AUGUST is Women’s Month, and August 9 has been declared Women’s Day and a public holiday in South Africa.
The day celebrates the struggle of liberation for women and highlights women that are leading change in their community.
To celebrate the beginning of Women’s Month, the Hillcrest Fever is paying tribute to unsung heroines, who are leading change in the Upper Highway area.
One such heroine is Janenne Hay, a volunteer at iKhethelo Children's Village near Botha’s Hill.
The 54-year-old Australian lives by her goal, “to serve Jesus faithfully wherever He should take me”.
Speaking about her migration to South Africa and volunteering at iKhethelo, Hay said: “My husband and I are members of an international Christian mission organisation called SIM - Serving in Mission. Through SIM, we moved from Australia and have been serving at iKhethelo Children’s Village in the Valley of 1000 Hills for the past two years.
“iKhethelo cares for and nurtures 50 orphaned and abandoned children. I have always worked with and had a deep love for children. Caring for vulnerable children is something I felt God has called me to since I was a teenager.”
A typical day for Hay includes getting up at 5am when she prepares for the day ahead.
“In some ways, every day at iKhethelo is the same, and in other ways, every day is different.
“School at iKhethelo Primary starts at 8.15am and finishes at 1pm. I assist the teachers by spending time with individual pupils who need extra help. In the afternoon, I help with homework and spend time playing and doing activities with the children.
“Other activities I am involved with include sorting and distributing donations, and co-ordinating the activities of all our volunteers. Living in the children’s village means we are on call almost 24/7. The days are long, but very rewarding.”
Hay says the best part of her volunteer work is that she is a mother figure to the children.
“I love to just hang out with them, do craftwork, play, watch a movie, go for a walk and relax with them.”
She said the most rewarding or memorable experience at the children’s village is the relationships she has with the children.
“Watching a fragile relationship develop into a relationship of love and trust. Watching the children grow and mature into beautiful people is very special too.
“It is amazing to see the transformation in a child’s life once they are surrounded by the love of the family that is iKhethelo.
“Earlier this year we had a two-year-old girl come to iKhethelo. She was unable to stand or even sit for more than a few seconds.
“We were very concerned that she may have had a serious condition, such as a tumour. She was taken to hospital for scans and tests. Fortunately, there was nothing seriously wrong.
“The doctors told us it was just a developmental issue due to a lack of stimulation. She must have been so neglected where she was before.
“One thing that really struck us about this girl during the first couple of weeks she was here was that she never showed any expression on her face. Now she shows off her beautiful smile which lights up her face and melts our hearts. This child is beginning to thrive and has a bright future ahead of her.”
Hay said there is always a need for community assistants at the village.
“One way the community can assist is to offer some of their time. Come and use your skills to help our children. For example, help with our homework club, either to provide general help or specific tutoring - we would love a good maths tutor.
“As a non-profit charitable organisation, we depend on donations from the community, especially financial donations.
“We would also like to raise a further R250 000 to meet some specific immediate needs, so any once-off donation is welcome.
“For any corporates who would like to donate, we are a B-BBEE Level 1 EME non-profit organisation, so you can score maximum points for your contributions.
“iKhethelo is a registered Section 18a charity organisation, so a business donation in kind or money is entitled to a deduction from taxable income,” she said.