Van der Merwe, head of the haven for former street boys, chose the TV lounge at Khayalethu in Kragga Kamma as her favourite room – even though the 30 boys who live there and at the "brother” building of Oliver House say they like it all.
"This is my favourite room as it is the life of the house – it is the boys’ hot spot,” Van der Merwe said.
The boys were thrilled when a flatscreen TV was donated to Khayalethu last month but TV is a treat only available at set times in their 5am to 10pm structured daily routine.
However, after the cramped quarters in North End, surrounded by grime and crime, the new home in the countryside is heaven.
"If you don’t believe in miracles, come to Khayalethu and I will show you them. It’s like a different planet to North End.
"In the other Khayalethu there was always a smell that we just could not get rid off. Now it is open and sunny, with space for the new boys.
"We have never had walls to put up photographs of the boys. Now we do and it is a home, not an institution.”
Although the donors are too numerous to mention, Van der Merwe has the names at her fingertips and will tell you how this chunk of Rotary money went to this room, or where that donation went. Gifts are recorded on the donor board and every item is appreciated.
What the boys like about their new home: "They say it feels like a real home for the first time. They are now five to six in a room instead of 12 in one small room and there are separate rooms where they eat, do their homework and watch TV.
"Before, we had to do all of that in one room. The boys enjoy the trees and the grass and they love to play soccer outside. There are more showers and the water does not get cold so quickly. This list is so long.”
Khayalethu’s style: "It must shine out a warm and homely feel, with light and air in the house.”
On our decor wish list: "We don’t have enough beanbags, so they have to share when they watch TV – a lounge suite is just not practical for so many boys. I’d also like easy-wipe tablecloths for the kitchen but the boys’ heart’s desire is to have a soccer field.”
Favourite colours: "They like bright colours: red, purple, blue, yellow and green.”
Decor restrictions: "I like uniformity with bed linen and also items which don’t easily get dirty and can easily be washed. We have 30 boy children.”
Our indulgence: "The boys’ favourite is to stay awake with videos and popcorn the evening before a holiday. In the summer the boys want to make a camp fire and ‘kuier’ around it.”