A visit to Berea-Hillbrow Home of Hope


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Last night Kassie and I were privileged to visit the girls at Berea-Hillbrow Home of Hope. Thanks to Jayne Davies, who introduced me to Home of Hope. A bit of background: Jayne is mom to Tanya (Kassie's best mate). Jayne told us about Home of Hope and I said I would volunteer to start a Facebook group and do some social media marketing. So that's how I got involved in the beginning.

I then embarked on my High Five Challenge for Mandela Day, spending 67 minutes giving out Free High Fives (see image gallery HERE). I managed to raise around R3500 for the Home and was truly chuffed with this small contribution that I managed to make.

Jayne then mentioned that she and her family would be going through to Home of Hope last night to make dinner for the girls, and we were invited too. The Home is pretty strict about who gets to visit, since the girls have been in very vulnerable positions, and the Home even performs background checks on visitors, such is the determination to keep these girls safe, many of whom have been victims of human trafficking and child prostitution.

The "Home" is situated in Berea-Hillbrow, a stone's through from the famous Ponte building. The girls occupy two flats. One they use for sleeping with 24 bunk beds, and the other they use as a living area. The living flat is located on the [redacted] floor and you'll have to take stairs as pretty much none of these buildings have lifts that work. The sleeping flat is on the [redacted] floor.*

* Removed the floor numbers just in case

I was a little nervous about driving into the area, especially since I had Kassie with me, but you can't be too precious about these things. Just because I live in Sunninghill and I'm white does not mean that stepping a foot into Hillbrow will immediately put a cross-hair on my back. I also, despite not being religious or spiritual, somehow believe that doing something good gives you some form of immunity. Nevertheless, this is their reality and I wanted to see what it was like.

We parked outside on the street and climbed the stairs to the flat. The building isn't in horrific shape, but certainly isn't in good shape. Walking in to the flat, we are met by the 50 girls, including about six babies and toddlers. We get a wonderful welcome as Jayne tells them that I'm the High Five Guy and started their Facebook group. Such a feeling of warmth and happiness and buzz at this place. Jayne and her daughters have been there since half past four preparing "chicken a'la king" for the girls. We got there at 18h00.

We cook a massive 5Kgs of rice in a pot on the stove. Only two of the plates on the stove work. They have a new stove, but the plug doesn't work (Any electricians out there?). The rice cooks in a big pot on the two hot plates. We must turn the pot regularly to distribute the heat evenly. We cook the chicken on a two plate portable "stove" on the floor in the lounge.

We've given the girls a task of making "Dream Diaries". We've got pens, glitters, stars, glue, scissors and plenty magazines. The girls are asked to create "Dream Diaries" for themselves, where they write down their hopes and dreams, cutting out pictures of where they see themselves and where they want to be. It's a really positive message for them and hopefully these dreams can manifest in their lives. They are SO bright and clever. I saw a 10-year old doing homework... from a Tolstoy novel! The girls LOVED the Dream Diaries exercise and they all made pretty books and covered them. Some wrote about being doctors or teachers and one 16-year old is adamant that she will be a pilot.

Dinner took three and a half hours to prepare. 5kg of rice is a mission to cook! And we're cooking for 50. Remember this is one flat, one tiny kitchen, one bathroom, for 50 girls. They have a TV, which was only switched on after dinner and then 3 fold up tables and plastic chairs where the girls do their homework and eat dinner.

They don't even have enough cutlery. You'll see girls sharing plastic forks. The vibe is happy, warm and filled with camaraderie and love. It is one HUGE happy family. The girls are impeccably behaved, polite, friendly and very clever.

The girls asked me to help with some homework. One look at the maths and I ran off to fetch Kassie (senior bookkeeper and more numerically minded than I will ever be). Kassie got roped into accounting homework, while I managed to help with Grade 6 maths (after Kass showed me how to do it). The girls loved showing us their good marks. Ten out of ten on most tests! Wow!

Dinner turned out great, luckily. We were a bit nervous that we had totally stuffed up the rice, but it was delicious and we all ate heartily. We followed it up with ice-cream!

We left at about 21h00, but we really felt like we were at home and could have stayed longer. When we said goodbye, we got some extra special hugs from some of the girls who clearly enjoyed our visit. It really affects you and you can't help but get a lump in your throat.

It's impossible to describe how grateful we are for our blessed lives. These girls have endured absolute hell and they still smile. They don't even have hot water, or a microwave, or a DVD player, let alone a fully functional stove and oven. They do, however, have each other, and Mam' Khanyi the founder, as well as the other "mothers" that look after them. True angels!

They stole our hearts and we are determined not to make this a once off thing. I think our lives are now permanently intertwined.

We can't stop thinking of ways to improve their lives. Although they still need so much in their current place of living, the MOST IMPORTANT thing right now is getting them out of there.

Please go to the FB group and read under the Discussion tab, as well as look at the photos (or read THIS post). We've found a new spot for them where they will have FOUR kitchens, more bedrooms, a place to play, live and call a real HOME! Once this place is owned by Home of Hope they will also qualify for a government grant of R700 per person per month. Unfortunately, the screwy law states that they must own the property to qualify and currently they only own one of the flats in Hillbrow, and rent the other.

So please can anyone help in any way:

Account Name: Berea-Hillbrow Home of Hope
Bank: ABSA
Branch: 74 Market Street
Account Number: 405 319 3353

Tel: +27 11 331- 4466
Fax: +27 11 331- 4467
Cell: 073 250 2086
NPO Registration #:019 – 857

It's really heartwarming and humbling to be able to see that whatever small gesture you make goes directly into helping 50 human beings escape the clutches of hell on earth. You may be only one person, but you can impact the lives of these 50 people in such a fundamental and profound way. It is personally rewarding beyond measure.

1 comments for this post

To all readers of Rob Dickens - Home of Hope is also currently in the running for R22500 worth of Online Marketing, that could greatly help with the gathering of donations.

If you have 1 minute free please consider voting for them here: http://webw.co.za/Z0

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:07:00 PM GMT+2  

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