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Street children project
How you can Help: Alternatives to giving to begging children
Awareness programmes are key to get the community responding correctly to the plight of street children (Paul Hooper WCSCF)
Holiday Programme at Village Care in Lavender Hill
The holiday programme started as an initiative coordinated by Safer Together to find a solution to prevent children coming into Muizenberg to beg. In a discussion with Western Cape Street Children’s Forum and Village Care in Lavender Hill, it was decided to test the concept by running the project during the first week of December. Marion from Safer Together submitted articles to the Echo, People’s Post and Scenic South calling for volunteers and Safer Together kindly donated R3,000 to fund food and art materials.
The programme started on Monday 3rd December targeting children from Capricorn and Lavender Hill who currently don’t attend school. The children were able to enjoy a range of activities offered by the volunteers. Matthew, one of the regulars at the drop-in centre gave a very touching thank you speech to the volunteers when the programme ended on Friday.
Ralph, a volunteer with Justice Acts, did amazing craft activities around the themes of “me”, “my family” and “my community”. His wife Debbie, also a volunteer with Justice Acts, joined him on the last day when the children were able to make a chalk mural on a section of the wall at Village Care.
Kai, a yoga instructor, held a fun activity which was among the favourites. Zoe, a local Muizenberg artist, had the children make stunning collages of themselves. Truida, of Safer Together, ran two workshops on Problem-solving and Assertive communication.
Veronica (a volunteer from the USA), Anna (a volunteer from Finland), Naomi (from the USA) and Sarah and Margaret (Safer Together) from Muizenberg, were there to lend a hand. Carina baked cookies for the children and Maryatta, a professional photographer from Germany, took photographs.
Our hope is to continue this programme longer term but for this, additional funds are urgently needed. Donations can be made to:Safer Together
Nedbank Current a/c no: 1083381695
Branch: Foreshore, Cape Town
Branch code: 108309
Recipient’s reference:Children’s Project
December Street Children Project. Thank you to Deb, Ralph, Carina, Margaret and Gwen who have responded to the newspaper articles and offered to volunteer. Also to Rishka and Andre that offered to support any work with the street children.
This week we had a meeting at Village Care in Lavender Hill attended by Mary and Bonita from the drop in centre and Mandla from The Homestead and Western Cape Street Children’s Forum (WCSCF). Mandla kindly did the field work for us which established that the children we see in Muizenberg are day strollers and not living on the streets.
Paul Vernon Hooper from WCSCF was unable to attend but emphasised the need to host the activity for the street children outside of Muizenberg so that we don’t attract children from Vrygrond and Capricorn into Muizenberg. We had initially envisaged running activities for children in the village but as Paul wrote:
“The idea is to support the children being part of the programme set up to help them, not to create something new. All efforts therefore need to focus on linking the children to Village Care. You do not want to start a programme in Muizenberg because it will just attract more children to the street in your area. They will come to the progamme, then just stay and hang around on the street afterwards. It is a mistake communities make time and time again thinking they are helping. The truth is that children do go from Capricorn to Village Care every day. They love it at Village Care and they easily walk the distance. So your drive must be to make Village Care more attractive and the streets less attractive”.
In our meeting with Village Care (http://www.villagecc.co.za/index.html) , we agreed that we cannot run the initiative for more than a week given that it takes R26 a day to feed a child at the Village Care Drop In Centre. Although we realise that at least 200 local children would benefit from a holiday programme, we simply do not have the funds to run this and therefore agreed to focus on the children who are regular strollers and have dropped out of school. We estimate that this is approx. 20-30 children. The best time therefore to trial this programme would be from 3-7th December- subject to our volunteers availability.
Safer Together have kindly agreed to donate R1,000 towards this initiative to pay for required materials.
The community of Muizenberg has raised a concern about the increasing number of street children coming into the area. To clarify this situation the Muizenberg Community Safety Initiative (MSCI) approached Village Care CC and the Western Cape Street Children’s Forum (WCSCF) for answers. After extensive street level research by the above two organisations in collaboration with our community, we can now confirm that:
- Currently there are no children under the age of 18 living on the streets of Muizenberg.
- There are however a number of young people, over the age of 18, who can be mistaken as children living on the street;
- There are approximately 10 children who live at home, but who regularly come onto the streets of Muizenberg to beg.
