Over the years, our VRCID social team has made an effort to get to know and assist the homeless and destitute citizens within the VRCID. We have developed a particular soft spot for children that have ended up on the street due to neglection at home or becoming involved in drugs.
El-Theos Drop-in Centre for Street Children was founded in May 2018 with the goal to help and support these children. With the assistance of our social team and the Parow Revival Church, El – Theos recently hosted a camp where the children were given the opportunity to reconnect with their parents and caregivers.
Our Social Auxiliary Worker, Jacque Pietersen, worked hand in hand with Tresor and Bijou Bakole, facilitators of the project, with our Social Development Manager, Wilma Piek, providing support whenever it was needed.
First family camp
The first of its kind to be hosted by the centre, fifteen children aged between 13 and 18 years of age were transported to the John Powell Camp Site in Strandfontein for the weekend. The goal was to reconnect and re-establish the relationships between the children and their parents and caregivers through a series of fun activities.
The programme, put together by El-Theos, provided opportunities for reflection, discussion and forgiveness. On the first evening, a fun family dress-up was facilitated and photos taken to capture the moments of the children re-connecting with their loved ones. Although it created a fun and informal way for the children to bond with their adult caregivers, the evening did have its challenges. Having being estranged from their families, some of the children found it difficult to feel comfortable however, through the careful intervention of the experienced facilitators these obstacles were overcome, with the children being able to enjoy the activity.
Fun for everyone
Carrying on the theme from the previous evening, Saturday’s activity involved a photo-frame making workshop to frame the portraits from the dress-up. As both the children and adults became re-familiarised with each other, a session was facilitated later on in the day where each child was given the opportunity to share what they liked or disliked about themselves.
The parents listened and were then given a chance to share with the group what they value about their child. A particularly touching moment occurred when tears ran down the cheeks of one of the boys after receiving affirmation from his mother of how much she loved him. It was a true testament to how vulnerability and love creates connection.
The afternoon ended with group sport activities on the beach, followed by a session where families could share their dreams for the future. The evening was rounded off with a camp concert and a talk about forgiveness.
The weekend activities culminated in a Sunday church service and a symbolic ceremony of the washing of one another’s feet.
Our main focus
All in all, the camp was a great success and, we believe, a step in the right direction. With assistance from various social groups, we will continue to work towards re-uniting parents/ primary caregivers and children and encouraging them towards a healthier family environment. Of the 30 children accessing the El-Theos Drop-in Centre, 15 have been re-united with their families and six of the boys are now attending the ‘learn to live’ school of skills at the Salesians Institute in Green Point.
This pro-active stance towards tackling poverty creates opportunities for transformation. The focus is placed on encouraging rather than forcing people out of poverty and life on the street.
Wilma Piek, agrees, ‘We realise that addressing homelessness, poverty and street children in a punitive manner is never successful in the long run. If you want to transform an area or a community you need to provide opportunities for the people to change the way they think, feel and behave.’
We, as the VRCID, aim to support upliftment initiatives however we can in order to guarantee a brighter future for our communities.
How you can help
We need sponsorship to assist in transporting the six boys who attend the Salesians Institute in Green Point – we would love for them to be able to continue in their growth and development at the school. A simple donation could make a difference to a young person’s future.
If you are able to assist in any way, please contact Wilma at firstname.lastname@example.org.