‘Launch Pad’ brings hope to street kids
A LOCAL organisation aimed at reducing the number of children on the streets of Cape Town has formally opened its Launch Pad residential facility and programme for street boys in Woodstock.
The Homestead Projects, which has been serving street children since 1982, renovated the old facility and will offer educational programmes aimed at building independence and successful community integration.
The Launch Pad currently houses about 20 boys aged between 15 and 18 (sometimes up to 21), helping them transition to adulthood.
“At the age of 15, they need to start making plans for the future, and legally we can only look after children up to the age of 18,” said Paul Hooper, director of the Homestead Projects.
“From 15 up, it’s a different programme that we need. So that’s why we started the Launch Pad.”
Cape Town city councillor Mzwakhe Nqavashe said these were children, and children “are most fundamentally important to any life, especially life of humankind”.
“There are skills that are involved that are transferred to these children up until they are 18 years old.”
To be part of the Launch Pad, the boys are required to be substance-free and enrolled in school or a training programme.
In addition to teaching the boys essential life skills such as cooking and laundry, the programme requires the boys to participate in a credit system.
“They actually have to pay to stay there (at the Launch Pad),” said Hooper.
“The credit system also allows them to earn pocket money or things like second-hand laptops or cell phones they’ll use for their studies.”
According to a 2000 study, there were 782 street children in Cape Town, the majority of them boys. Since 2000, the organisation has claimed to help reduce this number by 90 percent.
Janice Sparge, co-ordinator of the Western Cape Street Children’s Forum, says there are currently about 12 street children in central Cape Town, 20 in the northern suburbs, 20 in Muizenberg, and five in Kenilworth.
Many of the children at Homestead Projects come from chronically neglected and abusive backgrounds.
“They’ve all have been psychologically, emotionally hurt,” said Hooper. “Some of them have been sexually abused. Some of them have been beaten. We’ve had kids who have been locked up in sheds for two years.”
Obert Makaza, an 18-year-old resident, has been with Homestead Projects since 2010.
Beaten by his father at a young age and unable to stand his mother dating another man after his father’s death, Makaza hopped on the back of a car eight years ago to escape family life.
For two years, he lived in the streets.
Since joining the Homestead, he has been enrolled at multiple schools, taken sailing lessons and attended two programmes in photography and a drama course.
“We’ve got lots of different activities,” said Liezl Conradie, Launch Pad manager. “We try to assess the child and see what he is good at. Then we try to find that.”
Thembela Thera, another resident, has lived at the Homestead since 2013. Before that, Thera roamed the streets between De Noon and Cape Town. Now he is enrolled in school and no longer uses drugs despite peer pressure from friends.
With the Launch Pad programme, Conradie said she hoped to not have the children return to a street life of drugs and crime, “but to actually have work, a family and people who care for them.”
Resident Obert Makaza in the courtyard at the opening of Launch Pad, a shelter for boys in Chapel Street, Woodstock.
Social worker Liezl Conradie.
Launch Pad director Paul Hooper.