17 January 2012
A heart-warming function celebrating the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Hokisa Children’s Home in Masiphumelele was attended this morning by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, the German General Consul Hans-Dieter Bussmann and his wife, Dr. Werner and Birgit Simon from Berlin, Germany, who have been supporters of HOKISA for many years and Dr Nomfundo Walaza, CEO of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre. The Hokisa Children’s Home grew out of the Hokisa Trust and was officially opened by Archbishop Tutu in 2002.
The function was opened with the singing of a hymn in Xhosa followed by a prayer. The singing was led by Eunice Mbanjwa, a team leader at Hokisa whose touching story was heard during the course of the morning. Dr Lutz van Dijk, founding co-director of Hokisa introduced and thanked the special guests of honour which included, apart from those mentioned above, members of the numerous organisations within Masiphumelele cooperating with Hokisa around health and education over the years.
Karin Chubb, founding co-director of Hokisa recalled how in 1997 she was asked to host a writer from Holland – Dr Lutz van Dijk. She confessed to having had a conflict of interests – whether to take her visitor to see Table Mountain and the Waterfront or to attend the Youth Hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Athlone. Lutz’ s immediate response was that there were only two Youth Hearings – one in Durban and one in Cape Town and Table Mountain would still be there for a long time. After attending the hearings, Luzt and Karin felt moved to write a book which was published in both Germany and South Africa. Their dilemma thereafter was how to spend the proceeds from the sales of the book as both felt that the money should go back to the youth of South Africa. With the realisation that the biggest challenge in the country was the scourge of HIV Aids, they set up the Hokisa Trust, invited the indomitable Di Oliver to be chairperson and went on to fund raise in Germany and Holland.
Said Di of Karin and Lutz: “They are amazing people. They both need to be involved in a hands-on way and are catalysts for each other, and for others who become involved in their projects. When Maria a nursing sister at the Masi clinic told Lutz she knew on a Friday which children would be dead from Aids by Monday, Lutz and Karen realized they needed to develop a home to look after children with Aids. Karin brought to the team activism, commitment to the youth of South Africa and a commitment to transformation. She was a full-time lecturer at the University of the Western Cape. Lutz is another outstanding teacher. He had the experience of working in the Ann Frank Foundation in Amsterdam and realises the importance of combining vision and practical management. Both insist on voluntary effort and are committed to transforming the world.” Di commented further on their intelligence, hard work, love of people and children in particular and their belief that “every opinion has value as it will stimulate engagement from which all can learn.” Lutz, Karin and their colleagues also appreciate that Hokisa cannot be an island in the middle of Masiphumelele without being connected and have reached out to understand the dynamics of the village. Local children are free to enter the premises and feel part of the Home and in doing so realise that there is nothing to fear from children living with HIV.
Eunice Mbanjwa, team leader, told her story of leaving the Eastern Cape in ill health with a very ill 3 year old son ZIimi. Arriving in Masiphumelele with the intention of finding work in the area she found it extremely difficult to achieve her purpose while having to care for a sick child. Her son was diagnosed with the HIV virus and TB and Eunice was told that he would probably not see his 12th birthday. Fortunately she was directed to Hokisa where both she and her son found love and support. Eunice ultimately trained to be a child care worker, assisting mothers with the care of their HIV children. Both she and her son are now strong – and her son celebrated his 12th birthday in September last year.
Expressing the opinion that the “whose who of philanthropy, generosity and commitment to the people of the Western Cape” were present at the function, Premier Helen Zille commented on the extremely productive relationship between the Western Cape and Germany – between individuals, NGO’s and government. She thanked the Consul General for his commitment to creating the climate which made people feel that they would like to partner with South Africa and Dr. Werner and Birgit Simon for their hospitality when she visited Germany.
Reflecting on the policy implications of Eunice’s story, Premier Zille said that it is extremely difficult to decide on how to spend public money. “The role of the state in providing health is most important and this is where most of the Western Cape budget is spent. The Red Cross Children’s Hospital is an example of the partnership between the state and private individuals and it is critical that we keep it open not only for those in need in our province but as an example for Africa and the rest of the world. We have specialists there whose expertise is sought by medical professionals overseas.” Referring to a conversation she had recently with a specialist with regard to a mutated strain of TB virus that is totally resistant to drugs, Premier Zille said that it is difficult to find a balance between the amount of money spent on research for a vaccine and the amount spent on treatment of TB and HIV in general.
