How can I get involved?
There are many ways in which you can get involved and make a difference in the life of a child. This is done on a volunteer basis.
What is a volunteer?
A volunteer is a person who gives of his/her time, love, knowledge or often money, and receives no payment for it. Volunteers are usually persons who wish to make a difference to the life of somebody else.
What do volunteers receive from their involvement?
- Opportunity to live the task from the Bible to look after the orphan and those in need.
- Although the volunteer receives no money in exchange for his/her concern and input, he or she usually has the privilege of seeing that the contributions make a difference to someone’s life, for example:
- a physical difference to a child’s life. If a volunteer has had the clothes made for a child’s matric farewell, he/she will see the joy on that child’s face and know that he/she has made a difference to that child’s life, since without his/her aid, the child would not have had suitable clothes.
- a financial difference - a monetary contribution to the youth care centre will help the centre with their budget. The use of that money can ensure that a child obtains a better quality of life, e.g. new school clothes. We all know how important it is to a child’s self-esteem to be able to attend school in the correct school clothes – it enables the child to feel proud, and self-assured, thus enhancing his/her self-esteem.
- An emotional difference in the child’s life, because the child feels that he/she is worthy enough for somebody to be concerned about him/her and to look after him/her. Most volunteers report that they also felt more useful by acting as a volunteer. According to them it was a joy to be able to give more than they had received.
- Involvement with the youth care centre expands the volunteer’s own perceptions, knowledge and experiences. It is one thing to hear on the news that a little toddler girl has been raped, but it is a totally different reality to become involved with the care of such a little girl and to see how she is again healed. Volunteers are exposed to people and experiences which they would not otherwise have had.
- As a member of a committee there is interaction with other volunteers of different backgrounds and perceptions, of various church denominations and even of different cultures. It enriches your own life and expands your world.
- The volunteer learns about child-care, financial management, meeting procedures, decision making, new laws etc. As a volunteer your own knowledge and skills are irrevocably enhanced. The privilege of making a contribution gives a sense of worth. “That which I do is necessary.”
How can you, as a volunteer at a youth care centre, make a difference?
Every youth care centre has its own management, which is responsible for the running of the centre. You may decide to become involved with the children in the centre on various levels.
- Health services – Although the children are entitled to state health services, these are often found to be unsatisfactory and unavailable. The necessary medication is not obtainable from all the clinics. The services of nurses, chemists, doctors and specialists are required. So also the services of dentists, optometrists, occupational-therapists, physiotherapists and speech-therapists are required.
- Hairdressers – The children’s hair have to be regularly cared for. It is greatly appreciated if a hairdresser is willing to help a few children.
- Dressmakers – Adjustments and alterations of clothes are often necessary. Children attend social functions, e.g. matric farewell and need suitable clothes. When special clothes have to be made, e.g. for a school concert, this can be a problem for the centre. When the children receive hand-made jerseys, sleeping socks, scarves or caps, they give them great joy and also fulfil their needs.
- Persons with knowledge of food – The centres all work according to menu's. These however, have to be altered from time to time. Donations, e.g. 20 pumpkins, have to be processed. Knowledge and help are then required.
- Help with school work – Children who are behind in their scholastic studies, need individual attention. A child often needs extra lessons in Mathematics or English. Persons who help the children with their homework or offer extra lessons, are making an investment in the future of the child. Children thrive on encouragement and individual aid.
- Recreation and sport programmes – It is impossible for the personnel to develop each individual child’s talents. Children always enjoy programmes where they can learn creative activities and skills. Volunteers can offer during vacations, e.g. such weekly courses of arts and crafts programmes. The same applies to sport programmes. Such programmes enrich the lives of the children and give them a medium in which to give expression to their emotions.
- Religious development – Time is allocated in the daily programme for personal and family devotions. It is however, a special occasion for the children if a minister or youth worker takes the family devotions on a weekly basis. This person usually has a different style and different relationship with the children than that of the personnel. Our greatest task is to help the children to build a meaningful relationship with their Creator.
- To build a trusting relationship between the mentor and the child whilst maintaining a safe distance between them in order to enable the child to openly express his or her feelings.
