now.
The schooling time has helped us to remediate some big deficits we realized in basic concepts. We have also seen some hard working children, and sadly some lazy and unfocused children – often the children who are good academically but choose not to work. We are far more aware of the capabilities of the children now. We have also established two e-learning classrooms at the Centre and Village in July 2020 which was long overdue. The children enjoy learning on line and there are strict controls and firewalls for safe browsing.
Our children are all returning to school this month and the Bridging School classes will resume too.
Just a taste of what we have to work with:
- Some children go to school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,
- Others attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays – then they swop the days for the next two weeks.
- Some other children attend school for one week and then remain home for the second week, with other children doing the opposite.
- A few children go to school every day.
So far, we have sent just a handful of children to school on the wrong day! If a child is sick and stays off school, it is a proper muddle trying to work out when he or she needs to restart school again! But we would rather have this juggling than all our children needing home schooling!
We have paid school fees even though we were at home because we do not want any of our children to lose their places in formal school in 2020 or 2021. Many are already at risk due to their age and grade bands. Paying fees seemed like the responsible thing to do and also a protective one.
Only fifteen children have moved into formal school from the Bridging programme (Jan/Feb) and no other enrollments are possible in 2020. These children will need to wait until 2021 to start school. We have made the grade One and grade Eight Gauteng-online applications for 2021 and will finalize placements for all other children in new grades or new formal schools for 2021. We will wait for the start of 2021 for children without documents. The Department of Education does not appear to be open now.
There are now 156 children living at Kids Haven and new admissions have taken place since May. Our new admissions are much younger than our typical children and we are enjoying the delight of working with young children. They are all very cute.
- Our typical average age is 13 – 15 years old but the average age of our new admissions is just 7 ½. These young children live together in one house and our preschool facilitator runs a special stimulation programme for them every day.
Our New CEO
During this time, we also had to adhere to our succession plan and we held virtual interviews following advertising the CEO position. The assistant director and head of community, Sam Mokgopha, was an excellent, well qualified candidate and his interview by the interview panel was rated as the best. We have officially announced his appointment to the DSD, and via our August newsletter and social media. He took up the position on 1 September. Moira Simpson and Sam will work together until December when Moira will officially retire.
Looking back throughout lockdown.
Our children in care lived well, receiving all they needed to eat, being able to continue with their schooling, having access to therapists and counselling if they needed it. We asked for, and received donations of birthday cakes and treats to make their birthdays extra special. Thank you. Staff have done very well, and there are strengthened relationships with children and with each other.
It has also been a time of high anxiety and feeling overwhelmed at times with the responsibility of protecting all the children and staff from illness.
Our work in the community has been devastating to witness first-hand the desperation of families without income, top up income or access to generating any income. These children did not need treats for birthdays, they needed food to survive. There was no schooling happening in these areas and no social distancing. It has been a privilege to be able to support families with food, PPE, masks and educational materials for ECD-age learners.
This time has made us aware of future needs:
- To consider developing new opportunities for teens and youth to have a safe space for afterschool and for support. Our connections with our beneficiaries and CBO partners has underscored the value of having a protective network to support each other through good and bad times. This would be for children from the community and not those in care.
- To be extremely conscious of the wealth in donations of second hand items. These will strengthen our chance for survival through these coming months and even years.
- To nurture our network and partners with whom we work to maximize our impact on child protection in Ekurhuleni.
- That Kids Haven is capable of “carrying on” even through a pandemic and that we did not need to have any major shifts to our work. Our mission is to protect and care for children. We feel that we have maintained care and protection during the time, and have been able to extend and stretch the care and protection to impact families in our community. We are particularly grateful to our staff who have worked very hard for the good of Kids Haven and our communities.
Thank you to every single person who has dropped off a bag of clothing, toiletries, food or made a donation small and large. Kids Haven is enriched by your kindness and care.
NOTE– Our Kids Haven annual Golf Day is going ahead on Thursday, 22 October 2020 at the Parkview Golf Club. This important event raises funds for our formal school costs. If you would like to play or sponsor a prize please contact firstname.lastname@example.org subject GOLF
You can get involved by volunteering, donating money or second hand goods.
If you think your company could help make a difference please contact us.