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Kids Haven Newsletter – It’s our birthday today!

“My happy place so many beautiful children through the years. My heart has been well used – lots of smiles, laughter, tears, frustration and anger but mostly lots of love Thank you to all at KH, what a family!”  Terri Heatlie

Today Kids Haven celebrates our 28th birthday.  This day, in October 1992, Moira Simpson together with twenty children moved into the abandoned Old Kleinfontein Hospital and K.I.D.S. (Kids in Dire Straits) Haven was born.  Moira had already been feeding children on the streets of Benoni and gathering volunteers like Terri Heatlie to show compassion to children who no one cared for.  

“I believe the street children found me. Everywhere I went there were children with empty eyes asking for help. I saw their pain and knew that what my children needed was what they deserved too. I started looking out for them. I asked them where their families were. I asked all relevant service providers what they were doing to help these children. And then I realized that I had taken responsibility for them. How to meet their needs was the problem. 

The early years were very hard, and Kids Haven would not have survived without the commitment of a few special people like Terri Heatlie, Elizabeth Holmes and Adele Pillay. And I will never forget Edward Setshedi, now deceased. He was one of Kids Haven’s first Chairperson’s. A social worker by profession, a compassionate man, he understood the needs of the children. Edward stood by my side and faced all opposition with me, and gave me courage to fight for the rights of the children. 

Today I have a team of dedicated people by my side who love the children. Kids Haven would not have survived without them too.”  Moira Simpson

This newsletter is a trip along memory lane – remembering our precious children and the joy and pain of being in this space.  NONE of this would be possible without supporters old and new.  We look back with fondness at our memories and are hopeful about the future.  Our new Managing Director, Sam Mokgopha, understands the value of the Organization he is tasked to lead and looks forward to keeping up the consistent quality care for all.

“To Kids Haven being 28 years old –Twenty eight means there is enough of a foundation for Kids Haven to go out and do more. Kids Haven has faced many challenges and tribulations since 1992; it is time for Kids Haven to blossom even more. The goal is clearer than it ever was.

We have received so much support from donors over the years; they have shaped us, from our early beginnings. Now we are running, and we are going forward.  So many children have come through our doors over the years, and trusted us with their lives. We are truly blessed.”  Sam Mokgopha

Memories of children

“The recent wedding of Mandla H was the most exciting event. As a child Mandla was quiet, but he listened to all that we said. He grew up and went out to live his life. He requested our presence at the wedding as his family, as he has no contact with his family. This event showed us how much value we add to a child’s life. Mandla said ‘you are the only people I call family.’ Support from Kids Haven meant so much to him. He would have been alone had Kids Haven staff not attended his wedding. He brought his wife to visit us six months later. It was so exciting and comforting to know that he got his good values from us when starting his life.”  Sam Mokgopha

 

“One day I took a walk with nine year old Bongani and bought a juice for him. He enjoyed it very much and said ‘I wish my mum could take a walk with me.’  It is amazing that simple things like a walk, a hug, juice and ice cream can make someone else happy.”  Lulu Mashifane

 

“I will tell him or her that Kids Haven it’s a place of protection and is secure.”

“Streets not safe, Kids Haven is safe.”

“Yes when at home they abuse him I gonna say you must come and tell your social worker then social worker gonna tell you feel safe at Kids Haven.” Children’s feedback

 

“The love for my community has been growing by the fact that I can contribute towards the healing and progress of my community members. Some of the children at Kids Haven were from Duduza, and visiting their homes and seeing pain and suffering in the eyes and voices of their parents, has somehow got me involved in wanting to help and share skills and experiences learnt from Kids Haven. I can now proudly stand and say I have made a difference in my community.”  Fikile Manana

