Building hope for our Nation's children
While South African NGOs continue their good work in transforming South Africa by providing support to the nation’s less advantaged citizens, others choose to shake the already shaky foundation upon which our society is based. Did you know that 70% of children’s services in this country are supported by NGOs and while radicals continue to expend negative energy blowing things out of proportion on the likes of “bad-taste” lyrics or “offensive” art works, the do-gooder organisations continue to contribute positive energy to a transformed nation, and they have been doing so for at least the last century.
Take for instance the Jo’burg Child Welfare; it has been in existence for just over 100 years now and was founded by a group of concerned citizens back in 1909 under the auspices of the Children’s Aid Society, after the mayoress discovered destitute children living on the streets of the then mining town and took them into her home. The organisation offered emergency intervention in situations of destitution, abuse and neglect, which continues to be the core of Jo’burg Child Welfare today. The organisation has reached out to numerous children and families over the last century. “To set the scene in outline, with my Jo’burg Child Welfare experience, it is gratifying to note that the organisation directly and indirectly reaches, in Gauteng, some 65000 orphaned, vulnerable and abused children, annually. It works closely and beneficially with some 67 Gauteng community-based organisations and over its 104-year existence it has a nonpareil record of governance,” comments Brian King, Chairperson of Jo’burg Child Welfare and continues, “Jo’burg Child Welfare ever monitors and responds properly to areas of need, both obvious and incipient. It has innovated productively, setting up facilities in the early 1990’s to cater for the emerging problem of child-headed households; it has established formal training facilities to begin to address the major national problem of social worker scarcity; it started dealing with the issues relating to ‘compromised attachment’ (Judith Ancer – Sunday Times, 3rd June) a few years ago by introducing new care systems with Gogo’s and local communities. This and so much more has been achieved by Jo’burg Child Welfare and the organisation is by no means unique in doing this as equally important family/community work is carried out by other organisations such as Ikamva Labuntu, Ubuntu, Noah, Africa Tikkun and a host of others.”
The point is, as a society and a fractured one at that, it might just be time that we stop harping on about the past and begin to focus our energies on moving forward while in the process overcoming the more crucial challenges and realising positive outcomes. In doing this, we may, as a collective nation, actually rise out of our damaged landscape and begin to build a better, brighter future; one of substance for our children. We need to stop whinging and start taking action. Our NGOs struggle to do it alone but with vested interest from a collective Johannesburg and, indeed, South Africa, one can only imagine how powerfully transforming that would be. “We are all part of the collective. We all have a role to play. Society tends to turn their backs on the homeless, the abused and the poor, seeing them as ‘a problem’, separate from themselves. Yet, they are all part of us. We need to change our attitude and embrace our collective responsibility,” comments Aileen Langley, Assistant Director, Jo’burg Child Welfare.
With emphasis recently placed on the South African youth in the month of June – to celebrate 15 June’s Youth Day – and currently on Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July, it’s the perfect time to acknowledge the fact that our country’s upliftment begins with its communities reaching out to its children, for when youngsters are nurtured and guided correctly through life they become adults able to connect with their environment and play a positive role in society. Sadly, South Africa is home to a large percentage of unloved and unwanted children, who ultimately become hardened, uncaring adults. We need to recognise this and break the cycle – nurture our children and raise conscientious citizens. “All children, whether abused, neglected or abandoned want a sense of belonging. Preferably with their own family and when that is not possible, a substitute family. Children will go hungry and endure the most terrible hardships, abdicating their basic human rights to be with their families. I believe that this is why we need a new approach to children and child protection; we need to prevent the neglect of children at a primary level and engage with families, communities and relevant resources before children land on our doorstep,” says Langley and adds, “We have endeavoured to develop programmes to do just this; Traditional Statutory services, A Chance to Play, Your Child is my Child and community training, including years of engagement with traditional healers, but so much more has to be done. The Best Life for a Child programme, which we have currently initiated, may be the most effective solution yet as it is an innovative and holistic approach to creating a platform for all those committed to the safety of our children and families.”
The bottom line is while NGOs continue to recognise and tirelessly work at patching up the cracks in our fractured society; it needs South African citizens, as a whole, to finish the job. Langley remarks, “So many children fall through these cracks as they are not reported to the relevant authorities and even when they are reported they do not receive the necessary intervention due to high caseloads or lack of expertise in the welfare field. These unattended children are the ones who land up on our streets, becoming beggars or criminals to survive.”
So, instead of whinging about the increase in crime, or the homeless people begging on the street corner, or the lack of social welfare services, why not do what the NGOs have been doing for the last 10 decades and take responsibility; take action and just imagine the power behind collective accountability.
More about Jo’burg Child Welfare’s new project, Best Life for Every Child
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, is a new and inspired initiative to create a safe environment in and around Joubert Park for Thembalethu, its children and the community, as a whole. It 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 Joubert Park when it’s fixed and the practical steps that need to be taken for this to become a reality – best of all is the model can be used again and again for other areas needing intervention. The software will be handed over to the Mayor of Johannesburg on 21st September 2012 just before Heritage Day 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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