A Chance to Play at Thembalethu
The Chance to Play project was set up to create play opportunities through partner organisations in Gauteng, Limpopo and Port Elizabeth in order to leave a legacy after the 2010 Soccer World Cup. When it comes to Thembalethu in Joubert Park, this initiative has become ingrained in the daily life of the children at the centre.
Thembalethu, a centre initiated by Jo’burg Child Welfare providing support, guidance and training to the women and children in the inner-city, is situated in the Drill Hall in Joubert Park. Just next door to the venue is a basketball area, which offers the kids living in the high-rise buildings in the city an opportunity to enjoy physical activity with the Chance to Play project, while receiving life skills training from the centre. Approximately 53% of the homes in this area consist of three or less rooms which leaves very little space for children to play so the court at Thembalethu is well-utilised and is a popular playground – more than 100 children access the facility on any given day.
A Chance to Play at Thembalethu is but one of the many projects which Jo’burg Child Welfare has initiated. Others are:
•Advocacy initiatives, which aim to give children a voice and have, in the different areas, shown success, for example, Jo’burg Child Welfare’s support for the ACESS campaign (Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security) advocating for the extension of access of the Child Support Grant to children up to age 18 has been won and kids of all ages now have access to the grant.
•Lobbying against Human Trafficking, which Jo’burg Child Welfare takes very seriously and continues to be involved with activities, campaigns and networks dealing with the issues regarding human trafficking.
•The Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Forum, which is run by Jo’burg Child Welfare and provides assistance to more than 60 Community-Based Organisations, helping them build capacity so that they are able to effectively operate and with good governance, ultimately reaching a point of sustainability by successfully servicing the children within their own areas of operation.
The Jo’burg Child Welfare provides various services through their specific units, which provide the organisation with numerous platforms from which to run and/or support child-related campaigns and projects. There are the Child and Family Unit (CFU), Foster Care and Reintegration Services Unit, Child Abuse Treatment and Training Services Unit and the Aganang Training Centre. Jo’burg Child Welfare also manages some of the city’s most reputed centres, for example the Princess Alice Adoption Home, which is a place of safety for 30 babies that have been abandoned, consented for adoption or placed under order from the children’s court; the Othandweni Family Care Centre in Soweto which is home to 30 babies and toddlers in the nursery and a further 60 children who live in Cottages on the property; the Elton John Masibambisane Centre in Eldorado Park that caters to the needs of 200 children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable through HIV/AIDS; and finally the Thembalethu Centre situated in the heart of Johannesburg.
Yet, the continued success of Jo’burg Child Welfare and its projects, services and facilities hinges on places like Thembalethu running effectively, therefore enabling them to be safe havens for the children of Johannesburg. Aileen Langley, Assistant Director Jo’burg Child Welfare comments, “We deal with numerous challenges. We never have enough resources such as food and shelter, adequate health services, rehabilitation centres and safe havens – we lack decent access to existing services, simple things which create big issues for example, a mother may come to us in a destitute state and we don’t want to split the family up so we’ll send her to the Department of Social Development for a basic child grant and the office will already be closed for the day – this mother could barely scrape together the money to catch a taxi to the Department let alone find the will power to go through the process again. Extreme poverty has a big impact on accountability and ownership – if you’re barely surviving how do you find the motivation to rise above your circumstances? Funding is also always a big challenge.”
What it Looks Like When it’s Fixed: The Best Life for Every Child project, hosted by Jo’burg Child Welfare and the City of Johannesburg Region F, will look at alleviating many of the challenges. This new and inspired initiative to create a safe environment in and around the inner-city its children and the community, as a whole, will essentially produce an action plan from a series of workshops facilitated by Dr Barbara Holtmann, founder of Transforming Fragile Social Systems and author of What it looks like when it’s fixed, which will see stakeholders with a vested interest in the city play a role on a collaborative level.
The collaborative workshops will involve people and organisations, in both the public and corporate sector, who have a vested interest in fixing up the city for the children of Jo’burg.
Along with the City of Johannesburg Region F, who is a lead partner on the project, other interested stakeholders, big and small, are either already on board or are invited to join, such as businesses, schools, hospitals, NGOs, government, community leaders and members, children from the area and junior city councils, to name some.
The workshops, which take place on 31st July 2012 and 28th / 29th August 2012, will culminate in a very special piece of software containing the vision of the inner-city when it’s fixed and the practical steps that need to be taken for this to become a reality. The software will be handed over to the Mayor of Johannesburg on 21st September 2012 just before Heritage Day and will ultimately become an online portal that will be utilised with maximum effect to build a better inner-city, one that all of Jo’burg’s children can feel safe in.
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