May 31st, 2009
A number of the youth we work with are very keen to work with children, so we took them to a home comprising mainly of children under 10 years of age for a visit. The youth were keen to give their time to the younger children who do not get visitors and who were delighted to have older boys around.
At first everybody was a bit shy but before too long the younger children were entertaining us with their singing and dancing. For the duration of the visit each of the youth had at least one child on his knee, and in some cases, two.
I overheard one of the youth ask the small children what they wanted to be when they grow up and the reply was `a statue’.
The visit was a great success and the youth are going to return on a regular basis to visit the small children. Giving back is an important part of the process for the youth we work with, especially as they live in an institution where everything is done for them. Learning to give is essential during their preparation for making the transition to independent living.
May 26th, 2009
Five boys left residential care two weeks ago and are now in need of long term accommodation. They are currently staying with extended family but this is only a short term solution. We are assessing whether the best option is to provide them with shacks (small, one roomed houses made from corrugated zinc, with no running water or electricity) in the townships, or if we should rent them a house to share away from the township. While the option of a shack might seem shocking to those of us who are lucky enough to live in brick houses, millions of families live in them in South Africa. There are outside toilets and outside taps serving the communities and the youth are very happy with this option. Their concern is not the lack of facilities but the peer pressure that might lead them to crime and drugs.
We have to weigh up the options before deciding what the best way forward is. If the youth move into the suburbs in a shared house, with no support, having lived in a children’s home where their food was cooked and their laundry was done for them for a number of years, they will be away from the peer pressure but how will they care for themselves?
There is also the cost implication; a ready made shack can be purchased in Cape Town for between 250GBP – 300GBP. Some of the youth have expressed their desire to have a home they can call their own, and living in a rented house does not provide them with the permanence they need. If they are lucky enough to find somebody to contribute towards their accommodation, if they rent, they once again only have a short term solution. Much to consider…
May 18th, 2009
We’ve seen some questions pop up around online regarding the Justgiving donation process and we’d like to take a moment to address them here. First of all, thank you many times over for those who have already generously given. We’ll be updating here with the progress of the programme, and will even have some stories from the youth themselves to give you a first hand look at how things are progressing, so please be sure to check back with us frequently.
For those of you who may need some clarification on the donation process, here are a few of the questions we are seeing online:
Q. I do not have a UK based bank account, can I still donate?
A. Yes, of course! Justgiving will indeed transfer the currency of your country of origin to Pounds, so there is no need to worry on that front.
Q. In her message, Gillian has donation amounts listed in USD, but Justgiving only accepts donations in GBP. What should we do?
A. Justgiving allows you to donate in any currrency and they will transfer the amount into Pounds. If you would like to know how much your donation is in your currency, go to the Justgiving website, click on `help’, `donating’ and `I live outside the UK. Can I donate to a Justgiving fundraising page?’ – here Justgiving offers a link to a currency conversion site which will translate your currency into Pounds. For those of you who are interested in a signed picture from Gillian – go ahead and set up your monthly payments based on the currency conversion for that day and please ensure you leave your contact details so that we can forward your signed photo once we have received six payments from you.
Q. Can I specify the length of my monthly donations?
A.Currently with Justgiving there is no way to tell the system “I’d like to donate £X for eight months”. If at some point you need to end your monthly donations, you can do so manually under your account in the Justgiving system.
We hope this alleviates some of the confusion we’ve seen online! If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment here or drop us an email and we will do our best to answer. Thanks a million to those of you who who have already donated to Off The Street Kids!
Best wishes from the fundraising team at Off The Street Kids.
May 14th, 2009
In 2005 I had the opportunity to come to Cape Town to coach football to children who were living on the streets and in children’s homes. Coming from London this first experience really moved me. I found it hard to take in that young children were begging for food and sleeping on the streets; something I have never seen in London. What I found particularly difficult was that these children chose to live on the streets and nobody was stopping them. There are homes for them but they only move into them if they choose to – and there are many reasons why they choose not to.
Making a commitment to move into a children’s home means giving up independence, access to money and drugs and having to commit to going to school every day. I really have a great deal of respect for the children who make the choice to come off the streets and move into a home – it’s not an easy decision to make. Imagine being a child and having to make those kind of decisions. All the children I know in the UK only have to think about whether or not they have homework to do!
One of the boys I met in Cape Town, who was living in a children’s home, told me that at the age of 18 he had to leave and he was concerned about where he would go next. I did some research and discovered that many young people leaving residential care in South Africa end up back on the streets, and in many cases in prison because the state does not support them.
I am now in South Africa working with some great people who feel very passionately about these young people. We are developing a programme to provide them with the support that most of us got from our parents when we left home. We are piloting the programme and we are offering support to a group of young people who are preparing to leave and some who have already left residential care. I will continue to post news on this site so please keep checking for updates.
Michelle Potter is the Executive Director of Off The Street Kids.
May 12th, 2009
Off The Street Kids (OTSK) was founded in 2008 to provide much needed support for marginalised children and young people in South Africa. OTSK’s first project is a programme for young people leaving residential care in Cape Town. Currently when a young person in care reaches the age of 18 state funding ceases and they are on their own.
There are a number of children’s homes providing care for under 18s in South Africa. However, when they have to leave at the age of 18 often they have no choice but to go and live on the streets because they have neither the skills to support themselves nor a home to return to.
Research has shown that, ill equipped to live by legitimate means, too often they end up in prison after falling into a downward spiral of drugs and crime.
Our goal is to help them develop their skills, further their education and provide them with somewhere to live, in order for them to participate in society as independent, mature and responsible adults.