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Supportive Communities

supportive communities"Thy Kingdom" From the dump site to a hope site.

“I asked the local municipality for some land to start a child care centre and they gave me a dump site.” Thandi Khanyile recalls the inauspicious start to what is today Thy Kingdom, a thriving

centre in Sebokeng that assists 450  orphaned and vulnerable children from the local community. “I was totally committed to setting up the centre, so I just went ahead anyway.”

That was in 2012. Today, Thy Kingdom is one of the many thriving projects supported by Starfish Greathearts Foundation.

In those early days, funding was a real challenge. “We had no money,” recalls Thandi. “We received a few cash donations and food and clothing from churches in the area. We could pay no one, so we were all volunteers. Starfish has changed all that. Now we are able to offer a stipend to some of our care-workers and can give proper support to the children.”

Like many parts of South Africa, Sebokeng and Evaton, which lie close to the industrial heart of the Vaal Triangle, are wracked by poverty, unemployment and crime. “In these conditions, children are at risk from poor nutrition, sub-standard education, physical and sexual abuse, illness, teenage pregnancy and drugs. Many of them are orphaned victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and live in child-headed households or with ageing grandmothers. I could not sit by and watch this happen. I had to do something,” explains Thandi.

“So we turned a dump site into a hope site.”

The former dump site, although still limited in size and sophistication of infrastructure, now has a small playground, a kitchen, a meeting room with a small library, boys and girls toilets and several other small teaching and recreational rooms. It is impeccably neat and ordered.

Thanks to the support from Starfish, Thy Kingdom is able to provide a range of benefits and services. “We cater for children right up to matric level. Given the pressures on teenagers today, they are just as much in need of care and guidance as the younger ones are. Their needs are just different,” explains Thandi.

The children live at home but receive a cooked meal each day after school and are assisted with school uniforms and educational equipment. But help goes far beyond their physical needs. “Feeding their bodies is one thing, but feeding their minds and souls is another, more important factor,” says Thandi. “Each child is offered daily assistance with homework and is also assigned a dedicated care-worker, who helps them with emotional issues, peer pressure, abuse situations and general life orientation. These mentors are available at any time to assist with any problem the child may have.”

Thy Kingdom also reaches out to those most vulnerable in the community. “We offer home-based care, where orphans, vulnerable children and HIV patients are cared for in their own homes.”

Thy Kingdom does not work in isolation. “We partner with a range of government agencies, including local schools, the SA Police Services and the Departments of Social Development and Health. Obviously we cannot do everything and partnerships, like the one with Starfish, are crucial.”

What happens when a child leaves school? “We have an exit strategy. Here we definitely need partners, such as the local ward councillor, the Department of Labour and the universities. It’s no

use looking after a child for his or her school years and then abandoning them when they leave school,” emphasised Thandi.

At the end of our visit, the care-workers gather in the meeting room, where a simple meal of chicken, pumpkin and samp is served. Some of the staff are on a small stipend, others are simply community-centered volunteers, but they share the same enthusiasm for the work. When asked what their one wish would be for Thy Kingdom, hands shoot into the air. “More space for more kids; books for the library; more school textbooks so that children don’t have to share; sporting material such as soccer balls; clothing for the kids in winter; stationery; computers, no matter how old; more old containers or parkhomes to be turned into offices and teaching rooms.”

The atmosphere at Thy Kingdom is clearly one of positive hope and optimism: “We don’t have a lot but we will optimise what we have; we need much, much more, not for ourselves but for the children we already serve and for the children who need us but have to be turned away.”

The dump site has gone; a place of hope, love and care has replaced it. Thandi, her team and Starfish are making a real difference.