Report of Lesley's Visit to South Africa, March 2006:

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This time I went with Liz Williams, one of our trustees and it was excellent not only to have her with me, but to see things anew through her eyes.  We were joined for much of the week by Bronwen Biles who is a nurse living and working in Johannesburg and who is extremely interested in our work.  We are talking about how she can help and support our mission.

Lesley and Liz with some children

Photo: Shane Robinson

I guess one of the most moving things for me was to see how both Liz and Bron were as affected as I am by not only the plight of such little things, but to see the dreadful impact that abuse can have on a child.  It gives a new focus, and level of determination each time we come across the terrible effects on individual children.

This visit was to meet old friends and set up some substantial projects with new partners; so to our first visit.

Topsy Sanctuary

We went again to Topsy, this time to meet Elizabeth [social worker] and several outreach workers who are helping local people in the townships.  They are very stretched and can only visit or work with those most in need – many children are involved as so many parents and extended families have died from HIV/AIDs.  The workers do many things like visit the sick, make sure children have eaten or been to school, or drop off food parcels, or encourage self-sufficiency, or get access to clean water [there are no inside taps or toilets], or help people with welfare applications or just be a friendly face.

Topsy children These are some of the local township children near to Topsy - they were trying to be very fierce


We are setting up some training for the 17 community and day care workers for them to understand all the issues around child protection, what to do if they suspect incidents and how to best help the children


We are commissioning CATTS to do quite a lot of work on our behalf.  They are part of the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society and are experts in the treatment of abused children; they also have a training arm which is what we are working with.  Yashmita and Bridgit, very experienced themselves in child abuse work, will be developing and delivering all the training programmes and packs we are working on. We spent quite a lot of time talking with them all about the different programmes.

The entrance to CATTS The entrance to CATTS Tashmita and Bridget Yashmita and Bridgit

The Teddy Bear Clinic

We have been here before as well, and are aiming to support their work in whatever way fits the needs of their clients.  This is a unique and highly regarded specialist clinic that provides services aimed at the prevention, identification, treatment and support of child victims of sexual crimes. They work hard to bring the perpetrators to justice as well as treating the children.  One of their big problems is helping the children and families to access the care and support available to them. Many people have no money for travel. 


We plan to pay their client travel costs for three years.

Sinakekelwe Thutuzela [Zulu word for Crisis Centre]

Again we visited the centre as we are going to support these very good people to a high degree.  Just to recap, they serve a very poverty stricken area of 2.5 million people, there was huge violence and mayhem here in the early 90’s and the community is only just beginning to settle, There is very high migration here from other countries and other provinces so there is much internecine fighting.  Women and girls are not safe and on the day we visited we heard of two 7 year olds who had been savagely attacked and raped.  Not nice. The Thutuzela is where people go after such incidents. In our actions here we will also be including volunteers from other centres to get as many people through the training as we can, it is so vital to the wellbeing of abused children but also for the women themselves to provide them with skills and knowledge that are a route to empowerment, independence and paying work. And we have found a wonderful role model for our volunteers. This is Martha.

Martha Martha could get no work after she had her children very young. She was taken on at Sinakekelwe as a volunteer 3 days a week, and came to the centre 5 days because "it gave her a reason to get up in the morning". The stipend attached to the volunteers work kept her going and just solvent. Gradually she trained and learned things and was given first a p/t then a f/t job. She is now one of the senior careworkers and is feisty and loving and considerate and very clear about how to help. She is what we aim for in supporting and training volunteers.

We are funding the stipends for up to 18 additional volunteers over the next three years and are offering them all, and others, training on working in centres, child protection and dealing with distraught children, legal proceedings and report writing and what volunteering is all about.  CATTS is doing this training for us in consultation with Sinakekelwe staff.

Childline South Africa

We met again with Joan van Niekerk – head honcho of Childline SA – and heard much that is too distressing to repeat about incidents, numbers rising and little being done for children in great need.  One of the most telling stats is that of Limpopo where the number of child-headed families is enormous, and the population of the province is now 53% children. 53% !! One of the main problems for the province is the traffic of people - it is the main route from Zimbabwe and the north into South Africa.  It is very violent and turbulent due to the mix of people.


We will be supporting the development and set-up of a new day care facility for little children from child-headed families so the older children can go to school without fearing for their younger siblings.  Currently the little ones either have to be left alone or the older ones do not go to school. We will be paying for the stipend of 5 different volunteers over 3 years and their training.

Epworth Children’s Home

This is the registered home that we have already given a grant to. We visited not only to say Hello, but also to sort out how we might support them further.  Epworth is a registered home for up to 90 very damaged children from 4 years of age.

Penny Lundie Penny Lundie, the Epworth Manager Liz and Bron Liz and Bron

At Epworth they aim to place all children in a foster home within 2 years but are increasingly finding that children are too badly damaged, psychologically, to settle so quickly in a family; they have begun a new programme that has been tried elsewhere and been successful.  The child is bonded with a family who act as host and support for as many days as possible in the year.  The child’s home stays at Epworth but the family begins to know and support and love the child.  This has proved very successful and gives the child a growing sense of self esteem and importance.  It has been found that around 40% of the host families do result in permanent fostering arrangements.


We are paying half the costs to recruit, develop, support and maintain 11 host families a year for three years.

Boikarabelo [previously Botshebela]

We visited again with Trevor Field from the Roundabout Play Pumps. This is extraordinary and wonderful countryside in the middle of mountains and farm land; and there is this place of 400 acres to which 223 damaged street children have found their way, and where they help to be healed both physically and psychologically.  So many stories to tell - I’ll stick to one this time.

A child-headed family walked over 800 miles from Zimbabwe to this farm.  They endured hunger, beatings, rape and other abuse.  All but one is HIV+. They are 12 years, 9 years, 6 years and 4 years old.  How did they find it ? Who knows.  They say it is much better than what they left, and that, for the rest of their remaining lives [which will be short for three of them] they are happy.

Child drinking form a playpump Drinking fresh water supplied from the Playpump.

Photo: Shane Robinson


We have and will continue to give ad hoc grants to them for urgent equipment, or even for food when they run out.  They have to prepare 27,000 meals a month. And Bronwen has offered her nursing skills one day a week for nothing.  It’s that sort of place.

I have to give recognition to one more person, and that is Pierre.  He has been my driver each time I visited now [it is far too dangerous for a single {or 2 or 3} woman to be driving around the places we go] and is not only helpful and flexible and sits in the sun waiting for us for hours, but he knows all the roads and is the source of a great deal of ‘insider’ knowledge of the country and what makes it tick.

And so we returned.

Lots of work to do, lots to plan and undertake but so exciting and worthwhile.

Lesley Rudd

Our project locations

Map of South Africa

We are not sending any more toys to South Africa. If you would like to donate then please contact the lovely people at:

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
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 .

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