March 2022 – Meet the Dream Team
Nelson Mandela called Ubuntu an African concept that means “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others”. [Richard Stengel: Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage (2009)]
Today I’d like to take you along with our Precare Dream team as we share in the lives of families living in communities in and around Benoni. Kids Haven is more than only the Children’s Home. Did you know that? My name is Mable and I am one of the eight community workers from Kids Haven who are mostly out of office and meeting families every day. The eight of us work across the two Pillars of Care called Precare and Aftercare. It is all community work, with aftercare mainly supporting youth and children who once lived in care at the Children’s home but now live in community. Precare is the community work that we do to strengthen families, stop them falling apart and children being hurt. We don’t want anyone to have to come and live in the Children’s Home if we can prevent that.
We make a difference one by one. When I started this work, I worried that I was young, I worried that people in the community would look down on me or be disinterested in what I was saying. But I realise that we are all the same. We are all parents worrying about our kids. We want the same things for our families. When I come to share information through a workshop like “Positive Parenting”, everyone is listening and sharing ideas and challenges. We will hold a workshop and then we will start to get telephone calls and messages: “I tried it. It worked!” Kids Haven upholds the rights of the child to not be beaten and to be cared for and nurtured in the family. Parents want to do this but sometimes just need ideas on how to talk to their children, ways to find common ground so that there is no need for hitting.
People live in very simple homes. Most of our families find themselves moving to town, coming to Benoni from other provinces hoping to find work. They mainly have odd jobs – “don’t visit me on Mondays or Tuesdays when I am working, but I will be home the rest of the week.” When we visit homes, they are neat. There is love inside the home. There may not be a chair to sit on but this doesn’t get them down. It makes me reflect on all that I have so I remember not to moan about life!
Our team really wants to find a way to strengthen families and communities to take control of their lives. To be able to protect and care for their children and make right decisions. We build relationships so that we can go into homes and talk to parents and children. You need to be respectful and thoughtful. We always want to encourage any small group or mama who is building a centre or an organization to help others to join the Ekurhuleni Welfare Forum who meet once a month at Kids Haven. The Forum members come to our hall and talk about their projects and their challenges. Other members, including Kids Haven, will share knowledge on the Children’s Act, good governance and all the things that you must do if you take on the responsibility of providing a service. The Forum members build each other up. They also share in the donations that come to Kids Haven so that they have resources in their programmes. These days we find people reaching out to us through Facebook but they are in Florida or Roodepoort or even Durban. Shiluva is our dream team social worker and she will talk to them but we try to link them to groups like this Welfare Forum in their own region because it is a very helpful gathering.
I think that this is something that might surprise people who only see these informal settlements and shacks from the outside. Everyone is looking out for each other and doing the best that they can. There is community spirit.
Yesterday we went to see a mom because the community called us. There is this mom who had six kids but one died. Now there are five. Only one is going to school because the community helped to get this one child into school, but they couldn’t afford for all of them. They are also helping to feed the children. They called us after they helped to bury the child because the mom was thinking to bury the baby behind the shack. Can you imagine how she must be feeling? She is so ashamed that the father has left her with the children and she doesn’t want to ask for help. The neighbours find the children running to their homes quickly when she isn’t looking so that they can have some food. So we went to see her yesterday to see whether we can help her.
Our first priority is to make sure that the children are safe and being cared for. But even at our visit, there is a child who is crying. We can see he is hungry. She didn’t want to talk to us but we have a duty to protect the children. For now, we have gone to speak to the Department to strongly suggest that they remove these children for their care and protection. This mum needs some time and she would stay in contact with her children at the Home. Our therapists Paul and Nomsa are very helpful and provide counselling and therapy to clients from the community. We referred this mom for therapy because we feel she is traumatised following the death of her baby and she is overwhelmed. We know she is not a bad mom. We can give her the transport to come to therapy. Shiluva also thinks that she might not have an id document so she isn’t getting child support.
Mom is from Limpopo but either she doesn’t have an ID or else not all her kids do. We have this programme called Kids Justice to help children and families get their documents. It’s a long process but makes all the difference when we get the birth certificates. People come to these places looking for work but then have kids and end up staying. At least we know that the community cares for each other plus there is Kids Haven Precare team to help too.
Covid is the reason we are even in this community with this mom. They used to be in Pomona near Kempton Park and we distributed food parcels back in 2020. Then they were moved to this area. They think they will be moved again but for now they are here. There are 20 families included in the Food Garden project now and we have run these parenting workshops. This is our introduction and then we can start to meet individuals who need advice in a different way. It really is all about relationship.
Sam Mokgopha (CEO) “The work into the community is some of the most important work that we can do. It is traumatising for a child to come into care. Even if the Children’s home is a better place than the child’s own home, it is tough for a child. Our community teams are finding ways to build capacity in families, community organizations and with community leaders. Each family can be a safe and loving home for children. We can encourage the families to build connections with each other, look out for each other’s children and find ways to strengthen their neighbourhoods and their communities. I started my life at Kids Haven in the community. I have walked these streets and I know the challenges that families are facing. I also know how dedicated the staff are and how everyone goes the extra mile to get food to families or to encourage food gardens. We demonstrate good neighbourliness, kindness and respect.”
Thank you to everyone who supports all the different parts of of Kids Haven. You are helping to keep children safe and protected. Our future is secure when our children are cared for.
You can get involved by volunteering, donating money or second hand goods.
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