||19 July 2009 07:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
These melodic voices belong to a group of children whose lives have been anything but easy. They all live at Othandweni - a family care centre in Soweto that has operated for 24 years - and that just a few months back, was literally falling to pieces.
Carte Blanche first encountered Othandweni last year when we launched the "Making a Difference" campaign - our way of celebrating 20 years on air. The campaign saw us approach corporate donors and our viewers to raise what we thought was an ambitious R20-million. But so far we've raised almost three times that much and we're still counting. We've brought you regular report backs on the impact of the campaign. Every cent is channelled directly towards South African children in need at the paediatric units of five State hospitals and two charities. It was one of these charities - the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society - that led us to Othandweni.
[Carte Blanche 17 August 2008] Karen James (Manager: Othandweni): "There are babies who have arrived here still attached to their umbilical cords... found in the fields, in the rubbish heaps. We've got a lot of love here...."
The nursery is always full to capacity - and up to 90 children live here at any given time. Many who arrived as babies only leave Othandweni when they finish matric.
[Carte Blanche 17 August 2008] Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): "What are your main challenges?"
[Carte Blanche 17 August 2008] Karen: "90 children, 40 staff members, and a building that is falling down."
When we met her, Othandweni's former manager, Karen James showed us roofs and gutters and five cottages in serious need of renovation.
[Carte Blanche 17 August 2008] Derek: "Everything is just crumbling. I mean, here the cupboards are falling apart."
[Carte Blanche 17 August 2008] Karen: "We don't actually use them because they are falling apart. The paint is all peeling off. The floors are just bare screed at the moment."
At a stage, the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society considered closing the deteriorating Othandweni. But following our broadcast last year the society was inundated with support. And, McDonald's South Africa answered Othandweni's call.
Greg Solomon (Executive Director, McDonald's): "It started off with that one small snippet that we saw on Carte Blanche. The ladies, the senior ladies of McDonald's got me in a vice grip and said, We have got to make a difference.'"
Greg Solomon is the Executive Director of McDonald's. Their wonderful R1.2-million donation went towards buying materials, while their contractors and suppliers provided the labour to give Othandweni a complete make-over.
Assistant Director at the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society, Carol Bews, is thrilled with the changes.
Carol Bews (Assistant director: JCWS) "The physical environment is just... it is chalk and cheese - you can't believe what it was and what it has become. But I think from an emotional side... the feeling that people cared so much to do so much for the staff and for the children has just been overwhelming."
Bongani Bingwa (Carte Blanche presenter): "Behind me is the prize giving - the people from Othandweni and JCW are thanking McD and their suppliers for the fantastic job they have done in just fourteen days."
Greg: "So we have done internal renovations of the dormitory areas or the residential areas where the kids spend most of the time. We pulled up all the carpets, put fresh tiles down, new painted walls, some curtains, nice art work and comfortable seating area for the kids to be able to do their homework and entertain themselves."
They've even got a new basketball court. For the people of Othandweni, the new facilities are a God-send.
Woman: "Father bless all the sponsors and bless everyone LORD who has made this day a possibility in the name of Jesus. Amen."
Now more than ever, Othandweni lives up to its name - A Place of Love.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.