A SERIOUS lack of funding, dealing with adolescent children and a limited social worker base are just some of the many challenges facing an organisation catering for the needs of orphaned children in Port Elizabeth’s biggest township.
Helping orphaned children in Motherwell has been both a blessing and a tremendous challenge for the Family Restorative Services, which run the four Thamsanqa foster homes in NU1, 2 and 9.
More than 560 orphaned children have been placed into the foster care of family members – through extensive work by the centre’s 30 volunteers – after losing one or both parents, many times to HIV/Aids. Most of the children were orphaned after their mothers died, with their fathers generally absent since before their births or disappearing after they were born.
Social worker Tia Wessels, who founded the homes in 2006 after being asked to find homes for 12 abandoned children, said there was so much work to do with only limited resources.
With only R18000 in guaranteed monthly funding coming in from donors – including a Dutch foundation – the orphanage struggled to raise funds and meet their monthly target of R70000 to cover running costs.
"Fundraising is our biggest challenge right now and we manage to somehow get by with the grace of God,” she said.
Running the four homes costs R35000 a month and weekly groceries cost up to R3000 a home. Wessels said she had applied for funding from the Department of Social Development every year, but "hasn’t been lucky in getting social worker subsidies or funding since 2009”.
"They gave us R60000 priority funding, but there was no money after that.”
But despite the challenges Thamsanqa still strives – and succeeds – in giving orphans a life as close to normal as possible. The homes have children between the ages of four and 18 and Wessels is trying to get a fifth house to accommodate those older than eighteen.
"It is a challenge looking after children, especially teenagers who have different and special needs,” she said.
"We only keep the children until they are 18 or at least get their matric because that is as far as we can afford to go.”
Wessels said their aim was to make the children emotionally stable so as to break the cycle of child abandonment.
"We try to raise our boys to become responsible men and therefore fathers so that they can turn things around.
"For the girls, we try to empower them and teach them basic skills like knitting and sewing when they are not at school. We have two exceptional pupils here in grades 11 and 12 and we would like to see them progress to university.”