Orphans and vulnerable children living in rural communities face tremendous challenges. In the Huntington community, this situation is no different, but the children affected by hunger, poverty and neglect were given a second chance in 2004 when their paths crossed with Charmaine and Andre Krugel.
As holiday home owners in Sabie Park, the Krugel’s were familiar with the surrounding villages, but only realised the desperate situation when community leaders and Huntington Trust members intervened and asked them for help. Home visits were conducted by Charmaine and her husband, assessing the needs of the children, which indicated that urgent care and assistance were required. “We were overwhelmed by the poverty and the struggles of the children living there. But we had no clue how we as a family would be able to make a difference.”
Family and friends were asked to donate clothing and food items for the children, and this was the beginning of Huntington Children’s project. Named Swa Vana – meaning “for the children” in the local Tsonga language – the project initially looked after only six children. Today the Section 21 Non-Profit company employs over 31 staff members to facilitate the enormous need for caretakers, social workers and assistants who all work together at the Swa Vana drop-in centres in Huntington, Lillydale and Justicia.
These centres provide daily cooked meals, distribution of clothing donations and hygiene items as well as transport for the children to hospitals and clinics when necessary. Organised sport activities, arts and crafts and board games are implemented to assist their cognitive and emotional development. Counselling, social services referrals and regular home visits are conducted to assess needs and challenges.
Swa Vana furthermore runs a rural enterprise development programme as well as a home-based care programme, all overseen by project manager Pontso Natoi.
The rural enterprise development programme is aimed at providing the children from the Swa Vana project with a sense of purpose and becoming employable, self-sustainable and valued members of their community.
Home-based care is part of Swa Vana’s involvement and consists of a group of community members who attend to the sick, disabled and elderly surviving in desperate circumstances.
Sabi Sabi is very involved in the upliftment of local communities, supporting education, sports teams and scholarships, and has been proudly involved with Swa Vana since its inception. The Swa Vana Care Centre also forms part of the optional daily Community Tours, where Sabi Sabi guests are given the opportunity to visit, and find out more about life in the neighbouring areas surrounding our game reserve. During these tours, visitors have the chance to meet with the caretakers and the children and chat about life in that community. It is also an integral part of Sabi Sabi’s community commitment, where funds raised through various initiatives are then channelled to this amazing care centre to assist with basic requirements.
As Mother’s Day 2018 fast approaches, we salute individuals like Charmaine and Andre who assist children who are struggling, and in most instances don’t have a mother figure to guide them through life. Strength, inspiration and all of life’s potentials are possible when we all act as community ‘mothers’ by giving our time, donating money and spreading loving-kindness.
With this video we wish the children of Swa Vana health, hope and healing.