The facility has served the country’s most vulnerable children for the past 135 years. Rolivhuwa Sadiki
With the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) continuing to make a difference in various parts of the country through its emergency national fund, one fortunate organization to benefit from the commission three consecutive times is the Pietermaritzburg Children’s Home (PCH).
According to the home’s general manager Fiona Balgobind, the PCH, located in KwaZulu-Natal, has been a beneficiary of the NLC since its first application in 2011.“There were many delays with receiving funding in some years, however we are grateful to have been allocated funds for three applications in this period,” Balgobind says.
Initially known as the Mary Cooke Children’s Home, established in 1886, the home was first intended for post-war orphans and has transformed over the years in line with the country’s demographics and needs.“We were the first facility in KwaZulu-Natal to accept children of colour. We are celebrating a milestone this year, as we have serviced our country’s most vulnerable children for the past 135 years,” she says.“We have capacity to care for 80 children but due to subsidy cuts over recent years and restrictions on the number of children that the department of social development will subsidise, we are now catering for 74 children, from preschool to matric. We, however, also have special needs children attending the Protective Workshop, as they have no alternative place of care at the moment,” Balgobind adds.
Balgobind says for a child to be placed into the PCH, they go through a “child-proof” organisation that assesses their full family circumstances, and if there are no other alternative options to ensure the best care and protection of the child, they are then placed with a legal order from the Children’s Court as per legislation.
She says the NLC funding allocations are a life source to them (PCH) and are vital to the survival of residential care facilities, since most funders support specific projects and programmes, ultimately limiting funding for residential care.“We have extremely limited options to fundraise as a residential facility for children because we cannot get the support of the recipients of our services. We also don’t benefit from a social grant per child but only receive a subsidy from the department of social development, which does not cover the full cost to care per child,” she says.
Over the years, the funding allocations from the NLC have helped the home meet its operational deficits as well as assisting in building a complete new cottage for its junior girls, with more space for privacy, as it did away with the old dorm style.“They have given us the financial relief which allowed us to focus on and prioritise real childcare services, improving the quality and types of programmes we offer to our children, and allowed us to purchase a much-needed vehicle to assist with reunification work through home visits to deep rural communities, to ensure that our children are ready to return to their extended families,” Balgobind says.
In the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic dealt the home a huge blow when it came to donations and funding income, and though Balgobind attests that every year is different, they can secure more private funders through funding applications from trusts, foundations or businesses. “Such donors help us meet specific project needs, for example, equipping our library and computer room or funding our junior soccer team with kit, or assisting us to pay for the required tuition needed for the higher grades or even securing the initial funds to get our school-leavers into tertiary education,” she says.
Some of the challenges the home encounters include meeting operational expenses; monthly cash flow is always a concern. “We have no guarantee of the date we will receive our subsidy from social development, and still need to ensure that we comply with our payments of salaries and to suppliers. The highest expense in residential care is the cost of meals, and we always encourage donations of meals to reduce these costs,” Balgobind says.
Some of the long-term goals of the PCH is to upskill its staff and source funding through the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority; in recent years there has been a great need to establish suitable independent living facilities to support the transition phase for children leaving residential care facilities.
“Over the years we have identified a huge gap in the lack of after-support for children exiting residential care,” Balgobind says. “We are appreciative of the contributions received via the NLC as these funds have created positive changes in our facilities, which then has a positive impact on the general environment and services offered to each child.” — Mukurukuru Media