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I’m sure you’ve noticed how dinner conversation today inevitably turns to crime and, invariably, the horrific increase in child abuse in this country. The escalating incidence of abandoned babies is shocking. And even among older children more and more are becoming unwanted, uncared for, left to their own devices.
Of course The Salvation Army is acutely aware of the problem. This is why we have established so many babies’ homes, crèches, children’s homes and centres across the country – and why our need to maintain them, and establish even more facilities, is so dire. The actual orphans in homes and orphanages in this country used to number fewer than one per cent: today, due to HIV/AIDS, the number is increasing at an alarming rate. This places an even greater financial responsibility on those of us trying to alleviate the problem.
Our work is more than cut out, not only to provide a loving environment in a safe home, but also to give the young children the spiritual guidance that will set them on a productive, happy future. Another controversial subject throughout the western world is religious guidance in schools, but it doesn’t take a genius to notice how morals and crime have increased where this has been abandoned.
While discipline in a home run by The Salvation Army is strict, it is tempered with the genuine love and care that are the hallmark of our dedicated staff. They listen to the youngsters’ problems and fears and try to guide them to solutions. In addition to taking care of children’s physical and spiritual needs, we understand that spirited kids must also have an outlet for their natural exuberance in terms of sport, games and other enjoyable kids’ distractions.
Several of our crèches make use of the “Clever Play” programme, whereby children learn shapes, sounds and colours so that they are well prepared for school. The Salvation Army does run some schools, but not necessarily attached to a home, and several have achieved outstanding academic results over the past years. For example, Mthunjwa High, a school in rural northern KwaZulu-Natal, has achieved a 100% pass rate over the past eight years and is rated as one of the top schools in the country.
So how are The Salvation Army children’s homes run? Let us take Firlands in Linden, Johannesburg as a typical example. Accommodating up to 60 children aged from 3 to 18 years, the ‘estate’ comprises five cottages, each of which is a self-contained home with its own ‘house mother’ looking after 12 kids on average. Boys and girls are provided for in separate houses. There are no dormitories: while six to eight might share a room, each has his or her own space, with privacy provided by strategically-placed cupboards.
Firland’s cluster of homes, each of which has a separate flat for the ‘house mother’ or child care worm, are set on spacious grounds with numerous facilities for sport and play.
The kids are in constant touch with the outside world since they go to schools outside of the home and are helped by older ‘big brothers and sisters’ from local communities to do their homework and act as their mentors. ‘Our’ children with families go home at weekends and for holidays.
Bringing families together
The major objective at a home run by The Salvation Army is to reunite families. We do everything in our power to counsel parents and their children in the joys of ‘family’. And, indeed, in the duty of families to love and support each other. While this sometimes creates friction, especially where parents have no faith, we appreciate that in this world of cause and effect, very often the parents, too, have been ‘abused’ in some way.
Equally important is to instil in the children the divine need to ‘honour thy father and thy mother’. We believe we have a fair share of success since family bonding most often appears to win. Ultimately “home” is still where the family is.
As you can imagine, running our 34 crèches, children’s homes and centres requires an enormous amount of capital, especially to maintain the very high standards which The Salvation Army sets itself. And since we’re talking about the children of South Africa, the people who will inherit the moral responsibility of this country, we must continue to strive for the best.
On behalf of The Salvation Army, I must thank you for your past support, which has enabled us to help our country’s children to a better life, and appeal for your continued backing well into the future. We appreciate that times are tough, which is putting pressure on everyone – and creating yet more disadvantaged children so any contribution you may make will be a blessing.
With warm wishes,