Ons Plek: Keep a safe space open for homeless girls during Covid-19

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Ons Plek, Cape Town’s only care organisation for girl street children, found itself in trouble following the lockdown. Picture: Supplied
Ons Plek, Cape Town’s only care organisation for girl street children, found itself in trouble following the lockdown. Picture: Supplied

VOICES


Cancelled fundraiser events owing to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic have resulted in significant funding gaps for care organisations.

Ons Plek, Cape Town’s only care organisation for girl street children, found itself in trouble following the lockdown, and its ability to protect vulnerable girls aged zero to 18 was under threat.

As International Day of the Girl Child approaches on October 11, former beneficiaries are rallying to get contributions to Ons Plek pouring in.

“They changed my life by making me realise that I belong in society and that I can play an important role in my community. Today, I am still applying the life skills they taught me,” says Allerease Olanrewaju (42), who lived in one of Ons Plek’s residential shelters in the 1990s.

“People should support them because of the value they add to the lives of young girls who are struggling to see their own value,” she explains.

Read: Covid-19 hits local NPOs hard

Ons Plek, which was established in 1988, was fundamental in helping Olanrewaju find her feet.

Nomawethu Mathunda (34), who was at Ons Plek between 1994 and 2003, agrees.

“Ons Plek has changed my life in terms of the care I received and boosting my self-confidence,” she says.

She has grown from strength to strength since her time at the shelter, expanding her wings beyond South Africa.

“I now live in Italy and am working at a local preschool as an English conversation facilitator. My husband and child are for whom I live!”

Allerease Olanrewaju, who lived at Ons Plek in the 1990s
Nomawethu Mathunda lived at Ons Plek from 1994 to 2003, and currently lives in Italy with her husband and child

Like Olanrewaju and Mathunda, Amanda Baloyi* (43) says the assistance Ons Plek gave her shaped her future. She was 12 when she ended up at Ons Plek in 1995, where she stayed until 2003.

“They are important to me as they stopped me from being a street person and helped me through many battles,” says the successful small-scale farmer who doesn’t want to have her true name revealed.

Baloyi explains how she ended up on the street after her mother abandoned her when she was just four years old.

Read: Underpaid and unprotected: The case for supporting community health workers

“I lived on the street for a long time before someone took me in and sent me to school. I, however, had to do a lot of housework and was often working late at night. That lady died when I was 12, and so I ended up on the streets again. Another woman found me and brought me to Ons Plek. I finished school and got a bursary to do a business course.”

Olanrewaju’s story and the stories of other women like her show how important Ons Plek is in society at large, she says.

“People should support Ons Plek because of the valuable impact they make in the lives of young girls who are living and have lived at Ons Plek. They need support so they can continue to empower them to be successful in life, just like they helped me.”

Ons Plek director Pam Jackson is as moved by these and other tributes as she is by the support that has come in over the past few weeks.

“We are not there yet as, technically, we need R800 000 to see us through to the end of this financial year. However, the funds that have come in so far are giving us some much-needed breathing space, allowing us to help as many vulnerable girls as we can, particularly now that Covid-19 has made the vulnerable even more vulnerable.”


YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

A crowdfunding campaign has raised R145 000 of a target R250 000, and features donations from all corners of the world – from Cape Town and Johannesburg to the Netherlands, Bali, the US, Abu Dhabi and beyond.


Mannak is a supporter of Ons Plek


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