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Covid-19 and children’s homes: this is the impact
Children at MTR Smit Children’s Haven during a birthday party. Some of the children at the haven have had some difficulty adapting to the lockdown. Photo:supplied

CHILDREN’S homes have always been beacons of hope for the abused and abandoned, a place where little ones are given all the love and attention in the world and a delicious meal three times a day.

However, since the implementation of the nationwide lockdown in March this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NGOs in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, especially children’s homes, have been suffering tremendously and some are struggling to keep their heads above water.

The major concern for most NGOs is fund-raising activities that have been cancelled or postponed as a result of the lockdown and the subsequent financial loss suffered by the organisations that rely solely on donations and revenue generated from such events.

Caroline Gallant, from The South African Red Cross Society, situated in Richmond Hill, said that the NGO had suffered severe financial strain as their income-generating activities had to be suspended.

The NGO works primarily with youth and public health promotion, which means that it focuses on training as a major source of income, something they haven’t been able to do at all the past few months.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to carry on as normal. Fund-raising activities have been suspended in an effort to avoid contact with individuals and members of the public.

Staff at MTR Children’s Haven in Walmer have worked out a programme to keep the children busy during the lockdown period.

“Our kiosk, that provides sit-down and takeaway meals at the Provincial Hospital for staff, patients and visitors, has been closed for two months,” Gallant said. According to her, donations have also been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Businesses and individuals are under financial strain too and this means that they cannot make the donations that they used to.

“This has taken away vital funds that contribute to our day-to-day running,” she added.

“As soon as funds are received, they are designated for food relief only and hardly ever cover overhead costs.

“This has put us in a dire predicament as our staff and volunteers have continued working throughout lockdown.”

Gallant appealed to the community for cash donations to keep their doors open and food donations and hygiene kits to reach the community. “Currently, it’s difficult to accept clothing donations. We understand that people want to volunteer, however we are also limiting the number of people working at the office and those working in the community have already undergone Covid-19 training prior to lockdown,” she added.

Other NGOs, such as the MTR Smit Children’s Haven in Walmer, have not been able to allow any volunteers at the haven since the start of the lockdown.

“No-one could visit the haven and donations were collected at the gate.

“The parents could only phone their children or speak to them at the gate. Our staff have been doing their best to stay up to speed with all the homework since most of our children’s work was online.

“They had to make so many copies just to ensure that all our school-going children stayed on track with their academics,” director of the haven, Tanya Eales, said.

She said that things were especially stressful in the beginning since 65 of their 93 children were on holiday leave with families when lockdown was implemented. After a mandate by the Department of Social Development stated that no movement was to take place in or out of the haven, they were so concerned about the well-being of the children, that they delivered food parcels to the families every two weeks to ensure that the children were not being neglected.

Eales said that upon their return to the haven during lockdown level four, each child was educated about Covid-19, but some of them still don’t understand why they have to self-isolate after returning from the community. Others also don’t understand why they can’t use their pocket money to go to the shops and buy something as freely as they did before.

“The children are having a very negative experience with the lockdown and there have been a few incidents of aggression and frustration among them, but they are being guided by the carers and social workers,” Eales explained.

She also mentioned that they had worked out a daily programme of activities to keep the children busy indoors and try to keep everything running as smoothly as possible, but that the haven remained concerned about its finances.

“We rely on donations and it is a daily struggle to care for the needs of the children. We are very concerned about the rest of the year and how we are going to fulfil our obligations,” she added.

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