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Report from the visit of Lesley and Liz to South Africa, March 2013.

Extreme violence, abuse and poverty – in several provinces in SA 49% of all the population live below the poverty line - are evident on any of our trips to South Africa. On our latest visit the newspapers have been full, every day, of stories of violence, brutality and rape. Despite this I also witnessed great spirit. There are tremendous people on the ground helping to ease the plight of little ones, and I have no doubt the work we are doing it to support them is worth every penny.

Whilst in Johannesburg we met the ladies at Kids R Special, who use puppets to do awareness-raising campaigns about abuse and protecting yourself. They are keen to start an anti-bullying puppet show, and also to translate their current shows into more of the local dialects. We will consider a small grant to help them get what seems a really worthwhile project off the ground.

HelpingWhen Liz and I caught up with the good people at Childline NW in Potchefstroom we heard an enormous catalogue of disasters they have had to deal with - a lady who killed herself and her child with rat poison, various suicides, repeated rapes on the same child because social welfare didn’t act after the first rape, rape being reported and then police being bribed to ‘lose’ the docket by the perpetrator, and more. To cap it all they had no water throughout the city and all surrounding areas for five days.

The learners we met in Potch, all crèche leaders attending our Caring for Crèches programme, told us what was most important to them; for almost all it was the information about HIV/AIDs as well as recognising and acting on abuse.  It was obvious that they not only valued the training very highly, but that they had learned a huge amount, and it would all be useful.

There is horrendous violence in the mining and farming communities in this province, some of which has reached the international media, but still carries on although the media don’t report much anymore. I agreed with Childline that they would not try to do training in the worst affected communities although, of course, that is where it is most needed.

We met the formidable Germa in Imisebeyelanga; she has finally secured funding for them after camping on the doorstep of the provincial government, and by organising a march on the offices of the lottery that had failed to pay out agreed grants.  Why should they have to do this when the money was agreed in 2011?

So, now they are steaming ahead with major plans for training ECD [crèche] leaders at Level 4, 5 and Diploma – like our NVQs and Foundation degrees. They put leaders through an on-the-ground mentoring and development programme so that they can stand as examples of how to set up and run crèches. These centres will then help anyone who wants to set up or improve a crèche, ensuring that knowledge is spread.Mogudu

We headed off to Mogodu, the children’s refuge we have supported since 2008. They didn’t get the lottery money they were promised either and have been barely surviving in intense heat with hardly any water and none of the money they are entitled to. To cap it all a social worker turned up one day a couple of weeks ago to remove 12 children who she said had to be returned to their families despite all of them having been removed because they were so badly ill-treated as babies. At Mogodu they know that one 4 year old boy who lived with them since babyhood is again left alone all day, locked in a shack, while his mother sources money for her addiction.  

On to meet the folks from Johannesburg Child Welfare.  Because of the overwhelming need they have started therapy groups for 10-12 year old boys who have raped, or attempted to rape, and another group for 6 year old boys who have done unspeakable things to smaller children; of course all these boys have already been exposed to extreme violence, some having been raped themselves.

We scooted off to Ekupholeni to meet the saintly and wonderful Antje and Sarah, her newest support and helpmate.  At Ekupholeni they have a huge demand for all their children’s therapy groups. They also have significant success stories – all the earlier Ghetto Boyz we supported now are either in school or vocational education or employment.  

TrainingAlso on this trip we visited Port Elizabeth, and were escorted by a couple of the trainers from our Caring for Crèches [C4C] programme into townships targeted by Childline because of rising numbers of neglected and abused children.  We heard horrendous stories of very young children being left to fend for themselves by alcoholic mothers.  Yet again, it is the women who run these crèches who provide such an astonishing and vital service, and it is such a privilege to give them some help and a few skills through the Caring for Crèches programme.    

At Childline in Mpumalanga province we met Benita, the Director, Joyce, the Training Manager and Busi, one of the C4C trainers.  These are the people that had all their work with orphans and vulnerable children evaluated by USAid last year and got a resounding gold star, so much so that they have got another $7m over the next 5 years. They are the only Childline office to get such funds.  Our project was one of the bits of the jigsaw puzzle USAid assessed and they declared it as having an “enormous impact” ….. although we have known this for many months both anecdotally and through our evaluations, it is truly special to have outside advisers identify and single out the impact of our project – we are thrilled!

As ever we visited crèches where our C4C has proven to be so helpful, and went through all the data and reporting that is so scrupulously kept by Childline. Too many stories of violence and brutality emerge but at least it has provided the impetus for more intense and comprehensive work to be done.

As a result of the formal evaluation USAid and the local department of social development are talking about funding the [our!] Caring for Crèches project into the future. Childline just need funding from us for another six months to keep the work going while they formally sign agreements with these other agencies. This we can and willingly will do.

It is amazing! There will be a future for this project here so even when we withdraw the work and impact will continue.

Lesley Rudd
Chief Executive

the infant trust



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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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