Unako enables kids to live better

2016-08-04 06:00
 Members of the First United Congregational Church doing paint work at the Kitchen of Unako Children’s Home.

Members of the First United Congregational Church doing paint work at the Kitchen of Unako Children’s Home.

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When Pastor Julius Bonani decided settle in Barcelona informal settlement in Gugulethu in 2002, he could not have known that he and his wife would be parents to 32 abandoned kids.

Today he takes solace in the fact that when he’d decided to do it, it was against the advice of trusted friends.

“They said it was a crime infested area that had become a no-go area event to law enforcement and the police.”

Fourteen years later, Pastor Bonani, 69, is still the head of the Barcelona Baptist Church, and is running the Unako Children’s Home, an orphanage, from a container.

He looks after 32 young boys and girls aged between one and 22 years.

“God has seen us through in raising these kids” said Pastor Bonani as he relates the story behind the Unako Children’s Home to a group of members from the First United Congregational Church based in Chicago in the United States.

The group visited JL Zwane memorial church as part of their visit to South Africa, to observe several community projects. They also visited a community health clinic in Mitchell’s Plain.

During their visit to Unako, the members went down to work, providing support to the orphanage, painting of the facility while others assisted the three volunteers in giving care to the baby orphans.

“These kids were brought here by social workers” said Pastor Bonani. “Some of them were born with HIV and as a result their mothers abandoned them.

Some were brought here visibly scarred from abuse they endured from parents, grandparents, and relatives.

Pastor Bonani says although the parents of the kids are still alive, they never visit them.

Pastor Bonani related the story of an 11-year old boy who is also living with HIV.

“Loyiso* has been with us since he was born. He has been living with HIV but thanks God he has been going strong. We know his mother, she lives around here.

“In 2011 in December, Loyiso* asked for permission to visit his mother to spend the festive holidays with her. When we contacted her to inform her, she replied that she did not have a place to accommodate him.

“I stressed that as she was the biological mother of the boy, she had to accommodate him. Went sent him along anyway...

“The boy cut short his stay and returned. He told us of how badly he was treated by his mother, who would not even allow him food, saying it was reserved for the other children. Because he was HIV positive, we noticed he was not properly fed and as a result his health deteriorated.”

Pastor Bonani says the orphanage has so far been surviving out of donations and handouts from members of other churches as well as through the produce from a garden that they cultivated and was a donation by the Desmond Tutu Foundation in support of the children living with HIV.

“Out of the 32 children we care for at Unako, only four are so far receiving a government grant.

My wife and I frequently visited the local social development offices to submit requests for support, but sadly our pleas fall on deaf ears and I advised my wife that we give up because I later noticed we had become a nag.

“But it is the faith in God that has kept us going. I am blessed that we have been surviving through the support of churches like JL Zwane and other churches who have been giving support.

I am also certain that the visit by the members from Chicago is another blessing from God “These kids need more than food...they need the love of a mother, the love of the community.” said the Pastor

Pastor Bonani says its not all gloom and doom.

“I am happy to say that, despite the challenges, four of the boys are now proud young men after undergoing initiation. ”

As for the crime he was cautioned against, it was real, he says.

He found a place that was teeming with crime, people being robbed of their belongings in broad daylight and the robbery of furniture delivery vans. “Today Barcelona is calm, people can be seen early in the morning going about their way of life, of survial. That is what makes me happy.


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