Kids' home gets creative to survive the game of bones

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Kids' home gets creative to survive the game of bones

The Johannesburg Children's Home has taken matters into their own hands in order to survive the tough economic times

Journalist

In these tough economic times it can be a “game of bones” for many families. But what happens when you have 64 mouths to feed and bodies to clothe?
You play the cards you’re dealt with, the Johannesburg Children’s Home decided.
They have taken matters into their own hands and developed various income-generating projects to cope during trying tough economic times. So now they are dabbling in everything from running a B&B to catering for functions.
Annette Brokensha, director at the Johannesburg Children’s Home, said they’ve been feeling the knock-on effects of the rising cost of living in donations since 2008.
South Africans are finding themselves increasingly cash-strapped. This month petrol rose by 26c a litre for 93 octane, with 95 octane fuel going up by 23c, while diesel (0.05% sulphur) was hiked 26c per litre. This year also saw VAT increased from 14% to 15%. Water, electricity and sewerage increases were announced across the country’s municipalities.The children attend 15 different schools across the city, so it’s understandable that, with an annual fuel bill of R129,000, the latest increase has the organisation feeling “tense”, Brokensha said.
“We’re only three months into our new financial year and we didn’t budget for this fuel increase. This means the cost of generating our own income will also increase. We’re going to have to sit down and recalculate a budget. It’s making us pretty tense.”The facility is home to 64 children aged from three to 18 years. These children have been placed there by the Children’s Court because of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or severe neglect and abandonment. Some are Aids orphans and/or are HIV-positive.
Fiona Duke, who’s been with the NGO for over a decade, said they’ve had to tighten their belts to make ends meet. Aside from cutting costs, they’ve also developed income generating projects.
“We built the new section in 2012 with the idea that in future we’d have to start developing other income-generating projects,” Duke said.Some of the cost-cutting measures include limited trips to the theatre and only buying school photographs every second year.
“We planted our own vegetable garden so that we don’t have to drive to buy vegetables. We opened a second-hand shop in March and we’ve been hiring out the hall since last year. We’ve also renovated one of the cottages and turned it into a B&B,” Brokensha said.
Since it opened in June last year, the B&B has hosted guests from Russia, Brazil, Columbia, France and Belgium.
“Since we moved into our new office, we had a spare cottage and moved some of the older children to be closer to the rest and we had that cottage free. Initially we thought we’d get international volunteers to come and stay and work at the home, but then we thought why not open a B&B? This has proved to be quite successful. We get a lot of international guests, so we’ve gone global,” Duke smiles.In addition to hiring out the hall, the home also offers catering services – anything from platters to catering for corporate functions.
The vegetable garden is producing spinach, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, cabbage, sweet potatoes and beetroot. They’ve just planted mielies, pumpkin and beans.
Although they receive a state subsidy for each child, it covers only about 11% of actual costs. For the rest, the Johannesburg Children’s Home is reliant on donations, which are often not guaranteed.
“We haven’t seen an immediate drop in donations but we might start seeing that now. We’ve noticed that Madiba Month and just before Christmas people give more. We want to encourage people to give according to what’s on the list. Especially with Mandela Day coming up, sometimes it’s as simple as a bag of toilet paper,” Brokensha said.

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