British honour for SA streetkids champion

2011-01-03 00:00

THE founder and CEO of a Durban organisation for streetkids, Umthombo, is among three South Africans to receive a 2011 New Year’s Honour from Queen Elizabeth in recognition of their work.

According to a statement issued by Gary Benham, the spokesperson of the British High Commission in Pretoria, Umthombo CEO Tom Hewitt will be made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) “for his services to child welfare in South Africa”.

The other two are Tartia Havenga, the regional head of Learning and Development, which is based at the British High Commission in Pretoria. She was made an MBE in recognition of her services to the commission offices in South Africa.

Inspector Patric Hynes of the London Metropolitan Police Services will be named MBE for his services to community safety in South Africa.

Hewitt and his wife Bulelwa are the founders of Umthombo Street Children, a non-government organisation that empowers street children and aims to change the way that society perceives and treats them.

Umthombo’s website states that Hewitt was first exposed to the plight of street children in 1990 in Maputo during the civil war there.

He started working with street children in South Africa in 1992 in the Eastern Cape. In 1998 he relocated to Durban and set up the Durban Street Team, working with street children in the area.

In 2004, with Bulelwa, he founded Umthombo Street Children and incorporated the Durban Street Team.

Hewitt is known for his passionate belief in the potential of street children and particularly for his lead role in a successful campaign to end the forced removals of street children in Durban.

Sir Cliff Richard, the British musician who is internationally known for his charity work, said of Hewitt’s award: “I’ve seen for myself the incredible work that Tom has achieved among some of South Africa’s poorest and most desperate street children.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that his 20 years of selfless commitment have been publicly recognised. No one could deserve it more.”

Umthombo’s team is a combination of social work professionals and trained former street children who have a unique understanding of the realities of the streetkids’ experience and remarkable relationship of trust and respect with the children.

Attempts to reach Hewitt yesterday were unsuccessful.

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