Report of Lesley’s visit, March 2010
This visit to South Africa was as emotional as any other. I saw some great work being done but learnt more about the suffering of young children.
Visiting the Ghetto Boyz at Ekupholeni was quite an experience. This is a football project diverting teenage boys away from crime including abuse. I sat in on a workshop with the boys, who were joined by Mothers, Aunts, and Grannies. No fathers were to be seen. They explained how getting into a gang gave a sense of belonging. These teenagers – some guilty of heinous crimes – had little awareness of the impact of the crimes on their victims. They’re looked after by Happy. He could hardly read and write when he became soccer coach in 2005 but is now a qualified auxiliary social worker.
And I was pleased to delight all the boys and their coaches with some fantastic football shirts, kindly donated by Slough Town FC. I agreed we would sponsor 5 boys for tertiary evening classes later in the year – at £22 per boy. It seems right that having supported them this far we should go this next stage in our diversion ideals. See the boys in their new kit!.
I visited our crèche in northern Limpopo. This is a vast area of isolated farms. The tiniest of tots are suffering abuse in an environment where rape and incest are common. ‘Our’ crèche is now looking after more than five dozen children. The youngest is 8 months old. They agreed to take him so his mother could return to school; she is 14 years old and her child is small and undernourished. Childline hope to have the crèche self-sufficient by March 2011. We could then help them to start another one.
Priscilla, the Head of Childline in Limpopo, is planning to get the Caring for Crèches training programme up and running in Limpopo told me some awful things have been uncovered in local crèches recently. She said the hospital had appointed a new paediatrician because of all the problems. I have suggested the Limpopo trainer, Dorcas, gets experience with Lesego, the experienced Caring for Crèches trainer from North West province so that she can get the programme underway in Limpopo province. All we need is the funds!
I had a chat with Kgauhelo who is doing important research for us. She is interviewing perpetrators, ranging from 16 year olds to much older men. Several things are becoming clear from her work -- it is rare for perpetrators to go to prison because of the lack of reliable testimony and physical evidence, police and magistrates tend towards a dismissal, alcohol is used as both an excuse for appalling behaviour and a prop to give courage for men, and there are far higher and unreported numbers of abuse than we have seen so far.
A big problem for us is the decline in the value of sterling. We get less rand for our pounds. The wide ranging Imisebeyelanga programme is among those to feel the brunt of our cutbacks. They have progressed really well, gaining lottery and other grants, so we are hopeful the withdrawal of some funding from us will not destabilise them.
The women on the current course here had prepared a little play. Along with the banners and singing was a chant of “no more abuse.” It was truly moving.
The children on one of the programmes we have recently started to support, in Mogodu Children’s Home, survive from hand to mouth in tumble down buildings that leak profusely every time it rains. The water stand pipe hadn’t been working for days but they do now have earth latrines and I when I went I saw some scrawny chickens running around. The ages of the children range from a 4 year old with a very sad history to an 18 year old who talks a bit about what her “brothers” did to her for years. For all of them it appeared that security counted more than the quality of their surroundings. At least our money will buy basic food – and survival – for the next year.
In Mpumalanga province scores more crèche leaders have now been trained by Childline but the reporting of crimes to police can mean they are ostracised and even attacked by some perpetrators. One crèche lady had her house burnt.
Also disturbing are the many reports of the trafficking of children for sex. Children are snatched and disappear.
And the World Cup could bring problems. Parents and guardians who manage to get tickets for a match may leave their children at home alone and at risk. And school has been cancelled for 6 weeks, removing a place of refuge.
I saw our old friends at Johannesburg Child Welfare Society, running their day care centre for street girls. Through them we have funded more and more people to be trained to recognise abuse.
I also went to the Othandweni orphanage. It is always stuffed full of very sorry little mites; some have very terrible stories accompanying them.
The orphanage at Othandweni has their own choir. It was a joy to hear them. How wonderful it would be if they could ever visit the UK.
The lovely Lesego from Childline North West met me in Ventersdorp where she has just started the latest Caring for Crèches training in the attached township/squatter camps. She introduced me to a Pastor who, over the past 12 months, has started three crèches for more than 140 small children. I visited his church and crèche. What a building! His wife was there and four delightful small children as bright as buttons and giggling lots. As we said our goodbyes they asked me to take a picture of them; they can’t afford a camera and have no picture of themselves. They stood outside this ramshackle building, held hands, and beamed at each other. With people like this, anything is possible.
the infant trust