Chil­dren’s home not giv­ing up on youth

CityPress - - News - THEMBALETHU MTSHALI thembalethu.mtshali@city­press.co.za

Rosty Langa (21) had heard the tragic story of peo­ple leav­ing their ru­ral homes in search of a bet­ter life in Johannesburg and end­ing up home­less and starv­ing many times. Yet he joined the thou­sands flock­ing to the City of Gold be­liev­ing his fate would be dif­fer­ent.

Af­ter the deaths of his fa­ther in 2010 and his mother in 2013, Rosty left his home in a vil­lage in Lim­popo in 2014, hoping for a bet­ter life in Johannesburg, but ended up stranded and hun­gry. “I was left with only my grand­mother and my lit­tle sis­ter and the sit­u­a­tion at home be­came too much to bear be­cause my granny could not af­ford to main­tain both of us. I de­cided to come to Joburg,” he said.

He said his for­tunes im­proved when some­one he knew from back home told him about Twi­light Chil­dren, a non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion (NGO) aimed at al­le­vi­at­ing poverty and drug ad­dic­tion among Johannesburg’s home­less, where he felt at home from the first day he asked for help. But in 2015 the cen­tre was forced to close its doors to the older chil­dren – an event which deeply af­fected Rosty.

Mis­man­age­ment and other ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties caused the run­ning of the NGO and its board to col­lapse in 2015. With re­sources dwin­dling, it had to let go of more than 30 boys above the age of 18. Most of them, in­clud­ing Khomo and Rosty, could not go back to their fam­i­lies.

“My life changed for the worse as I strug­gled for food, shel­ter and ed­u­ca­tion. As soon as I heard that [one of the cen­tre’s vol­un­teers] Emily Langa was back vis­it­ing the cen­tre ev­ery Tues­day, I went to see her and she took me back into the cen­tre. Now I am back liv­ing here and I am cur­rently do­ing my ma­tric,” he said with a smile, adding that he was hoping to ei­ther join the mil­i­tary, the SA Po­lice Ser­vice or be a fire­fighter. “I vow to give back to this cen­tre once I even­tu­ally be­come independent.”

Rosty is lucky to have made it back into Twi­light Chil­dren. Nkosikhona Khomo (22), who left the cen­tre in 2015, is still liv­ing on the streets. He told City Press that be­ing back on the streets left him so de­pressed that he found him­self us­ing drugs again. “I came here when I was 13 in 2008. In 2015 when I was in Grade 11, they told me I was too old to be kept here as I was over 18. I was told to go back home to Car­letonville but I ended up on the streets be­cause I could not go back to the same fam­ily that had os­tracised me,” he said.

Khomo said af­ter his par­ents died, he lived with rel­a­tives who were alcoholics and of­ten vi­o­lent. For his guardians, he said, al­co­hol was a big­ger pri­or­ity than food, and they left him to fend for him­self. “In 2016, some of my class­mates would ask why I was not at school when my name was in the class reg­is­ter for the year’s Grade 12,” Khomo re­called with sad­ness, adding that when he heard the cen­tre was be­ing re­vived, he went back and pleaded to be al­lowed back. How­ever, his ad­dic­tion to drugs meant this was not pos­si­ble.

Ac­cord­ing to Langa (62), who is one of the cen­tre’s old­est mem­bers, while the cen­tre now ac­cepts in­di­vid­u­als over the age of 18, peo­ple who are ad­dicted to drugs can­not live at the home but, like Khomo, can par­tic­i­pate in an 18-month pro­gramme which in­cludes re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“Once an in­di­vid­ual shows de­ter­mi­na­tion and makes progress in the pro­gramme, they are even­tu­ally ad­mit­ted to the cen­tre on a per­ma­nent ba­sis un­til they can fend for them­selves,” she said.

Since 2015 the NGO has strug­gled to re­cover. Formed in 1983 as a re­sponse to child home­less­ness in the city, Twi­light Chil­dren started as a soup kitchen serv­ing one hot meal per day. As it grew, it started of­fer­ing shel­ter to street chil­dren through the col­lab­o­ra­tion of vol­un­teers, so­cial work­ers and spon­sors.

The cen­tre’s fundraiser, Cather­ine Mac­Don­ald (82), said the pain of see­ing most of the chil­dren back on the streets and even us­ing drugs again has been un­bear­able.

“Un­for­tu­nately, most sleep on pave­ments not far from the cen­tre that had been their home for many years. They have no one and most of them have gone back to drugs. It’s very painful to see them in this state,” she said.

For­tu­nately, sev­eral vol­un­teers have started work­ing tire­lessly to bring the NGO back to life, in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing a new in­terim board. Emily is once again en­sur­ing that the chil­dren at Twi­light at­tend school and says she hopes they get to fur­ther their stud­ies at ter­tiary level with the help of kind South Africans.

“It ful­fils me to see my chil­dren suc­ceed, but my heart is with those who are back on the streets us­ing drugs again but I will not give up on them be­cause I believe they are not be­yond re­pair,” Emily said.

The cen­tre has started iden­ti­fy­ing and ad­mit­ting chil­dren aged from eight to 18 years old, of­fer­ing them up to 18 months of shel­ter, ed­u­ca­tion, and ba­sic skills and train­ing. Emily said 80% of the chil­dren at the cen­tre were vul­ner­a­ble or­phans, most of whom had been vi­o­lated in var­i­ous ways, some by close rel­a­tives.

She said the cen­tre was ac­cept­ing do­na­tions in kind, but not cash as it was still work­ing on en­sur­ing that there were checks and bal­ances in place for proper man­age­ment. As soon as its ac­count details were in or­der, she ex­plained, com­pa­nies would be in­vited and ap­proached to help.

Mac­Don­ald said she was con­fi­dent that the cen­tre would soon be back to its glory days.

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Rosty Langa

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