- To assist with inspiring the child to accept and rise above his / her circumstances and to help with setting realistic, qualitative, achievable goals in order to induce a positive self image and perception of life.
- To reinforce the child’s sense of self value by showing an interest in the child and continually motivating and acknowledging achievements in order to sustain the development of a positive self image.
- To stimulate the strengthening of family ties, as well as promote communication with schoolmates, effective conflict management and the formation of friendship bonds, with the aim of cultivating positive family interaction.
- To support and encourage the child with school work so that he / she can develop to full potential and create opportunities for a better future.
- Food – A basic menu is followed. All food donations help to alleviate the financial position. It also helps several centres to feed needy children in the community.
- Clothing – The ages of the children vary form the baby stage to 21 years. All clothing, including used clothes of good quality, are useful. Shoes are always needed.
- Toys and sporting equipment – The centres usually do not have funds for toys since these are not absolutely necessary. Just as in the case of all children, our children also long to have a pretty doll, toy motor car or a ball. Story books, board games, paints, colour crayons, videos/DVD's and aids for activities are always very welcome. Children are eager to take part in sport. We often do not have the funds to buy the required clothes and equipment. Used karate suits, cricket equipment, rugby shoes etc. are very useful to us.
- Toilet requisites – face-cloth's, towels, hair dryers.
- Bicycles, tricycles, scooter
- Kitchenware and equipment
- Blankets, sheets and curtains
- Cleaning agents
- Children who excel in sport – their sport expenses. This means the provision of the required clothes and equipment for tours or competitions and also the coaching fees.
- School education. This means the provision of school clothes. As you are aware, each child must have at least one set of summer and one set of winter school uniforms. The provision of school requisites, payment for school outings and school tours.
- Toilet requisites. You can sponsor a child’s monthly toiletries by buying these together with your own groceries, and delivering it to the youth care centre.
- A child’s transport during holidays to his/her parents. Some children’s parents live far away and the bus tickets are expensive. Often the parents cannot manage this expenses. They really wish to have them for the holiday, but do not have the finances to receive them.
- If you should sponsor such a child, the necessary food can be bought which the child can take home and thus spend the holiday there.
- You can sponsor a child’s matric-farewell clothes and accessories.
- You can sponsor a child by buying his / her clothes. As you know, children grow so quickly that clothes that fit this year are too small the following year.
- You can make a child’s birthday special by sponsoring his / her present. You can also sponsor that child’s Christmas present.
- You can sponsor a child’s tertiary education. We have children who have the ability for further study. These children usually continue their studies by means of loans and bursaries which they obtain from the educational institution. No bursary, however, covers board and lodging, clothes or general expenses. A sponsorship can be used for this in a very meaningful way. We often also have children who finish their schooling at a special school but wish to qualify further e.g. as a hairdresser, in security etc. There are courses which can be followed at a Technical College. These children often find it difficult to obtain a sponsor to make their studies possible.
- An item on the grocery list can be sponsored (e.g. vegetables, meat, milk, bread, eggs, cleaning agents etc.) so that all the children can have a better quality of life.
- A child’s therapy can be sponsored. Often children who are admitted have been badly traumatised, or have scholastic backlogs. We would like to involve these children for therapy with a psychologist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, play-therapist etc. This is an essential service which will help him/her to become emotionally sound.
- Sponsor a holiday away e.g. at the sea. Many of our children have never seen the sea.
- You can place your holiday home at the disposal of the centre.
- You can sponsor a youth care centre to offer meaningful and productive projects during the holidays. More and more children are remaining at the youth care centres during the holidays because they cannot te placed. As you know, some of the holidays are fairly long and it is very difficult to keep the children occupied.
- Management skills
- You will need management skills as a member of the management or of a committee of the youth care centre. This will entail that you attend meetings and become part of the planning, management, policy forming and decision making with regard to the functioning of the youth care centre. This means that you are involved in an indirect manner, not directly involved with the children. Your expertise can ensure useful contributions, e.g. if you have book-keeping experience you can become involved in the financial committee and assist with the book-keeping of the centre; a person with knowledge of buildings can serve on the property committee; someone with knowledge of vehicles may serve on the vehicle committee. There is a clothing committee, food committee, birthday committee and technical committee consisting of professional persons. Members of management and committees take note of legal acts which affect the centre, and ensure that these are applied.