“I became part of the Kids Haven family in 2002 and although at the time it was really tough getting used to living in Kids Haven, I was welcomed with open arms by the staff and the children. I have gotten opportunities at Kids Haven that I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere else. I was given a chance to shine and show that I can make something of myself.  People normally look down on shelters but what they don’t know is that it is at these shelters where most children relearn how to dream, love and hope. It is here that we get a second chance and the love which society robbed us of. It is here where a handful of dedicated and loving mothers and fathers give up their time to give us the love and care we never had. It is here where I learnt not to be a victim of my circumstances. It was here where I was given the power to start building my future and to not be afraid to dream!”  Tsietsi Morobi

 

“This is still my home; I still come here because Kids Haven has created a life for me that I never thought I would ever have. Education is what I wanted most. I am a Social Worker at DSD thanks to Moira.”  Kentse Mowedi

 

“Kids Haven has taught me that I can be whoever I want to be and that it’s not so much what you have in your life but who.”  Russell Powell

 

“I lived at Kids Haven from December 2008- December 2011. Fear made me lie when I came to Kids Haven from Zimbabwe. Fear of being caught by the Police because I had no ID.  Kids Haven has done a lot for me. I came here as a person with no identity at all, but I completed grade 12. Thank you very much. I enjoyed socialising with people. Uncle Pat taught me how to play soccer. I also enjoyed the Presidential Awards. From being where I was in my life to now you have done more than any mother could.  Thank you.”  Themba Moyo

 

“What our children really need

 

Hand-outs don’t work; they create a culture of dependency, not one of entrepreneurship and self-help. Instead of hand outs, we need to build up leaders from within, individuals who have triumphed in spite of their circumstances. With support we can assist them to lead and inspire their friends and families to achieve their dreams.

 

Mothers are key figures for resilience in the face of hardship. A mother’s capacity to bond with her child encourages resilience. They can also buffer the effects of sexual violence, especially when they immediately address the circumstances integral to the molestation, believing what their child tells them and taking charge of the situation. When parents embody resilience, children cope well. Supportive family relationships give youth a sense that they are loved and belong.

 

Teachers also provide protective mechanisms in the community. Teachers who are fair, encouraging, helpful and caring make insecure or traumatised youths feel stronger. Schools provide a safe space to learn important life skills.

 

Communities need to provide youths with security and a sense of belonging and purpose in life. Values such as Ubuntu encourage resilience in children. If community leaders are prepared to speak out and provide support, countless children can still be saved. This is the ideal, what communities should be doing.

 

Behind all the despair and negativity, there are many inspirational individuals facilitating positive, lasting change by going to the root cause of society’s dysfunction and building up community leaders from within the heart of our most damaged communities.”  Moira Simpson

 

Hopeful about the future

Kids Haven is hopeful.  We are resilient.  We know that a key to building resilience is to just have one person who believes in you.  We have many!  Thank you to every single person who sends us messages of support, gives us a thumbs up on our Facebook page, sends us gifts of money, or approves grants to implement projects and donates goods, new and used, that we can use for our children and our community.  Our resilience-treasure chest is full.  For 28-years Kids Haven has been resilient to adapt in difficult circumstances and remain optimistic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined just how resilient we can be – and also that we can never grow complacent and careless with the responsibility that we have.  There is always something around the corner that can give Kids Haven a little shake.  We are excited to be able to withstand these shakes and still offer new programmes and new opportunities to protect and care for children.  

Our new building projects

It is all systems go to build a new Education annex for our Bridging School programme alongside our community preschool.  This new building is funded by a long-standing international partner who met us way back in the early 1990’s and has continued to help Kids Haven in many ways over the years.  This building will provide four classrooms and a large multi-purpose room for our Bridging school in the morning and our homework classes and e-learning in the afternoon.  There is space for art and drama and chess and many other activities for children to shine.  

It also gives us extra room in our Big Boys’ Centre and will allow us to improve the dormitories and living areas for the boys living there.  Children in the Bridging programme will physically get to “go to school’ every day and practice the small steps that add up to going back into formal school one day.  

Alongside the Education Annex, Kids Haven has signed a lease with the Ekurhuleni Metro to develop a playground for our children living in care, and to create a Therapy Centre and Drop-In Centre for the community.  Kids Haven is grateful to the SA Muslim Charitable Trust, Discovery Vitality Volunteers, the US Embassy Ambassador’s self-help grant and Air Menzies International for being our partners in bringing these dreams to reality.

