AVANI spot­lights plight of home­less

Lesotho Times - - News - Mo­halenyane Phakela

STREET chil­dren should not be per­ceived as crim­i­nals or po­ten­tial crim­i­nals but rather as vic­tims of fam­ily dishar­mony and so­cial and eco­nomic fac­tors.

This was the call made dur­ing an event hosted by the AVANI Le­sotho Group, last week to com­mem­o­rate World Home­less Day. The day is an­nu­ally com­mem­o­rated on 10 Oc­to­ber around the world, and in some com­mu­ni­ties, it is known as World Home­less Ac­tion Day.

Dur­ing the event, which was held at Le­sotho Girl-guides As­so­ci­a­tion in Maseru, street chil­dren were treated to a feast cour­tesy of AVANI Le­sotho Group in part­ner­ship with the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment.

The hos­pi­tal­ity gi­ant also part­nered with or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing to­wards re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren such as Kick­4life, Cen­tre for Im­pact­ing Lives, Sepheo and the Le­sotho Girl-guides As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ad­dress­ing the gath­er­ing, AVANI Le­sotho Group’s Hu­man Re­source Man­ager Le­sekele Makara said the ini­tia­tive was part of their cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment (CSI) pro­gramme to raise aware­ness on the plight of the home­less.

“Just like any in­ter­na­tional day that ad­dresses poverty, World Home­less Day is aimed at draw­ing at­ten­tion to home­less peo­ple’s needs and to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for the com­mu­nity to get in­volved in mak­ing an im­pact in their lives,” he said.

“While tak­ing ad­van­tage of the stage this in­ter­na­tional day pro­vides, we sat down as the CSI of­fice to come up with a plan to ef­fec­tively as­sist home­less peo­ple. We ap­proached the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment for guid­ance on how to go about it.”

Mr Makara said they de­cided to treat the un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren to a feast to ad­dress the ba­sic need for food.

“Hunger is the worst chal­lenge when it comes to vul­ner­a­bil­ity. A per­son can­not sur­vive on an empty stom­ach, hence we de­cided to pre­pare some­thing spe­cial for them in our kitchen,” he said.

“Our ob­jec­tive is not to pro­mote street life, but to raise aware­ness on the issue and en­cour­age other stake­hold­ers to get in­volved so we will have a fewer num­ber next year when we com­mem­o­rate this day.”

Echo­ing the sen­ti­ment, AVANI Le­sotho Area Res­i­dent Man­ager, Willem Van Heer­den said so­cial chal­lenges such as home­less­ness could be ad­dressed through col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“Ad­dress­ing so­cial is­sues is a ma­jor task that can be achieved if we join hands to make this na­tion bet­ter,” he said.

“Chil­dren are im­por­tant to us as the lead- ers of to­mor­row and peo­ple we are look­ing for­ward to em­ploy. If we don’t stim­u­late their minds with ed­u­ca­tion and their bod­ies with food, they lives would be wasted.”

Mr Van Heer­den stressed home­less­ness was not merely a re­sult of delin­quency but other so­cio-eco­nomic fac­tors.

“There are many rea­sons why peo­ple end up on the streets, and it is not a chal­lenge spe­cific to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries only but even rich coun­tries like the United States and also in Europe,” he said.

For his part, So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Mo­lahlehi Let­lotlo said home­less­ness had in­creased be­cause Basotho no longer abided by the adage that it takes a vil­lage to raise a child.

“In an­cient times, peo­ple would not let their neigh­bours starve while they had enough to share with them or let any child suf­fer or mis­be­have as they had the au­thor­ity to in­ter­vene. But nowa­days, peo­ple only fo­cus on their own house­hold and don’t care about what oth­ers are do­ing,” he said.

“Not hav­ing a shel­ter is a se­ri­ous chal­lenge that im­pinges on a per­son’s dig­nity. As the min­istry, we try our best to erad­i­cate this prob­lem work­ing to­gether with our part­ners present to­day and other chil­dren’s homes around the coun­try. How­ever, what we have done is not enough.”

Mr Let­lotlo added: “I wish other com­pa­nies would take AVANI’S cue to en­sure this event would be an an­nual af­fair.

“Let us not per­ceive street chil­dren as crim­i­nals but chil­dren who need help for no one can will­ingly leave the com­fort of a home and de­cide to stay in an un­safe and un­healthy en­vi­ron­ment.”

AVANI Le­sotho Group’s Hu­man Re­source Man­ager Le­sekele Makara.

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