Who we are

 

Is it not horrendous to an African...., for what ever reason, for an adult man to rape a 9 month old baby? What has come over us? ……… What has happened to us? ………

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, September 2006

 

How we got started and the journey so far

How we got started and the journey so far
Whilst on holiday one day in 2004 I spotted a UK newspaper on a table and, having no book with me, and been starved of news from home for at least a week I picked up the paper and began to skim through it. The paper being an old one was going to have nothing very topical so I passed the front pages and lighted on a piece in the central section.

The article, by Jenny Johnston in The Mirror, featured the story of Claudia Ford and her adopted daughter {V} detailing the horrors that V had experienced having been very severely sexually assaulted and damaged by 2 men when she was 5 months old. The details of the story, even in this public article, were very graphic, very precise and very moving – all of the horror is on their website [ http://www.theprincesstrust.com ]. There was the detail of V’s injuries, the story of how Claudia found her and then of how she fought [and fights everyday] to repair this broken and wounded baby spiritually, mentally and physically. There was the history of how she struggled to personally adopt V and secure her future. There were details of the incidence of infant rape in the country, but the compelling thing was the story of one little girl. By the time I had finished reading this inspiring story I knew that I couldn’t walk by on the other side.

It took me a while to track down Claudia and find out what to do, as well as undertaking research what was going on – after all no point in reinventing the wheel if there is another UK body working with partners in South Africa to try to protect small children. So I plagued all my contacts and friends at the Dept of Health and in Child Protection in the UK, then went to South Africa myself to meet Claudia and other people to find out what, if anything we could do from afar to support and work with local folks.

Setting up and running the charity
The company was finally incorporated in March 2005 and the infant trust registered as a charity in May 2005. We submit annual accounts for both Companies House and the Charities Commission
We started with three trustees and have now expanded to 5, all very experienced in health, training or business and two who have very close personal links with South Africa. As founder I am both Chief Executive and Treasurer.

The project work
Following my initial visits and setting about raising some funds I was clear that, above all, we must work in partnership with local South African organisations to enable sustainable change; and training as well as supporting safe havens for the vulnerable children, funding research and community awareness are the most vital things – we do give grants, but they are very small and only one-off. Initially I was determined to keep away from the whole HIV/AIDs bandwagon but it is blindingly obvious that HIV/AIDS has a huge impact and makes thousands and thousands of small children extremely vulnerable once they have no biological parent. It also rapidly transpired that communities, and women in particular, feel very disempowered and although they see terrible things going on around them they don’t know what to do, or who to turn to. Evidence from our many training programmes now show us just what women [and men] who have skills and knowledge can, together do to change things. It is one of the most amazing things to see and to be part of.

By 2008-09 we had a total of 21 projects agreed; they ranged from a tiny project to a single programme training over 90 people. 16 projects were completed, or continue successfully, with the remaining 5 either falling by the wayside or having to pause due to the xenophobic violence in South Africa earlier this year. Over the years we have moved to larger more extensive projects as we have assurances of more funds and we learn what works and has the most impact.

I believe that one of the real factors of our successes so far has been my very personal connection and growing relationship with the organisations we partner; this enables me to visit, to see, to watch, to listen, to think and to work together with our friends to undertake new work that is vital in protecting children both in the short and the long-term. I visit two or three times a year, each time either self-funding or being sponsored through donor air miles.

Now we know what makes a real and sustainable difference we concentrate on setting out to protect small children concentrating on:

  1. empowering women, and men and communities
  2. aiming for geographical areas within South Africa where small children are even more vulnerable due to isolation and/or the HIV/AIDS epidemic

We have worked all across the north of the country, and more recently into the east and south.

Governance
We have a properly constituted Board with regular meetings with a set agenda including finances, projects, fundraising, and publicity actions. We have a set of policies that are highlighted on the website and we record everything, have robust and noted debates and our trustees keep a weather eye on activities, projects, fundraising, income, and expenditure.
The Board meets every three months and the meeting in July or September is our AGM where we sign off the accounts and reappoint any trustees whose time is due –we reappointed the original three trustees in September 2008 and again in 2011.