Both of these projects are ready to start and new walls will be going up shortly.  We also want to thank Multi-Waste for generously cleaning the filthy municipal car park before the building starts so that the playground is fit for the children immediately.

Our new and reviewed programmes of care.

Kids Haven kicked off our first meeting of incare and precare girls who are participating in our confidence-building programme to address Gender Based Violence on Saturday, 3 October.  There are 40 girls in this programme who are included in weekly groups starting with the basics of understanding how child neglect affects development and how the girls can exercise their rights and responsibilities to lead safe and empowered lives.  The programme is focused on hearing the girls’ voices and listening to what they have to say.  We look forward to an exhibition of their art and photography early next year.

What does it mean to be a girl child?  Our girls had this to say:

“To be valuable and to be special.  To be motivated at all times.  To be courageous and not to give up.”

“To respect yourself”  

“We will be mothers, we are the centre of the universe”

“Being compassionate, assertive and vulnerable.  We are diverse.  We are a beautiful creation.”

“To be true to yourself and to understand who you are and to stand up for yourself.”

“Being capable, strong and valuable.”

Aftercare and Care Leaving: 

 

“Initially, undertaking a Masters degree in this field was not part of my life journey. However, after much consideration, I knew that I wanted to pursue this as the research topic because it is very meaningful to me. My interest in care-leaving, particularly related to resilience in street children, developed even further. Moreover, other people in the sector were beginning to ask the same question: what happens to care-leavers beyond care as most institutions never get to hear about them once they have left? Noticing a gap, Kids Haven gradually established an aftercare programme to follow up, and offer continuous support to, care-leavers. After tracking and supporting Kids Haven care-leavers for a considerable number of years, I found that the outcomes were phenomenal.”  

Sam Mokgopha – completion of MA Social Work 2019

The care leavers programme coupled with Aftercare provides targeted intervention aimed at supporting children and youth to leave residential care and thrive in communities.

Research-led activities

Kids Haven is directly participating in several research-based activities in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg, the University of Leicester, the Anna Freud Centre (London) and WACIT – the world awareness project for children in trauma.  

“Happy birthday to a very special place, and also my good space.  Thank you to all the amazing people that make Kids Haven the place it is and much gratitude to all the kids that allow us to be part of their life journeys”  Dr Sadiyya Haffejee Board Member

Kids Haven is also piloting a new Child Protection App in Ekurhuleni on behalf of Save the Children SA.

The immediate research activities include the following:

  1. Participating in a global study on youth mental health insights with the Wellcome Trust through the Anna Freud Centre.  Our child, Lucia, who attends the University of Pretoria is taking centre stage in leading the focus group of young people and other stakeholders offering their insights into youth and mental health from South Africa.
  2. Kids Haven is hosting the African presentation looking at Psycho-social interventions for vulnerable children across the world on behalf of WACIT with presentations from Sam Mokgopha, Elijah Getanda (Kenya), Etheldreda Nakimuli-Mpungu from Uganda. There are similar presentations happening in Asia and South America. 

The webinar will also include our child, Whitney, as he offers a young person’s perspective on his journey in care.  The webinar is free to anyone who is interested.  Details can be found here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/psychosocial-interventions-for-vulnerable-children-across-theworld-africa-tickets-117631520043 

  1. Involvement in understanding the role of peer educators to offer mental health interventions – can peer educators be effective in this role?  This project is including incare children and children in community.

It is a BIG undertaking to participate in research-led projects.  There is a rigour in research that needs to be followed in implementation.  It is a unique opportunity for young people to directly share their lived experiences with others from all over the world.

Happy Birthday Kids Haven

“Happy birthday to you my beloved Kids Haven.  May you grow and bring out the greatness in our kids and may the good Lord we serve enlarge your territories.”  Stanley Botopela Chairperson Kids Haven Board 2020

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