- Direct services to the children
- You can become more directly involved with the children of the youth care centre. There is always a need of persons who can “do” things.
- Financial donation
- A financial contribution to the youth care centre, is a way to become involved with the least personal contact with the children. Every youth care centre receives a subsidy from the government. This is merely a subsidy and does not cover all the costs, so that the centre must obtain additional funds. During the previous financial year the subsidy covered 72% of the expenditure.
- Foster parents
- Approximately 30% of the children’s parents do not make contact with them and are untraceable. This is the worst form of rejection. These children yearn for acceptance, support, love and sympathy. They have no motivation and this leads to a vicious circle.
- Foster-parents who have been selected can make a difference to this situation. Parents who feel that they have the motivation, time and skills to act as foster-parents for a child from our centres, make a lasting contribution and difference to the life of such a child. It is, however, not an easy decision and is not solely fun and pleasure. It includes all the responsibilities and challenges of normal parenthood plus so much more. If the foster-parents are not prepared to have the child throughout his childhood they are doing him an unbelievable injustice. Children are legally placed in the care of foster-parents and this statutory order is valid until the child is 18 years of age.
- Interested parents should make contact with the social worker of the child and youth care centre and preferably first have the child concerned for holidays so that a relationship can be established.
- Weekend and holiday-parents: Lisa (and Elizabeth) cannot go to her mother during holidays. It is not safe. Her father is untraceable. If she does not have family who are able to take her during holidays, she must remain in the centre. “I do not have anyone of my own”. The message thus received from the community is that “I am not good enough - nobody wants me”.
- The centre can supply in all the needs in terms of food, clothing, and safety. The personnel can attempt to supply her emotional needs, but it will never be the some as people of her own, since she will always share the personnel with the other children. Lisa will be exited and have a spring in her step if she knows that her holiday-parents take an interest in her; that she is special to them and sometimes spoil her; that they contact her on her birthday; visit her in hospital, are proud of her at the school prise-giving, comfort her if the child care worker has been a little strict, etc.
- Man’s greatest emotional need is to know that you are accepted by other people. Children placed in child and youth care centres because they do not have parents or guardians or because these persons do not care about them are unmotivated and reckless because there is no emotional bonding. Week-end or holiday-parents can make a radical change to the lives of these children. When there is someone who cares, it brings meaning and purpose to their lives. It is easy to give money and provisions if you have them. It is much, much more difficult to give of yourself. To be willing to open yourself emotionally to a child and to give time, attention and energy unconditionally, is another matter. It makes a lifelong difference to the child and enriches the own life of the weekend or holiday-parent.
- Prospective holiday-parents are screened and prepared. Thereafter a child is placed with them. It is expected that they will then take the child for some weekends and holidays. The child experiences emotional acceptance and security and can also see how a sound family functions with respect to a good marital relationship, conflict handling, relaxation etc. In these manner the child’s experiences are broadened and the child becomes prepared for adulthood. There are hundreds of children and adults who can testify to such a relationship which may continue into the next generation.
- Application to act as holiday-parents is done in writing at the youth care centre. Thereafter a social worker will contact the parents in order to do the screening, preparation and placement. A child from a youth care centre may go on a visit for a day, a weekend or a school holiday. There are various reasons why people are interested in taking a child from the centre. It may be from feeling sorry for the child, wanting to spoil him/her a little, as a playmate for their own child, or that they wish to make a difference to a child’s life. The prospective weekend or holiday-parent must not make a decision lightly. It must be seen as a lifelong task. The child experiences rejection and failure if the placement is terminated. The holiday-parents must be prepared to follow their commitment even if the child is sometimes difficult.
- Birthday “uncles” and “aunts
- Every child and youth care centre has a list of persons who volunteer to spoil a child once a year on his/her birthday. Guidelines are available as to the nature of the “spoiling” which vary from centre to centre.
