Caring for Children during the SA Lockdown is not business as usual
Abraham Kriel Bambanani continues to care for vulnerable Children and Youth, as we have always done, despite Covid-19 and the current lockdown. But it is most certainly not business as usual.
Until recently we had 600 children and youth in our care programmes in the communities of Soweto and Westbury. Overnight that number has increased almost three-fold to 1 774 in these programmes alone. All the family members with whom our beneficiaries live, are now also dependent upon the food parcels we distribute. This meant an immediate additional expense of R172 000 in April.
Abraham Kriel Bambanani (AKB) provides an essential service. People are dependent upon the organisation for their survival. Under normal conditions, the families of our beneficiaries have some means to supplement that which the children receive by way of a daily cooked meal, bread and fruit. In order to protect both staff and children from infection, we stopped the distribution of daily meals and the visits of children to drop-in centres and replaced it with food parcels. These food parcels were supposed to last for the first 21 days of the lockdown. Halfway through this period, however, the first distress calls started to come through and emergency supplies had to be taken to families in dire need.
Mr Paul Momsen, CEO of Abraham Kriel Bambanani, is firm in his belief that circumstances are unusual and the response has to be in line with what the country requires of the organisation now.
“Right now, we have to offer the best that we can. If we need to serve a bigger portion of the community, we will use all the resources and infrastructure that we have to do that to the best of our ability. We are ready to be of service and grateful to be able to provide relief,” said Mr Momsen.
The organisation is geared to handle the lockdown and to do its part in minimising the spread of the virus. It has 19 houses and a baby unit for children in need of care in children’s homes, where abused, abandoned and neglected children as well as children with special needs live. They are cared for by child care workers. The organisation has thus far been successful in preventing infection of children and staff. This has taken an extraordinary effort from management and care staff, who now also have to take responsibility for home schooling of the children. The carers are exhausted, but the children are thriving on a programme of activities and the additional household responsibilities in the absence of support staff.
However, the organisation now faces a real risk of falling through the cracks when it comes to funding. In April AKB approached a number of donors in the corporate world, who have donated regularly in the past. The majority of them now indicate that they are flooded with requests and cannot help.
“We understand. The crisis is real. Their help is going to the national bodies that, in turn, may fund smaller NGOs.,” notes Momsen.
The general guideline is that an NGO must have a turnover of less than R5 million and no more than 30 staff members in order to qualify for support. AKB’s turnover and staff count exceeds that by a significant margin.
“With the greater turnover and more staff members, we can and do achieve more and we can and do reach more beneficiaries,” says Momsen. Yet, donor funding will not be available for AKB’s programmes.
Abraham Kriel Bambanani is dependent upon donor support for more than 60% of its annual income. Of this, a major portion is income from corporate donors. Apart from the challenges accessing corporate donor funding, AKB has also had to cancel or postpone a variety of fundraising events in line with social distancing guidelines.
“We are exceedingly grateful to the many individuals who support the organisation generously from their own money. This helps and it is a great encouragement to all. However, it cannot replace all the contributions we used to get from corporates in South Africa, which can naturally fund much bigger elements in the budget,” says Momsen.
His final message to is: “We urge decisionmakers to remember both what the bigger organisations like Abraham Kriel Bambanani have to offer, not only during this crisis, but in the long run. We still need to be around when the immediate crisis has passed.
“There will still be children in need that go hungry, that are abused, and that are abandoned. Society will still need the infrastructure, the expertise, and experience we can offer, both to the world of business that wishes to make a meaningful difference and to the NGO sector. We need your support!”
Visit our website www.abrahamkriel.org or call Hilda du Toit on 082 8942458 for more information
Abraham Kriel Bambanani has been in operation in Greater Johannesburg and the East Rand since 1902. It normally cares for more than 1000 children and youth in two children’s homes, seven group homes, four programmes for orphans and vulnerable children in the communities of Soweto and Westbury, a skills development centre, and an early childhood development centre. Abraham Kriel Bambanani has a reputation as an accountable and transparent organisation with excellent governance systems. For more information on how the organisation deals with the current situation i.r.o.Covid-19, please visit www.abrahamkriel.org