Away from their families: Brighten up a bleak Christmas for care homes’ children

The POST spoke to caregivers of some organisations about how these children would spend the festive season

The Phoenix Child Welfare held a party for more than 100 children at the Phoenix Children’s Centre. This facility, sponsored by the Goldrush Foundation, will comprise a charity shop, an event hall, a skills development centre, a toy library, and a therapy centre. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 21, 2023


Many children from financially destitute families will spend this Christmas at homes and orphanages across the country.

The POST spoke to caregivers of some of these organisations about how these children would spend the festive season away from the families.

Aroona Chetty, the director of Phoenix Child Welfare, said they had eight children in permanent care at the Phoenix Children’s Home.

“No child chooses to grow up bereft of parents, their natural carers. One of the most heartbreaking statistics shows that minors are spending their childhood in institutional care. Sadly, at least 50% are not orphans, but from financially destitute families who are unable to care for them.

“As much as we want these children to be with their families, there are some factors that hinder this process. These include family issues that are not resolved. Some children come from abusive homes and cannot go back as their parents have not yet been rehabilitated. Children from other homes are also accommodated at our children’s home as they don’t have families to go to.

“When children cannot be with their family, their emotions include but are not limited to sadness, loneliness, rejection, etc. We try to fill in the gap by taking the children on outings, putting together parties, buying them toys, new clothes, shoes, etc.,” said Chetty.

“This festive season we will be hosting three children from other children’s homes as they do not have families to go to for the holidays. We try our best not to leave children alone during the holidays as it adds to their trauma.”

She said they had volunteers who assisted the children daily and those who went to the home to spend time with the children.

“The last few years have been particularly harsh on children. With the pandemic pushing more families into poverty, many abandoned their children as they lost the means to take care of them. Many others lost one or both parents to Covid and most of these children have ended up in childcare institutions lost, frightened and deeply traumatised. The pandemic also caused a backlog in adoptions and a reduction in foster carers. This has increased the number of children per home, putting pressure on an already stretched budget.”

There are few areas where the Phoenix Children’s Home could use some help. Their operational cost for the month is R60 000 and they are in need of assistance with tiling, painting, computer and toys, among others. For more information, call Chetty at 031 500 3671 or 079 525 9026.

– St Monica's Children's Home is situated on the Bluff, south of Durban. The home’s director, Althea Daniels, said their children get to visit host families (unrelated families that have been screened), or extended families (like a granny or aunt).

“Some get to be with their parents, if possible. However, there are a handful that remain behind which is very sad. The children have to deal with feelings of sadness, hurt and rejection as they miss their families. Many do not vocalise their feelings.”

There are 84 children in the care of St Monica’ home. Over the festive period, about 40 children remain at the home, but this varies annually.

Daniels said volunteers were also few.

“The culture of volunteerism has dropped significantly. We definitely do not have that many people volunteering. Our protocol around volunteers is strict as we work with children, so police clearance is a requirement. We don’t mind females between the ages of 18 to 35 years, but a volunteer form will have to be completed.”

If you can help the home spread some cheer this festive season or if you want to find out more about volunteering, call 031 468 8656.

– In Chatsworth, the ABH Bhai Rambharos Children’s Home has 102 children in its care. About 70% of these children remain at the home during the festive period.

Amraj Dursan, the marketing officer for the ABH, said: “Some of the children at our home are orphaned and have no family to visit during the holidays. They remain with us and we provide entertainment programmes and outings to bring joy to them during a time when the loneliness they are faced with is heightened.”

He said their needs currently included assistance towards providing this holiday entertainment, outings and treats. For more information, call Dursan at 031 404 9523 or email [email protected]