- Adoptive “grandfathers” and “grandmothers”
- Pensioners who live near a centre and have the time and motivation can become involved in this matter. A child is then regularly received from a nearby centre, e.g. once a week for an hour. The “grandparent” will then plan a specific activity for this time, e.g. reading of stories, baking cakes, fishing etc. The activity will depend on the age of the child. Precious relationships are established and the needs of both parties are satisfied. The children also learn to care in this way. From their side the older children again help their “grandparents”. There are “grandparents” who help with homework on a daily basis. These children flourish with the individual attention.
- Our children have been disappointed and ill-treated by adults. They earnestly need intercession . The personnel work long hours – often under difficult circumstances. They experience disappointments and are often unsure of their own capabilities. We are confronted with challenging situations. Intercession is necessary for the personnel so that they may receive grace to act with patience and wisdom. Intercession is necessary for obtaining the required funds, so that the project can be expanded since there are children who die as a result of hunger, neglect and ill-treatment.
- Care of the personnel
- Personnel who work with neglected and traumatised children 24 hours a day are themselves traumatised and become emotionally overtaxed. It is essential that they be cared for and pampered by volunteers from the community. Support, a small token or message of caring is of great encouragement to the personnel.
- Mentor programme (Big brother / big sister project)
- In 2006 Our Child and Youth Care Centre initiated a mentor programme aimed at the involvement of young adults and students as “Big Brothers / Big Sisters” to the children of the Therapeutic Centre.
- A subsidy is received from the government which covers approximately 60 – 70% of the expenses of a centre. No child and youth care centre can exist without regular financial contributions. Free State Youth Care Centres are a registered welfare organisation as well as a registered public benefit organisation. Donations made to any centre via the public benefit organisation (Management Committee), qualify for deduction from income tax. (You can download the form by clicking
10.1 In kind donations - In kind donations can be items which can be used by the youth care centre and therefore do not have to be bought.
- The “in kind” donations can also be given in the form of a person’s time and skills, and is again something for which the centre would have had to pay; for instance, hairdressing, sport coaching, extra lessons, therapeutic services, medical services, modelling lessons, horse-riding lessons, etc. These can be given free, or at a reduced rate.
- It is often easier for donors to give “in kind” donations rather than cash, and the centre can use something which another person no longer needs. The “in kind” donations often help to balance the books of the centre, since these are all items on which money would have had to be spent.
10.2 Sponsor a child - What is a sponsorship?
- As previously mentioned, the youth care centre receives a state subsidy, but this does not cover the total expenditure and the community has to be approached for aid. The youth care centre normally cares for 12 children at a time. The aim is to place the child in the care of their parents at some stage, or place them in foster care, or they remain in the centre until they have completed their schooling and are old enough to care for themselves. This means that within a year there may be a large turn-over of children in a centre. We often have talented children in a youth care centre. If a child excels in sport, he/she normally requires equipment etc.
- One way of helping is to sponsor a child. In what way can a child be sponsored?
- If you would like to sponsor a child, please contact a youth care centre or the offices of the Free State Youth Care Centres. Here a social worker will help you to link up with a child or a centre who is in need of a sponsor. The social worker will also explain the steps to be taken in order to make the sponsorship practically possible.
- A bequest can help ensure that our future service to the children are still sustainable and of a high quality. If you already have a will and would like to make a bequest to Free State Youth Care Centres or to one of the youth care centres, you may download
- ( or wording of it) to add a codicil. Please note that it is advisable to consult a knowledgeable person such as your bank or attorney.
It is said that 10 years hence it will make no difference what car you are now driving or how smart your house now is. However, if you now make a contribution to a child’s life it certainly will make a difference in 10 years time.
MY EXPERIENCE AS A VOLUNTEER
We asked a volunteer what it meant to her to be a volunteer....
What a difficult order! You know how one does many things without careful consideration or judgement. But anyhow ...
