'We will take all of that on us': Dad behind new local Child Protection Hotlines shares why he does it

Danie van Loggerenberg is passionate about keeping children safe
Danie van Loggerenberg is passionate about keeping children safe

When I started chatting to the founder of the new Child Protection Hotlines springing up across South Africa, I didn't expect to hear that he answers every call himself.

Danie van Loggerenberg is also the founder of the charity Toys for Africa, but he assures me that he does his very best to answer every call.

"The calls that I do miss, I phone back," he adds. "Some days we get up to 40/45 calls and then some days not a single one."

When he mentions "we" he is referring to the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Department of Social Development, and the various security services or emergency services he engages with after he receives a call. 

Van Loggerenberg is in the process of rolling out more numbers, specific to areas.

Currently there are over 25 contacts, and where there is no number there is an email address (see download below), and the national number can also be used.

To date over 466 000 children have benefited from his work.

The national number is 076 900 7151 and the national email address is: childprotection@toysforafrica.org.za  

Lockdown limitations  

This wasn't the original plan, and van Loggerenberg explains to me how the Covid-19 lockdown has put a damper on his efforts to get the numbers far and wide.

"With schools not taking visitors, the calls received are far less than what we hoped for - in terms of children, parents and teachers reaching out for help," he says. 

The plan was to start a call centre setup with three call centre attendees who are studying or who have completed social work studies, working in 8 hour shifts. One of the local security companies gave him a table in their call centre, but the lockdown paused that plan.

"That also contributed to keeping all the numbers at my home based office and taking the calls myself for the lockdown period," he says. 

Van Loggerenberg believes he was born for this.

"The passion to help makes me not even think of being drained. And if I can be honest, my children are proud of what I do and that is the biggest motivation possible," he says, when I asked if the work was emotionally draining for him. 

He does not get emotionally involved and that is key, he reveals. 

"Once I, or any other person working with these kind of cases, get emotionally involved, it becomes dangerous for your mental health."

Father Africa

He tells me that in the informal settlements where he works, his nickname is Father Africa.

"I like that name to be honest. That also motivates me. The word "father" is such a powerful word and name to be called and the value is tremendous," he says.  

A father himself, van Loggerenberg explains how the hotline idea was born out of his own negative experiences. 

A victim of parental alienation, he describes how he had to learn to fight for his children.

"That got me studying the law and trying to understand why people would hurt children on purpose. The stats are clear on the damage done to children if a parent is absent. In that process I met so many people (mothers and fathers) that needed help, but had no resources or hope left," he explains.

"More than the parents needing and seeking help, the children were being damaged," he says. "So my own children motivated me and the end goal is to go to a time where children only need to focus on being children.

Today van Loggerenberg and his ex wife share their children 50/50 and he is an involved dad. 

Download the list of numbers and emails addresses by city and province here: Child Protection Hotline

Children should be laughing and playing 

Further to this, his experience manning the hotline keeps him going, driving him to spread the word and to reach more families. 

"I have had endless conversations with people not reporting their children being raped, because they believe SAPS to be bad. No child should have to go through this life thinking there is no justice and no help available," he says.

"If stepdad is raping his daughter and the mother allows it, as the stepdad pays for the house and everything – real case at a primary school in Pretoria, a girl came forward when we were there and the stepdad is now in jail, we need to educate the mother that her child cannot be sacrificed like that," he adds.

"We will take all of that on us. Children should be laughing and playing and want to ensure that happens."

"So contact the Hotlines, we will contact SAPS and follow up with SAPS and escalate if the officer handling the case is not doing their job," he says reassuringly. 

"Have you ever sat at a playground and just listened to laughter and children playing? That is the most beautiful sound. We need to offer children that life." 

Dad behind new local Child Protection Hotlines sha

Van Loggerenberg works closely with the police

What happens when someone phones a number? 

The numbers are SMS, WhatsApp and phone call friendly, van Loggerenberg explains, and once a Hotline is contacted, he will work with the relevant organisations to assess the help needed. 

