Office workers at Cape Media Corporation despise getting away from their desks. Some hate it so much that they order that their lunch be delivered to their desk. But things change on 18 July every year and yesterday was no different.
Two bus loads left the Rondebosch offices headed for the claustrophobic streets of Mfuleni township north of Cape Town.
Forty-five children aged between 10-months and 11-years-old either live or attend daycare at Ncedolwethu Educare in Thafeni Street, Extension 4 Mfuleni in this single room house with a makeshift creche, built of corrugated metal sheets, in the backyard.
Eleven of the 45 children live in the house with the founder and owner, Florence Dodovu, because they are either abandoned or are children at risk.
Cape Media Corporation managing director, Robert Arendse said: “For Cape Media, Mandela Day is an important symbol of corporate social responsibility, and we are glad to have spent our 67 minutes helping among society's most vulnerable members, its children.”
Human resources manager and social corporate responsibility guru at Cape Media Corporation, Allison van der Sandt said: “The focus of the day was to spread love and kindness.
We know that small centres such as Ncedolwethu battle to make ends meet and so we wanted to alleviate some of their worries by donating groceries to the centre to see them through for at least 2 months. We’ll return to the centre to fix it up.
“Florence informed us that the centre was poor and that food was a constant concern for her so we took along hotdogs and rolls, juice and some spoils like lollipops, fizzers and chocolates to feed the children and allow them to eat as much as they wanted, play and to have the joys our kids take for granted.
“This is only the second time we’ve done this but the kids tend to yearn for attention and affection, so a big part of the day was dedicated to spending time with them by playing various games with them, holding them, spreading love and just showering them with all the attention they deserve as kids.
“We painted two classrooms and will go back to fix the centre up by replacing doors, laying down new carpets, putting up new curtains, donating toys and educational goodies to the centre.
“We’ll also be fixing Florence’s home which she shares with nine orphans from the area. This is a project we endeavour to take on until a safe haven is created for Florence and the children she so selflessly takes care of.”
Dodovu works with the Department of Social Services to reintegrate the children with their families.
She told [name of publication] that when she arrived in Mfuleni in 1994, she found that there was an outbreak of child rape.
“Most of the parents had to go to work and they had nowhere to leave their children so the children were left on their own,” she said.
Dodovu said the few creches available rejected some children because their parents could not afford school fees.
These were the unemployed parents who had to pick up scrap or do seasonal labour work.
She tells the story of a little girl called Nomaphelo, as the tipping point that led to her opening her home to children in dire straights.
“There was this girl who lived in the area. Nomaphelo used to scavenge rubbish bins for food. One day she ate something poisonous and she died,” she said.
Dodovu says she also came across a girl child sitting forlornly next to the supermarket, shoeless and in tattered clothes begging for food. She says she could take it no more.
She approached the government and she says, they loved the idea of setting up a home. But she had to meet the regulatory requirements, before she could be certified as a foster parent. And these are stringent.
Her application was rejected because she lived in a shack and could not meet safety requirement such as the outbreak of fire.
When Dodovu eventually got her RDP house in 2000, she was granted a temporary certificate which runs out in September.
As part of her obligations, Dodovu had to open a creche so that the children could be prepared for school.
“We don't want the children here to be different from other children who have means, when they get to school,” she says.
However, most of the parents survive on social grants, this means the school has an immense shortage of resources.
“Mostly we need food and clothes. We would be very grateful if we could get sleeping bunks for the children as they sleep on the floor at the moment,” Dodovu said.
She says sometimes children get ill in the night, and during winter, they travel long distances in the rain to get to school.
“We also have some children whom we left behind in the shacks when we moved, which we would love to bring to the school. Sometimes people want to donate things to us, but they say we must fetch them, but we do not have transport. It is our major cost, so we really need some form of transport,” she said.
Should you wish to make a donation you can use the following bank account details:
Bank: Nedbank Account
Name: JDI Foundation Trust
Account Number: 1009 662 759
Branch Number: 100 909 (Cape Town)
Reference: Ncedolwethu (Name of Donor)