In response to Dr Lutz’s pitch for a second access road into Masiphumelele, for safety and housing, Premier Zille said that the arena of housing is very complex. Referring to the Amakhaya Ngoku Housing Project with which Lutz is involved, she remarked that “only Lutz could have sat it out. A massive amount of money was raised overseas to benefit relatively few people which created huge conflict. Because everyone can’t have the same doesn’t mean that some people should not have. We have learnt a lot of policy lessons from this. It is a wonderful work of history that Lutz and Karin met! It is not the role of the state to stop their work. ” For more about the Amakhaya Ngoku Housing Project see http://scenicsouth.co.za//2011/11/amakhaya-ngoku-housing-project-in-masi-needs-community-support/ )
Referring to the outstanding work done at Hokisa the Premier continued: “The more I see of the lack of intervention for children orphaned and affected by HIV the more concerned I am about policy. The romantic notion of a happy family of fifteen orphans looked after by a dedicated “Mama” is nonsense. No Mama can give those children the opportunity they need to make a success of their lives. At Hokisa there is a holistic development of the children and the capacity to intervene. This is a model we should look at. The partnership
with the churches and NGOs is a wonderful thing.” In conclusion Premier Zille thanked Lutz and the Hokisa team for “seeing the need and for responding to it and for providing a model that can be replicated.” She also thanked Eunice for representing the “collectiveness” of the Hokisa community.
In reply to Premier Zille, Lutz said that within the last 10 years the population of Masiphumelele has doubled to a figure of between 30 – 40 000 yet, apart from the High School extension, the area of the village has remained the same. “Without the strong co-operation of many people the situation would have been dangerous. Whatever you start there is never enough for everyone and this will always be a source of conflict. “ Lutz’s dream for the next 10 years is to build more bridges for Hokisa and to work toward a Masi community that has more than one access road. His broad smile made it clear that he was punting for the second access road for Masi, but he was also referring to creating access to many new opportunities for the community.
Dr Werner Simon and his wife Birgit from Berlin, Germany, handed over two cheques to the team at Hokisa, professing that “one cannot travel to South Africa without doing something to help the people of this wonderful country.” Dr Simon said that part of education is to teach young people about other countries. Taking his teachings to heart, children from the famous Canisius College, aged 10-11 years, collected money for the children of Hokisa, to which their parents added an amount of their own. Dr Simon and his wife added 50 kgs of football vests and soccerballs from the sportsclub of the Berlin Free University and with the help of Lufthansa are hoping to bring in 50kgs more. Unfortunately the children were all at school so we did not have the chance to see their responses to the gifts!
Next week work will start on the new building for the growing number of teenagers as the little children of ten years ago are fast becoming young adults! The new section will provide them with their own rooms with their own desks and the opportunity to learn independence. Robyn Cohen, co-director of Hokisa, thanked architect John Shaw , electrician Rob Hughes and builder Ray and Magda Ruth for the role that they have played and are playing in providing the children of Hokisa with a warm and wonderful space in which to grow.
Dr Nomfundo Walaza, CEO of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, closed the function with a prayer and singing. In her prayer she succinctly encapsulated the spirit of the morning and the spirit of all involved in Hokisa: “God of all creation! We hope that you will instill in each child a desire to learn, and an assurance that the world is filled with possibilities for a better life. We thank you for the gift of life, and for constantly reminding us to be mindful of all those who are less fortunate than us. May this Home continue to be a sanctuary for those in need; and may this celebration herald a new era in its development….”
Hokisa Children’s Home is indeed a shining example of what can be achieved by ordinary people prepared to to commit to a dream with passion, determination, energy and love, And although it might be seen to be benefiting only a select few of the thousands of children in South Africa in dire need of foster care and nurturing, Hokisa will have a much wider impact as a “model to be replicated”, as the Premier said.
We salute Dr Lutz van Dijk, Robyn Cohen, Eunice Mbanjwa and their team at Hokisa for the invaluable and inspiring work they do within the Scenic South community and wish them every success in their projects.
For more on Hokisa visit also their website: www.hokisa.co.za
Special thanks for the photos contributed by photographer Nic Bothma
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
― attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe