People's Post

Trust begins at home: Rondebosch Police engage with youth at child and youth care centre

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Children from Marsh Memorial Home in Rondebosch participate in a sack race. The activity formed part of a sports day, organised by Rondebosch Police Station and Rondebosch CPF at the child and youth care centre on Saturday 19 November. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen
Children from Marsh Memorial Home in Rondebosch participate in a sack race. The activity formed part of a sports day, organised by Rondebosch Police Station and Rondebosch CPF at the child and youth care centre on Saturday 19 November. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

The scratchy feel of a nylon burlap sack swaddling your feet, the smell of braaivleis on the air, music thumping in the background – these are childhood memories shared by many who grew up in South Africa. Now, these memories also belong to 54 children resident at Marsh Memorial Home in Rondebosch.

The child and youth care centre provides short-term care for children who have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment. On Saturday 19 November, Rondebosch Police Station, together with the Rondebosch Community Policing Forum (CPF), held a sports day at the centre to build trust between children and the police.

Besides a not-so-closely-contested game of soccer between the children and police officers and CPF members (the kids won 1 to 0), other activities included sack racing, egg-and-spoon racing and tug of war.

Beats, supplied by Goodhope FM DJ Lord Veezus and club DJ Fabian Simpson; face painting, done by goodhearted relatives of police officers; and food and refreshments, organised by Groote Schuur Community Improvement District (GSCID), made the day even more memorable.

Sgt Sean Abrahams of Rondebosch Police Station initiated, planned and coordinated the sports day. He says, as part of their work, the police have a portfolio of outreach programmes that they are required to complete at the centre. However, he felt that a day was needed that had nothing to do with work and everything to do with the children.

“This is a Saturday, we are not on duty, this is our free time that we gave up to make it about them because it’s always about the work but today is a day just for them.”

Abrahams, who is also a father, says the work they do can sometimes be difficult.

“Especially if you understand why the kids are here in the first place. They are vulnerable children. They have been removed by the courts from their home environment and placed here for safety reasons. So it varies; their backgrounds are different. They sometimes act out, sometimes they are kind and vulnerable. If you maybe touch one of them accidentally, they pull away; it is all those types of things.”

He says the best way to win children’s trust is through games, through things that they are comfortable with.

“So that is why we need to interact with them on their level. Games are cool, dancing is cool, the face painting they are loving. They are allowing strangers to touch their face which is very intimate for any person and for them to allow you to do that, it is already a breakthrough.”

WO Lyndon Sisam, spokesperson for the Rondebosch Police Station, says programmes held at the centre include talks on gender-based violence and creating awareness around the dangers of social media. Sisam adds that they are also called upon if the centre is experiencing issues, such as bullying or theft.

“But today that is all on the back burner. But when we do speak to them, this is where we build relationships. They already call him Uncle TikTok,” Sisam says pointing to Abrahams, “for a programme he did on social media at the centre.”

Bernard Soules, chair of Rondebosch CPF, was one of the five adult players who took on 10 of the children in a game of soccer. Soules says, running on to the grass, his first thought was that he was glad ER24 was there.

“For the first couple of seconds, I felt pain where I have never felt pain before but it was great. Even for me as an adult, I forgot about everything and I was just in that moment, and I think that made it special for the children also.”

He says, for the CPF, it is important to make the children feel welcome and part of the Rondebosch community.

“These two gentlemen (Abrahams and Sisam) have done a sterling job. And I mean, not only this. The relationship with the centre has been coming along for years, but this time around, it is about giving our time to make the kids feel special, by allowing us into their space. Because this is, in essence, their safe space.”

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