Funds & Fundraising
For most of the first year we worked on donations from family, friends, trustee fundraising, and some basic external fundraising. From the outset funding has been made available through a single donor for my travel – initially in air miles and subsequently through restricted donations specifically for my travel. This has enabled me to build relationships and plan projects, small at first, with our partners in SA and has been absolutely critical to our growing success.

During that first year I wrote and submitted 36 external funding applications all to no avail. Our big initial breakthrough was in February 2006 when a single donor was so moved by the plight of the small children that we were offered a very large donation spread over 3 years. After that we started to gain more and more donors.

We now gratefully receive funds from all over the place and have a very treasured relationship with Bright Future Trust [ http://www.bright-future.org.uk ], Persula [ http://www.persula.org/aboutus.html ] and the Souter Trust as well as out many personal and small business donors .

We are endlessly grateful for the faith placed in us by all these generous people.

Publicising our work in the UK
We publish an annual newsletter in print and circulate it through Royal Mail. It is well received and, to date has more than covered its costs through the additional funds it attracts. In October 2008 we were shortlisted for Guardian Small Charity of the year; unfortunately we didn’t win but to be shortlisted from over 600 charities was a real boost for us

We have amazing support for our website which is tirelessly managed, at no cost to us, by Gay Jennions – it is regularly updated and we receive copywriting and design advice from Abbe Opher … another of our critical friends! We know the website is visited by many people from NZ, USA, Australia, SA, and UK. Whoever you are, and wherever you are – welcome!

Who does the work?
Apart from a paid book keeper, an accountant who does the financial sections of the annual and some unavoidable administrative costs all the work is freely undertaken by the Board. We are fortunate to have an amazing array of skills and expertise within the Board and outside all of whom act as a challenging group of critical and supportive friends

Our trustees take various supporting roles:

We are also extremely fortunate to have external support from our Patrons Dr Chai Patel, Baroness Joan Walmsley and Lord John Lee who promote our ‘cause’ whenever they can.

This all means that we can spend 97% of all donations on our project work with partners in South Africa.

Lesley Rudd
Chief Executive
the infant trust

Lesley and Claudia

 

 

Lesley and Claudia at Melville House, Johannesburg. April 2005

 

[1] http://www.princesstrust.com



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Our project locations

Map of South Africa

To date, with the help of DHL, we have sent from the UK to South Africa, over 2,500 soft toys for vulnerable children. The outpouring of love and donations of beautiful soft toys has been quite amazing and we thank every child and parent/guardian who have donated. Each and every toy that we sent will be cherished in their new home. We are now stopping accepting toys because those lovely people at http://theteddytrust.wixsite.com/home do this all the time, again with DHL, and send toys to children all over the world. Any kind people who wish to donate will now be referred to them.

Click here for more information

We are proud and honoured that our work has been recognised by the UK Prime Minister, and that he has given Lesley his Point of Light award, stating
With the Infant Trust Lesley has empowered thousands of women across South Africa to protect and safeguard children in their communities. The education and training she has provided has helped to improve the lives of over 800,000 children, tackling the violence and abuse that affects too many of them in their early years. As we mark International Women’s Day this week I am delighted to recognise all that Lesley has done.”
You can find the full story at https://www.pointsoflight.gov.uk/2268-2/


Why are so many small children abused by male perpetrators in South Africa? Our researcher interviewed 27 perpetrators in prison in South Africa; all are in jail after being found guilty of some of the most terrible crimes against some of the most vulnerable children – some as young as a few days old. Those interviewed are all men aged between 16 years and 84 years old, and all have brutalised and raped at least one child. But the findings aren’t maybe what we might expect – it makes interesting reading.  We have been funding research into this for 5 years and it is finally finished and published – you can read the summary here

Our flagship Caring for Crèches programme has reached into some of the poorest communities in five of the nine provinces in South Africa and we have crèche leaders everywhere clamouring for the training. We have now trained over 2,200 people and they in turn have already positively impacted on the lives of over 160,000 children … and will continue to help many hundreds more children for years to come


Just once in a while, amongst all the amazing work that is done to help children in South Africa, we come across a shining star. One such is Wilhelmina who determined to setup a refuge for abandoned children.
Newsletter The report from our most recent visit to South Africa

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