For example:

1. If a child fell out of a tree, we contact emergency services.

2. If a child has been beaten we contact SAPS.

3. If a child is in need of care, protection and assistance we contact either SAPS or the Department of Social Development, depending what the situation is.

4. If a child is being bullied at school, and is scared and hiding in the school bathroom, we contact security services and SAPS.

By way of example, van Loggerenberg describes how a girl in grade 12 contacted the number recently.

"She stays with her mom and she says her mom beats her and treats her like garbage. Our role is not to assess if she is truthful, our role is to get someone to investigate and ensure that if what the girl says is true, that she receives help and that the mother also receives help," he explains. 

So in her case the team got a social worker involved.

If it is an emergency with immediate threat, he will do everything from the phone.

"The idea is to keep a phone call as short as possible, while getting maximum information, so that we could get assistance to the child in need, as soon as possible."  

Can children phone too? 

"Yes, of course! Our passion was to make the Hotlines child friendly and they can phone, SMS and WhatsApp the numbers," he says, before sharing a horrifying example of how necessary it is to get the number out to as many people as possible. 

"We once received a WhatsApp from a 13 year old in rural Port Elizabeth, lying under her father’s bed while he and friends were drinking on top of the bed," he describes. 

"She sent us a message that once her father and friends would be done drinking, they would search for her and rape her. We were able to send assistance."

"Unfortunately these children are the most neglected with the Covid-19 regulations, curfews and so on," he says. 

Dad behind new local Child Protection Hotlines sha

Educating children on right and wrong helps them to recognise abuse

Educating children at school

Van Loggerenberg explains how he and his team visit a number of schools through the year.

"We believe that educating children on what is right and what is wrong, and what should and should not happen to them, helps them to identify when their bodies are not respected," he explains. 

"By them now knowing that and knowing their teachers have our numbers, they do contact us and they do seek advice and assistance."

He tells me how he spoke about cyber bullying at a Afrikaans high school in February, and through that his team uncovered a child pornography ring.

"One of the boys in the school used a fake Instagram account with a girl (16) profile picture to lure primary school boys (12 and 13 years old) in sending him photo’s of themselves," he says. 

The photo requests started via Instagram chat and then moved to Whatsapp and Telegram, he describes.

"The first request was to see how they look and the request then continued to ask for less and less clothing on each photo, while also talking about horrendous things," he explains. 

This boy was just a small part in a bigger scheme and van Loggerenberg assures me that he has now submitted information on 20 young men and boys who were gathering photos of 12 and 13 year old boys.

A helping hand

"We need to get to get to every school to share the message of hope and help,"van Loggerenberg stresses "so that children can stand up and say "No more" and "Please help"." 

"It would be amazing if every South African could just share the numbers, so that children in need can reach out and get help."

But then also, he and his team are looking for are looking for social workers and psychologists that would be able to assist them with the children - as close to pro bono as possible.

"We believe that as much as we need to help the child that is being bullied, abused, neglected, etc. we have the responsibility to educate and help the child or parent that is the bully,"he explains.

"I teach my children at Spur for example, that you can spot the 13-year-old in the up to 10-year-old play pen from a mile away. So avoid them," he explains. "A child who is bullied at home or school, will most probably be a bully when he or she has the opportunity with younger children." 

van Loggerenberg says it is all about realising that no child is born to be a bully.

"No child sticks up their hand and says they want to be a bully. No parent, planning a child and buying baby clothes, plans to be an abusive parent.'

"So, competent and professional people that want to help us change the country, starting with our kids, are very welcome to make contact with us and we would gladly make use of their assistance," he urges.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child and we need to make sure that we create safe villages."

Learn more about the initiative here:

Download the list of numbers and emails addresses by city and province here:

Child Protection Hotline

The national number is 076 900 7151 and the national email address is: childprotection@toysforafrica.org.za


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