Whilst you are sitting in the comfort of your home reading this article either in the magazine, or online on your phone or computer, I would like you to take a moment to appreciate your home, your kids and/or your grandchildren, and what they all mean to you and how important their wellbeing and safety is to you.
This month I want to introduce you to the Durban Child & Youth Care Centre (DCYCC) - formerly the Durban Children’s Homes, one of the oldest “children’s homes” in Durban. This NGO strives to provide a safe, nurturing and loving environment for children who are less fortunate than most of the ones you know. The children who are cared for at DCYCC come from all over KZN and are all “wards of the court”, either because they are orphaned; victims of emotional, physical or sexual abuse; victims of neglect; or because their own home situation is so toxic that the court has found the need to remove them from that environment.
The Durban Children’s Homes were established in 1905 and after several re-locations, were finally settled in their present position in Lena Ahrens Road (formerly Manning Road) in Glenwood, in 1908. There are two sites – the one at 222 has the administration offices; Khayalisha House - meaning “Our Home”- for adolescent boys; and Amaqhawe Care Centre - meaning “Little Heroes”, honouring all the DCYCC children who succumbed, through no fault of their own, to HIV before the effective modern treatments were available. Amaqhawe houses the younger children, from 2 to 11 years old. The other site is at 265/7, and has Saunders House for children between the ages of 5 and 12; SAWAS House that was originally built as accommodation for the South African Woman’s Auxilliary Service but which now is home for the adolescent girls, who each have their own room – a special thing for a teenage girl! Also on this site, Siyakula Treatment Centre is a facility that provides youngsters between the ages of 11 and 17, with a unique, child-care response, 12 week residential programme for the treatment of substance abuse/addiction, with the focus on learning new life skills so that they can cope with their circumstances and channel their skills to live a meaningful life.
When I sat down with Mandy Goble who has been the Director of DCYCC for thirty years, to find out more about the organisation, she told me about the challenges that the centre is facing in the current tough economic climate. Apart from the need to provide a comfortable environment for the 74 children that are in residence, all those children need a balanced, nutritious diet; school uniforms and leisure clothes; toiletries and personal items; transport to and from school; as well as qualified and committed staff to care for them. All these expenses are over-whelming and it is only thanks to private and corporate donations in cash and in provisions, that supplement the government grant money for each child, that the DCYCC is able to keep up with its care for these desperately needy kids, but it is a day-to-day worry. KFC’s “Give Hope” scheme also supports the centre, so next time you get KFC, please make sure that you contribute R2.00 to this worthy cause. The National Lottery Commission does give them a donation, but it is much reduced from what it was previously and is project-specific, so cannot be used for day-to-day expenses. (I know art and sport are important, but I am sorry, in my opinion, the wellbeing of children in need should be more of a priority!) And then there are the repairs and maintenance of the buildings, remembering that three of the main houses are well over 100 years old, and SAWAS is 80+ years old. The buildings’ brick structures are solid (as were all houses built in those times) but the timber components are ravaged by wood borer and have to be constantly monitored for deterioration. The one house desperately needs a new roof, but the cost is beyond the reach of DCYCC at the present time.
Despite the challenges that are faced daily at DCYCC, the staff are upbeat and dedicated to making a difference in the children’s lives, and they have made such a difference to thousand of children who have spent time there. There are wonderful success stories, my favourite being that of a previous protege who is now an attorney and is Deputy Chairman of the DCYCC board! I think that it is so inspiring that this young man recognises how DCYCC helped him and is now giving back to the organisation.
The entire focus of the DCYCC programme is for the children to be reunited with their family as soon as possible, so staff work with the children, providing them with capacity and strength-building programmes, as well as assisting the family to address the problems that caused the child to be separated from them in the first place. Extended family members and the community are also involved - the old African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is very true and fortunately the ubuntu spirit is still strong in most communities in South Africa.
If you would like to assist DCYCC in any way, see their advert on Page ? or visit their website – www.dch.org.za – your help will be greatly appreciated.
All the advertisers on this page have contributed towards a donation to Durban Child & Youth Care Centre. Please support them.