As I look back on my reports over the past 18 months it seems that Covid has featured in almost all of them, and I guess it’s a sad reflection on the state of the pandemic worldwide and the disruption it has caused to everyone, not least to Thandanani. I previously reported that we had managed to evade any Covid infections at the Home, but sadly it eventually caught up with us in the last 3 months.
Xoli, who is in his final year of high school, was in the midst of writing his mid-year exams when he tested positive and had to stay at home. But not to be outdone he was able to continue writing at home under supervision, and then to make sure that he didn’t pass any virus back to his teachers, the exam papers were hung out on the washing line for an airing, from where they were collected in due course by our house manager and returned to the school – definitely not an everyday sight to see exam papers on a washing line.
The access road into Thandanani is rather rough to say the least, so it was not surprising when one of our 2 vehicles (which was 12 years old) finally decided to call it a day. As our public transport system is less than adequate we had no choice but to start looking for a replacement, otherwise we’d have had a problem getting the kids to school, visiting the doctor, doing the shopping, etc. So we are now the proud owners of a new Suzuki Ertiga which can transport 7 children, however, it was not an expense that we had anticipated this year, so it has put a strain on our financial resources.
The South African economy has been hit hard by Covid, and the knock-on effect is that many donors are thinking twice before making a donation, resulting in many charities taking strain, and in fact some have had to close due to the reduced income. Thandanani has felt the pinch as well, resulting in our income being somewhat lower than the same time last year, plus we’ve had the expense of the vehicle, so if you are able to assist it would really be appreciated.
As we move out of winter and into spring (in the southern hemisphere), and as the 3rd wave of Covid seems to be receding rapidly, we look forward with renewed hope and optimism to what the future may hold.
Thandanani is located in the informal settlement of Zandspruit which is a sprawling mass of shacks which has grown exponentially since we established our children’s home on the outskirts almost 20 years ago. Unfortunately, with the growth of the settlement comes an equal growth in crime which the authorities are challenged to contain, resulting in the residents taking the law into their own hands. The ugliness of this form of so called “mob justice” is what we try to shield our children from, but it becomes increasingly difficult to do so as Zandspruit now completely encircles us, and although we have been spared any incidents involving our children, we have come to the conclusion that we need to find a new location for our home. Of course finding a new location is easier said than done, not to mention that the cost far exceeds what we can afford, nevertheless it’s a challenge that we believe we must rise to.
But it’s not all doom and gloom as we see our children successfully progressing with their education.
And of course as winter approaches we’re now facing our 3rd wave of Covid-19 with the challenges which that will bring. We are extremely grateful that none of our children has contracted the virus to date, but we’re going to have to continue to be vigilant over the coming months.
So we continue to be thankful for all the positives things that we see happening, and we remain confident that we will find a way to overcome the obstacles that face us, never forgetting our supporters who have walked a long road with us for which we are eternally grateful.
Just when we thought that we were past the peak of the Covid pandemic, the 2nd wave hit us in December, and our challenges of the early part of 2020 have returned including the challenge of online education. Fortunately our school summer holidays started mid-December and ran through to end-January, so the impact will only be from February onwards.
During the holidays it is always our goal to try and re-unite some of our children with their extended family members so that when they eventually leave us they still have a support base. Of course this is not always possible for a variety of reasons e.g. they were abandoned and the family can’t be found, or the home environment of the family member is not considered safe. But I am pleased to say we were able to re-unite a high percentage of our children this year, even if it was only for a couple of weeks, the only sad part is that it re-enforces the feeling of abandonment for those left at Thandanani knowing they don’t have family outside of Thandanani.
As in any family it’s always sad when a family member leaves, and so it was when our Social Worker (Zandile) resigned in October. Zandile had been with us since 2005 and had become an integral part of the family and a confidant of the children. But there was also a silver lining because one of our house moms (Claudia) had been studying for a Social Work degree by correspondence, and had just qualified earlier in 2020, so it was an ideal opportunity to promote her into the role of the new Social Worker. Of course this caused a chain reaction and left us short of a house mom, but I am pleased to report that we found a lovely new lady (Sibongile) who has come on board and has fitted in from Day1.
So as we move into 2021 with it’s ongoing Covid challenges we do so ever thankful for you, our supporters, that have supported us through some difficult times, and for this we are eternally grateful.
Education has presented a challenge for the children of Thandanani in 2020.
Estimates in South Africa show that up to end September children have lost between 30 and 59 school days (depending on their grade) during the pandemic, and although schools are now back they will probably lose more between now and the end of the year due to social distancing measures e.g. half the class only attending school every alternate day.
So with the return of school attendance it’s definitely been a whole new experience for our Thandanani children, not only having to convince them to wear masks all day at school, but then having to continue with online lessons on the alternate days at home.
And it’s also been a learning curve for our house parents who have to keep track of who is at school on which day given that it varies by grade, and the fact that our children attend 7 different schools, not to mention trying to figure out which online class which child should log into on which day. And we’ve had to change our mode of transport because children that would normally have gone to school in a mini-taxi (16-seater microbus) no longer do so because of the risk of the virus in that environment, and in place of that we have decided to take them to school and back ourselves, with some schools being up to 20 kms away and the resultant cost of fuel and wear-and-tear on our vehicles.
But notwithstanding the challenges we remain upbeat because not only is education taking place, but we’re surviving the pandemic, and our children have remained virus free for which we are extremely grateful.
And of course we owe a debt of gratitude to you our supporters, and thank you once again for every donation whether big or small that has been helping us to survive the Covid-19 challenge.
As I write this report we are still in a state of semi-lockdown, with our children just starting to tentatively go back to school, which is being spread over the coming weeks with a grade at a time going back. We just hope that it proves possible to keep them socially distanced, and that we can keep them wearing masks as the current law dictates in South Africa.
Life in South Africa has certainly been a challenge for the last 3 months, not least for our children at Thandanani – imagine keeping 22 kids indoors for the whole 3-month period !!! I take my hat off to our dedicated house parents who have stuck to their task during this time, and have done a sterling job, but who are also very thankful that the schools are starting to open!
Of course education didn’t come to a standstill while we were in lockdown, as every school started presenting online lessons, and Zoom classes. This of course presented us with the challenge of not having enough PC’s or tablets or mobile phones to keep everyone connected when they needed to be, and created an exponential cost in data charges. But we were blessed with many coming to our rescue in the form of PC’s and donations of data.
But Covid-19 has also presented us with another challenge namely a funding challenge, due to the fact that a lot of the money that we would normally have received from corporates has been re-directed to Covid relief schemes, not to mention the fundraising events that we would have run which are now in jeopardy, hence the new project that you would have seen that we launched on GlobalGiving to try and fill the gaps of lost income.
But I have no doubt that we will survive this challenge and come out the stronger for it, and of course we are forever grateful for your support to help us over these hurdles.
Given the current situation I unfortunately don’t have any recent photos of our children that I can share with you, so I’ve included a photo of two of our children that was taken at a cycling fundraising event at the end of 2019.
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