A Peep into the Past….. 25 years – who would have thought we would have come this far…
Looking back over the years and getting young people contacting us on Facebook, Linkedin, mobiles, and bumping into them in the street – all these children have a story – they are all a reminder of the Grace of God in the very essence of the work of Place of Restoration/Give a Child a Family.
Thousands of children and families – event though we may not have kept track of all of them and the impact that the work has had, there’s no telling what kindness, care and love shown to these children over the years have meant in their walk of healing and restoration.
So it started by being exposed to a children’s home in 1977 in Pietermaritzburg, and the devastation that I saw in the faces of these children, who were taken away from families, because of abuse, abandonment, and trauma, and yet the only thing they wanted was to be with the very person that may have caused them the worst harm.
Desire (not her real name) was one of these girls – she was so excited when her mother called to tell her that she will visit her on Saturday morning.
She was up at 5 at the crack of dawn and she got dressed and went down to the gate pillar and sat there waiting for mom, breakfast came and went, lunchtime came and went and eventually by dusk when it was getting dark, I as a 17 year old caregiver (housemother) had to bring a screaming, kicking child, shouting: “BUT SHE PROMISED – MY MOMMY PROMISED THAT SHE WAS COMING!!!!” – the only comfort that I could provide was warm, loving, arms, while she was ranting and raving, and I just held her tight as if to say – I am here for you, I am sorry for you.
In a state of great despair and anguish – Desire fell asleep in my arms torn apart by the broken promises of her mother.
As I lay her down, praying for the peace of God to fill her, I went to my own bed and face down just started weeping, Oh God this is not possible, this is not fair, it’s not Desire that needs the help it’s her mother.
That was the day I committed myself to fight for healthy, secure families, the day that etched a memory that can never go away.
The system removes the child rather and it helps them believe that it is their fault and they are bad, and leaves the mother, father or perpetrator to carry on with their life as if nothing has happened. Something is wrong somewhere??? Something I have never reconciled myself to.
However all I know is that “every child deserves to have one adult that is crazy about them” it doesn’t matter whether it is a male or female, single or double, short or tall, fat or thin, but children need unconditional love by one person who is going to stick with them to thrive in adulthood.
Some years later Basil and I met and we both had a passion for God, people, children and families.
We dedicated our life to serve God in whatever way he would require. Little did we know that, that came with a price!
We were serving 130 young girls in a rural village at Betania Mission Station near Izotsha, these young girls were schooling nearby the hostel.
We were the supervisors that kept the hostel going to help them get through their school years successfully. These were disturbing times to say the least to live in a “war torn” area in South Africa during the apartheid years – gangsterism and fighting between youth and different factions, (this a book in itself), but for now suffice to say, it was hair raising to see the devastation and brokenness of society displayed.
What I had experienced at the children’s home was now showing itself in society, and abuse was rampant, the young girls would tell us stories of their lives that would make you shudder.
One morning while the dew was still on the roses outside, I was up early as I love the mornings, and up the driveway I see a lady staggering, crying and seemed desperate.
Wrapped in a grey dog-like blanket, and no cover on her head, she breathlessly started sharing her experience in the night.
The gangs hit her home, expecting her to release her daughter to join them, she refused, the daughter jumped out and over somewhere, disappeared and the young men set the hut of this women on fire and gang raped her 16 times over that night, worst of all she was a 69 year old women.
This all led to asking God, - so God what do you want us to do about all this?
The Mission Station was light on the hill, a lighthouse, a place of rescue for many a weary soul, even some 30 women came in the middle of the night, who needed a shelter for a night with their earthly goods on their head, running for their dear lives…
We purchased a caravan (as the family now consisted of 3 girls aged 6 months to 4 years) to get away some weekends.
We managed one extended family holiday for a month and then… a knock on the door and I found Basil speaking to a woman who needed somewhere to stay for a couple of nights, and I was in the background having an ‘argument’ with the Lord, when I heard the suggestion of the caravan, ok God you can have the caravan… 4 caravans later filled with women, children, people - we stopped buying caravans.
