Gerrit te Haar — a man making a difference

2007-12-10 00:00

After arriving from Holland in 1956, Gerrit te Haar and his wife spent 38 years at the Rietvlei Hospital in the Umzimkulu district, where he worked as a medical missionary. Much was accomplished in his time there, as is documented in his book In the Shadows of Tradition (published in 1999).

Te Haar’s concern was with teenage pregnancies and how these interfered with Transkei family life. He compiled a booklet, took it to high schools and taught sex education. He also produced a study called “Who does sex education in African society?”. This is an important issue as African people — like others — do not talk about sex. He followed this with an intervention study on sex education as part of his public health thesis.

After retiring in 1994, Te Haar and his family came to Pietermaritzburg. He worked with AE Christian radio, giving health talks for young people. Soon he became deeply involved with the organisation God’s Golden Acre, run by Heather Reynolds, for which he did a lot of fundraising. He also became involved with LifeLine and spent nine years on the board of Cindi.

God’s Golden Acre worked with the very poor in the Valley of Thousand Hills, where Aids is rampant. There were few recreational opportunities for youth in the area, leading to all kinds of problems. So Golden Acre became involved with the football clubs, teaching the youth about health, self-discipline, mutual respect, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and how to socialise with one another. They performed skills training through drama and dance in order to convey health and educational messages. God’s Golden Acre also runs summer schools for high school pupils providing life skills development and education on sexuality and other related matters.

At LifeLine, Te Haar ran counselling courses and was involved in voluntary counselling and testing as well as pre- and post-test counselling. He gave training at government agencies, farms and businesses, and conducted sex education and HIV/Aids prevention training in schools.

He has trained rape counsellors and is involved in e-mail counselling, serving clients all over the world.

Te Haar is a chairperson of a working group of Cindi called Tapelo (which means prayer) that provides materials to the home-based carers of the Cindi network. They also provide food supplements to Aids and TB patients. The working group co-operates with the Department of Health, the city’s health department and the NGO sector and focuses on Edendale and Sweetwaters.

Te Haar’s goal is to spread the love of Christ among the poorest of the poor. He is wholeheartedly supported by his wife Ineke and his six children.

How many good men are out there?

Contrary to the many articles we read in newspapers which tell of all the horrors of gender-based violence in this province and this country, there are in fact many men who are not abusers. Far from it.

This year, during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, we want to hear some positive stories for a change. To make this happen, a partnership of organisations put together a competition inviting stories fitting this theme. The Witness is running the best 16 stories submitted — one on each of the 16 days of the campaign, which runs from November 25 to December 10. Of these finalists, two will each win a special prize — a weekend away with their partner. The prize-giving ceremony will take place on December 11 at 9 am in Ixopo. The organisers thank Fern Hill Hotel and Pricewaterhouse Coopers for sponsoring weekends away for the two winning stories.

• Issued by a partnership of ecumenical organisations working on gender issues in KwaZulu-Natal: Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness; the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council, Pietermaritzburg; the KwaZulu Regional Christian Council, Eshowe; and the Thukela Amajuba Mzinyathi Christian Council, Ladysmith.

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