This means that none of the children we see begging at the beach, or around Checkers and Midmar, live on the streets, and the presumption therefore is that they all live at home. All of them have been identified and included in the legally registered and mandated Village Care CC outreach, drop-in centre, school support and family empowerment and intervention programme. The only reason these children still come onto the Muizenberg streets to beg is the R300 a day, or more (along with the nice clothes and food they can exchange for money) they get from begging. The children even change their appearance and hide their shoes so that tourists and members of the community are more inclined to give them money.
Yes, these children might be high-risk and from less than ideal family situations. However, the truth is that the money, food and clothing they get from begging only serves to draw them out of school, away from the development programmes set up to help them, and to make them vulnerable to the negative influences, substance abuse and exploitation of the street environment. These children do not need to be begging on the street, they need to be in a constructive development environment. We need to support organisations like Village Care who have returned 21 children back to school this year, and who continue to stabilize another 16 to 20 children, from Capricorn, Vrygrond, Retreat and Lavender Hill, at any one time.
We therefore call on the Muizenberg Community to work together with Village Care and the WCSCF, and to bolster their planned holiday programme, aimed at supporting high-risk children during the upcoming holidays, and preventing them from drifting towards the dangers of the street. Marion Wagner, a Muizenberg resident and member of Safer Together and Muizenberg Community Safety Initiative (MSCI) calls on all the many talented, artistic and caring folk of the village who are willing to volunteer their time and effort, or to kindly support these holiday activities in one way or another, to contact her on 081 425 0685.
A second meeting with all relevant parties was held on 24th July to discuss a clear action plan of who can be contacted to help intervene with the Muizenberg Street children. The meeting was attended by representatives from: the Department of Social Development including Colin Smith (Service Delivery Manager for Muizenberg), Village Care in Lavender Hill, GRIT, SAPS, The Homestead, MCSI, Safer Together and also included Severo Delcarme – Pastor from Capricorn Community Church, keen to help. During the meeting, Colin said that the Department welcomes an integrated community approach as resources are limited to interact with the street children.
Since the meeting, the Street Workers from Village Care have taken 2 young boys to the drop in centre where they are being taken care of and reported that one child, who has been on Muizenberg streets for many years, has just been released from prison after a month and the social workers will be looking out for him. SAPS have offered their support to help put pressure on Brays to stop selling glue to the children.
Village Care are in the process of drawing up a proposal to support additional field workers to work with the children in Muizenberg. Once this has been approved, we can approach the community with a request for funding to implement this.
Given the community's concern regarding the increase in the number of regular and more aggressive street children in Muizenberg, a first meeting with relevant stakeholders (including Village Care, Western Cape Street Children's Forum, The Homestead, SAPS, GRIT, MSCI and Safer Together) was held on 31 May.
With the help of GRIT and the Beach Buddies, it was established that there is a group of between 9 and 12 years old in a gang of about 10 moving about the village with some sniffing glue. Most of them appear to come from Capricorn and they are mostly seen during the day outside Brays Cafe and by Checkers. Another group of young guys (13 to over 18 year olds) tend to hang about York Road, behind the parking area of the Post office, moving from Atlantic Road near Checkers down to Muizenberg Station. They have been observed sleeping there and under Atlantic Road bridge on rainy nights and above Muizenberg Park on dry nights.
One child in particular has been in Muizenberg on and off for many years and seems to be leading the younger children. The details of his social worker has now been made available to contact for help.
In addition to this, there are also the weekend day strollers who come to beg along the beach front – they range in age from 6 – 9 years old. The major concern is that the children are receiving handouts from locals and visitors which encourages them to remain on the street and support their glue habits. The meeting therefore addressed the start of a multi-pronged strategy to encourage the community not to hand out money or food and understand how we can help the children in terms of field workers, establishing drop in centres or reporting a child in need of care through the use of relevant forms. Any child under the age of 18 begging or living on the streets is in need of care and correct procedures need to be followed.
A second meeting will take place on 24th July with the same team and will include 3 representatives from the Department of Social Development where we will seek to establish what we can do as a community centred around the children's best interest. Thereafter a meeting will be held with interested members of the community to understand how we can help in terms of correct procedures to follow, awareness to prevent handouts and what funds need to be raised to support field workers and or a drop in centre.