South Africa

Helping Hand

Ons Plek: Keeping a shelter’s doors open in tough times

Ons Plek: Keeping a shelter’s doors open in tough times
Gift of the Givers project manager Ali Sablay. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

As the pandemic continues, NGOs and shelters are struggling to survive. One close to shutting its doors is Ons Plek, Cape Town’s oldest and only care organisation for girl street children. After reaching out to Gift of the Givers for help, they received a much-needed lifeline.

Ons Plek, a residential shelter for girl street children in Mowbray, received R20,000 worth of groceries and hygiene supplies from Gift of the Givers on Tuesday.

The shelter, which has been running for over 30 years, was severely affected by Covid-19.

Ons Plek received R20,000 worth of food and cleaning supplies to help keep its doors open. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

“Due to cancelled sports events and other fundraisers, anticipated funding won’t come through this year. In the meantime, other donors have closed doors or redirected their funding to Covid-19 specific causes,” Ons Plek wrote in a press statement.

Gift of the Givers arrived with two bakkie-loads of goods, which included rice, meat, milk, baked beans, toilet paper and hygiene products.

Nicolette Joshua, left, and Adele Hendricks, right, work as admin staff for Ons Plek shelter for girl street children. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

“It’s important to assist shelters like this, said Ali Sablay, a project manager for the Gift of the Givers. “Because if this door closes, we’ll find these women back on the streets.”

The shelter has three facilities serving approximately 160 girls: Ons Plek in Mowbray, Siviwe, a second-phase shelter in Woodstock, and Ukondla, which works with at-risk children in Philippi.

Director of Ons Plek Pam Jackson says her biggest concerns are a shortage of food, money to pay staff salaries and funds for the girls to access therapy. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

“Our three main fears were how to protect girls and staff, how to keep paying staff so the girls would receive daily care and emotional support and how to keep feeding them,” said shelter director Pam Jackson.

‘People are eating cats and dogs to survive’

Gift of the Givers has been flooded with requests for food aid since the lockdown began, says Sablay. “One weekend alone we received 8,000 emails”. The dire hunger situation has forced some to resort to desperate measures. 

Gift of the Givers has been tirelessly traversing the country during lockdown delivering aid to those in need. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

“People are eating cats and dogs to survive,” said Sablay describing a situation in Mthatha, Eastern Cape where community members fear potential rabies infections as a result. During a food drop-off in Peddie, another town in Eastern Cape, a woman confided in Sablay that her family had survived for three months by foraging plants for food.

Learning to overcome

Ons Plek’s programmes are designed to empower girls to “cope with life,” a pamphlet reads. Jackson says the girls do all the cooking, cleaning and other chores to teach them responsibility and self-sufficiency. Social ills such as physical abuse, gender-based violence, alcoholism and absent parents pushed many of the girls into homelessness. 

“Some kids are just hungry and the parents can’t feed them,” said Jackson. According to the organisation, only 12% of street children are girls and are seldom catered for by existing projects. Ons Plek fills the gap by assisting them with their education and ultimately reuniting them with family or giving them tools to strike out on their own once they come of age.

“If we stop our work, because circumstances are getting worse and worse in the communities, we will be flooded with street children in Cape Town again. So we’ve got to go on,” said Jackson.

They’ve launched a BackaBuddy campaign to raise R250,000. To donate, click here. DM

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