Granny’s joy after re-uniting with ‘dead’ grandson

2008-05-27 00:00

Elandskop grandmother Triphena Radebe (79) had been busy planning funeral arrangements for her 15-year-old grandson, who left home for the streets three years ago, when members of the Visible Policing unit brought him home.

Yesterday, she could not contain her tears of joy at a family reunion party held at the Loop Street Police station, after the family asked to meet the women behind it all.

Children at Risk (Car), is a project that takes children from the streets of the Pietermaritzburg CBD and reintegrates them into society through parents, guardians and non-governmental organisations. Car is the brainchild of director Parbathie Maharaj.

After 13 street children were killed in turf wars and after various business were burgled by the children, Maharaj and her team decided it was time to take action. "The children were either victims of sexual assault or perpetrators of such crimes …"

Policemen collected the children using an unmarked car, because the children are known to run away after seeing a police van.

To date, 22 children have been reunited with families since April and 10 of these have been put back in schools.

Radebe called Maharaj, "umelusi wabantu" or their guardian angel, for doing what many couldn’t.

"I’m so happy … I don’t know what to say. I went borrowing money from people so I could bury him after his uncle was told he had died on the streets. I’m old and sickly, but when he was away it got worse … God is so amazing and what He has done for me … is amazing. They must not stop with us, but do it for others too," said a teary-eyed Radebe.

Today, her grandson is back at school and loving it. Accounting is his favourite subject and he plans to be a doctor — he now realises he won’t get there by roaming the streets.

For 16-year-old Vanessa Govender, it was the influence of bad friends that landed her on the streets.

"My mother used to cry when she saw me.

"She used to say she does want me to come to her funeral and people I knew used to act like they don’t know me. Looking back, I realise that there was nothing nice about it."

Govender said she used to sniff glue and sometimes went without food.

"My advice to other young people who want to leave home for no good reason is it is not worth it. If you have problems, there are a lot of people … that can help," said Govender.

The children are on Car’s database and will be monitored constantly by teachers, parents and guardians.

Maharaj hopes to raise bursaries for the children to tertiary level, where they will be responsible for driving their own Car projects.

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