“In 2004 I went to South Africa. There I met Lindiwe. Two years on and I was the chair of Raise the Roof and Lindiwe was caring for 27 children.
Lindiwe’s township is densely populated, with a population of approximately 17,000. There is a high rate of unemployment, poverty and sexually transmitted disease. This results in many children finding themselves alone. I have met 8 year old children raising younger siblings.
There is only one word to describe Lindiwe - amazing! She lives with her husband and own four children but when I met her she was caring for four more, mostly AIDS orphans.
Lindiwe is famous for her commitment to the community and as the “Mother of all Children.” She worked for a long time as a community health worker. Her work immersed her in the community’s severe and varied problems. Her vision was for an organisation to provide love, care and a stable and healthy environment to local orphaned, needy and abused children.
The charity arm of a multi-national had put up a building, to be a home for the children she helped. But they left it a shell. I was there on a year out - a group of us, all nice, well-meaning girls, painting walls as rain poured through the roof. Hopeless!
I touched family, friends and that good old standby - the student overdraft - for cash, and we got things more sorted. With just £2000 we completed the building, kitted it out and bought all the kids uniforms and shoes. As I returned to the UK, the home opened it doors to 19 children.
Since then the home has slowly grown. We are now at full capacity, looking after anything up to 30 children – aged from a few months to 18 years. The children’s stories are heartbreaking but Lindiwe and the gang just get on with it. Love, food and safety make all the difference. Some of the children will stay long term. Others are there on a temporary basis, whilst parents receive medical treatment, repair homes, find jobs etc. They can stay as long as they need to.
The children are tremendous fun. Their energy is contagious and their appreciation of life exhausting. They are a constant reminder of how small investments can make a huge difference.”