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Patch is running on empty

Yet another service organisation in the Helderberg is turning to the community for support as it tries to keep its doors open in trying times.

Patch Helderberg Child Abuse Centre, which provides free counselling to child victims of sexual abuse in the Helderberg, is feeling the pinch after many of its long-term financial supporters have withdrawn their funding, so planned and regular fundraising initiatives cannot continue. The organisation, which celebrates its 28th anniversary, is heavily reliant on the support of people in the community.

It was founded in 1992 after the realisation that child sexual abuse in the basin was increasing at an alarming rate. The centre, which is based in Somerset West, with offices in Strand, Lwandle and Macassar, is supported by a board of volunteers and, on average, deals with 450 new cases of child rape or sexual abuse annually.

Amanda-Lea Jones, Corporate Fundraiser at Patch, says it has continued operating and serving clients in lockdown, albeit through alternative means than physical sessions. “Based on noticeable challenges with our child clients and their families, we began supplying them with food parcels, clothing, airtime and data,” she relates.

“We have been forced to think differently, which is what is needed for an organisation that has been running as long as ours. Despite the negativity that hovers over this pandemic, we have remained positive, which has had a big impact on our supporters.

“The negative impact is, of course, that we have lost a lot of long-term donors. We can only hope that in time they manage to bounce back with their own livelihoods, as far too many businesses have sadly had to close due to loss of income.”

Jones says Patch has always relied on financial support from corporates and individuals as well as its self-sustainability efforts such as its coffee trailer, second-hand shop and fundraising events. During lockdown it has been blessed with support from some individuals, and it will re-open its coffee trailer soon and hopes to supply takeaway meals as well.

“Funding that’s not project-specific is put directly towards the running costs of the organisation,” she says, “and is needed to provide every child referred to Patch with the free, professional services needed to heal from the pain and suffering of being raped or sexually abused.

“These services include a medical examination, a forensic assessment and professional therapy, which includes court preparation for a period of a year or more, depending on the level of trauma the child has or is experiencing.”

Furthermore, the volunteers have noticed their child clients are not only suffering from the trauma of abuse during lockdown, but also show signs of depression and anxiety, which may require further psychiatric treatment. Their families have battled financially too, and may not have the means for public transport to travel to a Patch facility.

“We fear this may lead to them not reporting a case of sexual abuse, especially those that require reporting within the 72-hour window period to avoid transmission of HIV, STDs or pregnancy,” Jones adds.

“Our concerns are for the mental state of our child clients, many of whom rely on the routine of going to school and interacting with others. We are concerned about the increase in gender based violence and urge the public to report cases immediately.”

Funding is a major cause for concern, but the volunteers are adamant that they will keep Patch’s doors open and support every client as best they can. “However, we can only do this for as long as our current funding allows us,” Jones says.

The community can support the organisation by spreading awareness of its services, donating second-hand items for its charity shop, provide comfort packs containing toiletries, sanitary towels, underwear, warm clothes and a book with pencil crayons for clients, and contribute monetarily to keep its doors open.

V To support Patch, send an email to Jones on mandy@preciouspatch.co.za.

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