One’s childhood memories ideally should be warm and fuzzy, conjuring up scenes of close family interaction, fun times together and feelings of being loved, being cared for and being happy. Not all are so lucky. The children of Hokisa Children’s Home in Masiphumele may have been amongst the unlucky ones, but for the vision and the love and the commitment of some very special people.
I visited Hokisa, home to 18 children affected in some way by HIV/Aids, on a Monday during the school holidays, a glorious day. I did not meet any of the younger children – they had all been taken to the beach – but towards lunchtime a few of the teenagers returned, gravitating to the kitchen where delicious aromas were escaping from the pots on the stove. Like in any normal family, the kitchen seemed to be where it all happened!
Hokisa can accommodate 20 children in cosy shared bedrooms leading off the open plan communal areas where meals are shared, fun is had and homework is done. The kitchen and bathrooms have recently been renovated, thanks to funds donated by overseas and local sponsors.
Founded by Karin Chubb and Dr Lutz van Dijk, Hokisa was opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu on 1 December 2002 and the first child was taken into the home in January 2003. Others soon followed. Lungelo Nqojana, one of the co-directors of Hokisa, says that at first they had sleepless nights. Our Health Minister at the time was infamously touting beetroot and garlic as opposed to ARVs and, contrary to the law, the staff at Hokisa were giving ARVs to their HIV positive children on the advice of respected and highly qualified doctors at Groote Schuur Hospital. They had had no experience with the drugs “but could only live in the hope that the drugs would work. Like neurotic parents we were checking on our happily sleeping children every few minutes to see that all was well with them!” Their faith was not misplaced – today a third of the children are on ARVs and all are flourishing, healthy, active, growing children. Helping to keep them so is Dr Peter Jacka who runs his private GP practice on the grounds of HOKISA offering on-the-spot support, advice and treatment to children and staff.
The policy at Hokisa is to raise the children in as optimal and as normal a home as possible. School age children attend Bay Primary and Ocean View Primary Schools. Fourteen of the children have joined Nippers at the Fish Hoek Lifesaving Club. Their lives are enriched by outings to places such as the MTN Science Centre, Butterfly World, the World of Birds and by camping holidays at Beaverlac in December holidays. Imagine the excitement when they were awarded tickets to the World Cup soccer match between Holland and Cameroon. For the report and photographs see the HOKISA website: http://www.hokisa.co.za/news/2010/06/28/world-cup-2010-we-felt-it/
The nurturing continues as the children grow into young adulthood. Once they reach the age where they wish to live independently as responsible adults, they have the opportunity to move into a block of flats called ‘Peace House’ in Masiphumelele where some of the staff also reside and continue to provide support and friendship to the HOKISA youth. The oldest child has now grown up, is living independently in the Peace House and has been trained by St John’s as a Home Based Carer. He is now permanently employed at Nerina Gardens Old Age Home in Fish Hoek and has found his calling looking after the aged – he is now giving back to the same community that assisted him.
Robyn Cohen, co-director along with Lungelo, says that what they truly appreciate – as much as the donation of money – is the giving of time and expertise, skills and equipment by local residents in the Scenic South. The children revel in the swimming and dancing lessons they are offered on a regular and ongoing basis by local teachers. “The children need consistency in their lives, as all children do. When people offer their skills and experience, we would like it to be on more than just a casual and occasional basis as the children form strong attachments, which we do not like to see broken. They have had enough loss in their young lives”. The generosity of spirit of a group of woman friends from Noordhoek is an example of ongoing care and connection that the staff at HOKISA would like to encourage.
See “Touched by a friendly Soul” under Our Communities section.
Outgrown items of clothing, wetsuits, sport and educational equipment, books and encyclopaedias will find joyful new owners amongst the children at HOKISA. Robyn appeals that such items be delivered directly to HOKISA or arrangements made for this directly with her and not be given to the children via their school or Nipper friends, for the self-esteem and self-respect of the children wishing to be treated no differently from any others.
To learn more about HOKISA , its founders and staff visit their website http://www.hokisa.co.za/