Each facility can accommodate up to 70 children.
Boys and Girls Town in Kagiso, 1 September 2020. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
Every year, more than 300 vulnerable children receive care to overcome traumatic experiences through Girls & Boys Town South Africa (GBT).
It is a national nonprofit organisation founded in 1958, catering for children allocated to it through the Children’s Court. The Citizen visited Girls & Boys Town in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, and explored the facility’s dining halls, sports areas, pool, mini tuck shop and the cottages that serve as homes for the children.
GBT chief executive Lee Loynes said many of the children arrive at the facility with broken hearts. She said the role of the organisation was to equip the children with the necessary care and skills, teaching them independence and about mending relationships.
“We do full assessments and start the healing process with families,” Loynes said.
“The length of the child’s stay depends on the length of their trauma. On average, children stay for two years or longer. Some request to stay longer to finish their matric to avoid hindrances at home.”
CEO of Boys and Girls Town Lee Loynes poses for a picture at the Boys and Girls Town in Kagiso, 1 September 2020. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
Each facility can accommodate up to 70 children. Loynes highlighted the effects Covid-19 on the organisation. The pandemic brought about new polices because protection was shifted to staff and children.
“Because our children need to keep their minds busy, we had to keep the facility running when the lockdown started, forcing schools to close. One of our biggest challenges so far has been the financial side of maintaining the facility. Covid-19 has made fund-raising difficult and sponsors have also been experiencing the economic depression with many of them losing their jobs.
“We have been able to manage with donors who have committed to supporting us by signing debit orders. We still have many needs, such as medication, school uniforms, clothes and teaching tools,” Loynes said.
Youth Development Manager: Saneliswa Mqobongo poses for a picture at the Boys and Girls Town in Kagiso, 1 September 2020. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
GBT youth development manager Saneliswa Mqobongo said she had been with the organisation for three years and had seen many of the children overcome their traumatic experiences. She said it was heart-warming when a child no longer had to go to bed without food or worry about their safety because someone was taking care of them.
“My heart breaks when I talk about the children’s backgrounds. Many of them come from traumatic experiences. There are those who struggled with physical and sexual abuse from family and siblings and other extended family members. But they overcome this. “Our children have been able to find a sense of belonging and space, where they feel like they matter and let go of the tragic past which holds them back from their future,” Mqobongo said.
Volunteers and donors who are interested in learning more about GBT can visit the website www. girlsandboystown.org.za.
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