I think a person is either a volunteer or you are not. Why this is so I don’t know at all. The role of a volunteer? Let us look at volunteers outside the context of e.g. the Military. If you look at it in that way, then it is a person who delivers a service to an organisation, without stating any demands. There are many different types of volunteers, but they all have one thing in common – they wish to help where there is a need. It is about the cause and never about the volunteer. To truly be a volunteer, is not a once off action that is to be taken. It continues on and on and time is not calculated.
One finds volunteers who do not mind how many hours of physical labour they put into a cause – they will knit, crochet, prepare food, do woodwork, make toys, be company, play games, look after people etc.
They give of themselves without ever calculating the costs, energy or time. In fact “they put their bodies on the line”.
Then there are others who can spot a need, and have an eye for where help might be obtained. They can thus be a link. Personally I think that I fall into the latter category. I am prepared to present the matter to people who are able to help. For me it is not at all difficult.
Why I want to be a volunteer at the youth care centres? My parents were always involved with their community and we grew up with this perception. The Lord was so good to me throughout my life, and blessed me and our family so richly, that I wished to be able to do something for people who were not as fortunate as ourselves. Because children are so vulnerable, and the community are often disinterested, I wished to do something for unhappy children who had been hurt. But because I am so given to tears and easily become too involved with other people, I thought it would be better if I could do something in a different way.
Although it was never my intention, I became enriched by the volunteer work that I was doing. Not in a monetary way of course! It was, and is wonderful to be the link between our congregation and the youth care centres. It is inspiring to witness the enthusiasm of the congregation members when they are able to provide in specific needs. Most people are eager to help if they know what exactly is required. Perhaps this is the best way to involve the communities – by calling the need exactly and specifically by its name.
But I also get to know unbelievable child care workers. People who helped to heal the hurt of broken children, who taught them about the Great Healer, who inculcated good manners and high valves in them, and sent them into the world with a better self-image and a feeling of self-respect.
I don’t have very high energy levels, and was amazed at the unceasing dedication to the children 24 hours per day, with so many children! My own three were often too much for me! I learnt to know social workers, how, with ingenuity, love and compassion they handled these broken and hurt children, helping them to get rid of their rage and frustration. They work with the children with the utmost patience, in order to get them back on the road to becoming a normal person.
I became acquainted with other volunteers, for whom nothing is too much trouble, and who gave years and years of themselves, their skills and their influence to the children. Some of them did not care how many rich and influential people they had to confront and persuade on behalf of the children. I become acquainted with rich and important people who gave for these children with tears in their eyes. I got to know people who do other work at the youth care centres, and they do it with enthusiasm and passion for the sake of the children. All these people enriched my life to such an extent that I can join Louis Armstrong in singing “What a wonderful world!”
Mrs Ansie Rall, Volunteer
Letter from a German volunteer
My name is Marieke, I’m from Germany, sweet 19 years old and a volunteer worker in South Africa until May 2008.
At this time I stay in Bothaville, Free State – a small farmer town - in the children’s home “Nala Re Thabile” and I just plain love it!
Alarmed by the fact that a white girl was going to stay with blacks, the whole town seemed to rush to the place to make arrangements to occupy me otherwise. That way, I made friends in the very first days which invited me to see different places in this area, introduced me to the traditional “braai” and the “farmer-live”.
Of course I visited the “lekeisheneng” on numerous occasions too, which is in walking distance, where I feel very welcomed and loved – not to stay – at home.
Back to Nala Re Thabile, lead by Magdaline, the staff also includes Miriam, Joyce, Pieter and Angy. They try their best to make my stay a memorable one and to show me the “black way of life”. It contains a lot of “pap”, socialising, singing, dancing and table manners I needed to get used to. The sixteen kids between 1 and 16 (of which 2 are Magdaline’s own) are very sweet and caring. They have to follow certain rules – or rather “principles” and fulfil their chores but also enjoy a lot of freedom which makes Nala Re Thabile seem like a big family.
Uncertainty about how to behave towards me and difficulty with communication were luckily overcome in a couple of days – I started learning Sesotho and they started learning English and German. To avoid boredom, I have of course a few tasks too, as making pizza, cookies and cake, dishing up food, cleaning and entertaining the kids.
All in all I really like this place and the people. Tough curios about my next destination, I’m really going to miss them!