UkuThemba Children’s Home Of Hope
By Vanessa Papas: Family is everything but many children in South Africa will never know what ‘home’ feels like. Born HIV positive Robert (not his real name) was abandoned in hospital in August 1998. He was sent to Nazareth House Children’s Home at just two weeks old. On the day he arrived a volunteer at the home named Jenny met him and immediately the two formed an unbreakable bond. When Robert turned six months old he was allowed to go home with Jenny every weekend. He soon became very much a part of Jenny and her family’s life and a decision was taken to foster him but a family tragedy delayed the process.
Desperate to find a solution, Kim Killeen a close family friend (who had met Robert as a baby) and Jenny, sat down and spoke about ways they could give Robert a normal childhood, as well as the thousands of other babies and toddlers that were in need of a forever home. And so Ukuthemba Foundation came into being. Robert went on to live at Ukuthemba. He went to the local school where he excelled in art, drama and loved playing football. In 2015 he flew to London as a guest at an annual charity ball where he made a speech about his life and got a standing ovation from the audience, who could not quite believe he was so eloquent and confident enough to speak in front of 200 people. Last year, Robert was the first child in the Ukuthemba family to write his matric examinations and received excellent results especially in Art and Drama. His artwork is displayed in the school and outside the principal’s office. He is now taking a well-earned gap year and contemplating his future studies.
There are many babies, toddlers and children like Robert who were born into tragic circumstances but have found a home at Ukuthemba, based in Cape Town. The Foundation rescues these children and places them within a loving family unit (rather than large orphanages); these families consist of around six children with a house mother. This alternative approach to housing the children provides a home- like environment where they can be nurtured, attending local schools and be integrated into society, with the emphasis being on love, education and protection. This year, the Foundation is opening their sixth home and are looking into opening a half way home for the young adults who have finished studying and are entering the work force or doing further studies. This home will be a gentle support and stepping stone for these adults who are starting out in the world, want some independence but are not left to fend for themselves, which can be quite a scary process.
“Ukuthemba is a Xhosa word which means to believe, trust and hope. It is one of those words that is not easy to define because it represents the essence of all that we cherish in humanity, in the absence of which we find heartbreak and despair. Fortunately, through the work of our organisation and with the assistance of people like you, those born into despair can be raised to believe that there is hope and this is our sacred trust,” says Kim. “Since we started in 2006, we are now seeing some of the children grow up into wonderful young people, while maintaining their very important place in the family unit. Without this care they may not have survived, thrived or completed their education, like many children and young people living in South Africa. This work is vital for young South Africans who are the future of our country and we look to the community for their support.
Pay It Forward
MSC Cruises – the market leading cruise company in South Africa – is a proud supporter of Ukuthemba. Between 28 to 30 April, MSC will be hosting a weekend on board the MSC Sinfonia for a trip to nowhere (kids welcome or choose a romantic weekend for two). There will be great entertainment, glamorous black tie dinner, an auction with some incredible items to be bid in, dancing, blackjack tournament and a packed programme for your kids.. Proceeds will go directly towards Ukuthemba, to assist the Foundation in the work they do. In addition to supporting the fundraising event, or providing financial aid (banking details can be found on their website), you can sponsor one of their children and actively contribute to their future by setting up a standing order on your bank account, or help the Foundation fulfil their wish list. Items needed include linen, boys and girls clothing and shoes, cooking pots, educational toys, school books, pencil cases and stationary, baby/children’s cereal/juice/tea, toiletries.. For more information on reservations and on the Foundation, e-mail sarah at [email protected] or log onto www.ukuthemba.org.