One day sitting at church we received a small note all crumpled up with a R20 note in it, and it said ‘the Lord has told me to give this money to you’ - not needing it for ourselves we enquired of God and we felt He said Put it into a savings account for a care centre one day…
One day a lady and I chatted at the side of the pool while we were watching our children swim at school.
She said that she had heard that we really wanted to help women and children, and she indicated that there were many people that also wanted to help – I said “ok, you bring the people and I will make the tea and cakes”.
29 people squashed into our lounge in the Port Shepstone house.
We heard the stories, we heard the desires, we got to talk about our heart, the dreams, the vision, and The Place of Restoration Trust was born in 1992, registered with the Master of the Supreme Court.
We moved from Betania, trained a local pastor and his wife to run the hostel and we moved to a house in Port Shepstone, embarking on this new journey of testing “the need” for a place of safety for children and even mothers.
30 – 40 children landed up in jail in a cell for place of safety if they were 2 years and over, under 2 years the children went to hospital, and stayed there until some of them died… As a family we prayed and felt the Lord say that we should open up our home for these children.
In no time at all we were 27 people living at our house.
Many years later after agonizing about a place to move to – the empty land of Lot 32 Alexander Ave, was to be the home of “The Place of Restoration” POR.
The small R20:00 had grown to R9000:00 in 6 years, but in 6 Weeks R55 000:00 was needed, and God miraculously provided through even some anonymous donations.
Rocks, trees, bush is what met us, but with great conviction after much prayer the building started, “moving mountains”.
When the building started – after Basil getting a vision of what it should look like, and getting the team to start building, there were days where people would stop and park on the pavement and ask “what are you doing here?” our response was a place of safety for children and families, - there were mixed responses, and many – just laughed and said “this will never survive, nothing like this will work on the Coast.”
We felt what I think Noah must have felt building an ark on dry ground, but we kept on persevering – learning to POR “Press on Regardless”.
Registration of a Centre…
The desire to ensure that the children were not stuck in the system, there was a constant and persistent process with the Department to keep the Place of Safety (POS) Concept (Shelter) as this was not normal for Non-Government Organisations to provide POS – (this was deemed as a government role). However with much effort and prodding – POR was granted Shelter Status and not registered as a Children’s Home.
Breakthrough – because this meant that children wouldn’t be committed for long term, they would be able to be moved back home, to new families and or extended families.
“It is the team work that makes the dream work” – the teams have changed over the years, structures of the organogram have changed too, but one thing that has not changed and that is that the passion of the teams.
All the team members throughout the years have been passionate, dedicated and given everything, some to the cost of their well-being and we do not forget that, others have had to move on for their own reasons, but we are really grateful for each and every one that has contributed to this organisation in time, effort, skill and faith.
The logo and visual model of programmes change a number of times, as POR/GCF have defined and refined who they are and what their role in the local, national and international arena is.
… A Glance into the Future
The vision continues to be “Children in Secure Families – it’s where they belong”
The vision continues being refined, shaped and developed further as Child Protection has become an urgent matter to deal with, as we look back at the newspaper articles – the question can be asked “What has changed?” “Have we just maintained?” “What are we going to do to bring real change?” Give a Child a Family does not want to work with a form of “tokenism” but bring real change.
This is where there is still so much to do and the role of advocacy is ever before us, we really want to see children safe and secure in all their spaces, be family. Watch this space!!!
As an NGO we were challenged with the sustainability of keeping the organisation going, and how we could look at becoming self-sustainable.
It seemed easy – Training, we had the programmes, we had the skills, the knowledge, the registered courses and the material, and of course everybody would be falling over themselves to do this training and we would be abuzz…
But alas, it was not to be – challenges that started hitting the NGO’s, funding, departments did their own training, and like with everything in life… it’s smart work, not just hard work, it’s blood sweat and tears, and perseverance, so again although GCF believes in Capacity Building, Mentoring, and Self Development through Dialoguing and Workshops, Strengthening Families empowering communities, helping children to protect themselves, promoting the background checks for teachers, policies for churches – to ensure that children are safe and secure at all times, - there is still so much more we desire to do and look forward to the next 25 years.
Africa is calling – our children can wait no more!!! They are growing up, aggressive, angry, hurting, and hungry while the cycles perpetuate.