In 1987 Colin and Liz Whittle first opened their home to provide a place of safety for abandoned babies. Between 1997 and 2000, due to an increasing demand for a place of safety for vulnerable children, a property was purchased, Social Workers were employed and the Child and Youth Care Centers established. The lives of thousands of children are touched every year through these and other initiatives. The ministries are situated in Matatiele, a rural town situated in the Eastern Cape, on the borders of Kwazulu Natal and Lesotho. Matatiele and 7 surrounding areas are serviced by these offices.
Crossroads Child and Youth Care Centre is a small “village” within Matatiele comprising 9 houses; each with three bedrooms, a kitchen, lounge and dinning area. Two house-parents are allocated to one house which is home to up to eight children. One of the houses is used for children who need high care. Approximately 50 children live on the property in a comfortable, safe and stable environment. There is a lovely large and well-equipped playground and recreation hall, a library and a well-equipped therapy room.
The pre-school is also well equipped and a fun and happy learning environment has been created. Orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children are taken into residential care. The intake ages are newborn to 3 years old.
Our aim is to provide holistic care which extends far beyond accommodation and food.
Attention is given to the individual child’s needs in as far as physical development, play therapy, education and any other needs which become evident.
Activities are structured around the age and level of development of the individual child.
Children aged two to five years old attend Crossroads school, while the older children attend local schools. Care is taken not to alienate the children from their cultural backgrounds so that they can return to their community of origin when they are older- if they choose; with this in mind, relationships with local and rural communities are given priority.
Wherever possible, children are reunited with their families. When this is not possible, appropriate foster parents or adoptive parents are identified.
An individual development plan (IDP) is introduced for every child. A Health Manager oversees all issues relating to health care. She also introduces life skills and principles of personal hygiene to the children. Special health care is provided for children who need it. Children are given the opportunity to attend Church and Youth which encourages spiritual orientation, growth and development.
There is occasion when a child develops challenges that were not evident at the time of admission to Crossroads. A suitable and appropriate center that caters for the specific need of the child is sought.
Ntebo Klaas is a young nurse living in the district of Hardenburg. For years Mrs Klaas visited sick and destitute villagers in their homes. She shared whatever food and basic necessities she could afford. As she moved around the community, her awareness of the enormity of the need became overwhelming and so the gathered a group of women to assist her in volunteering their services.
From time to time the ladies come across someone who needed special care. Ntebo therefore built three small “shacks” to house those who did not have the support of a family and who were too ill to care for themselves. In so doing, she would provide a greater level of care to those who needed it.
One night, during a severe snow storm the shacks collapsed. It was during this time that Liz Whittle, founder of Crossroads Child and Youth Care Centre became involved in assisting her with bedding and food. She encouraged Ntebu to visit the Chief and procure a piece of land on which to build something more permanent.
A building has been erected and is currently used for the distribution of Antiretroviral therapy.
The benefit of this is that Clients in need of home based care and other support are identified and assisted by the volunteers. The house is set up with equipment to take into care anyone who is in dire need.
Child Welfare South Africa- Matatiele continues to support her in various ways.
Child Welfare South Africa – Matatiele has had a long- standing involvement with education dating back to its establishment. It began with the hosting of a number of nursing students from Norway for eight weeks at a time. This enabled them to gain practical insight into working in a foreign, rural environment, amongst scarce resources, limited skilled labour and a high incidence of malnutrition and contagious diseases.
We also partnered with the United States program PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief). We became a PEPFAR site – hosting Students for a year at a time to offer much needed experience and allow for capacity building within the organization.)
Post- Matric students have been afforded the opportunity to train and gain practical skills through apprenticeship and long distance learning opportunities, provided by the institution. These initiatives finally culminated in the launch of Masifundeni Sonke.
Masifundeni Sonke is an internal training initiative allowing for the capacity building of Child Welfare staff and stakeholders in order to increase service delivery and efficiency within the organization. It forms the education division of Child Welfare South Africa- Matatiele and aims to equip community members, caregivers, foster parents, older children at the facility and office staff in the following training areas:
- First aid
- Early Childhood Development
- ARV Administration
- Child and Youth Care
- Specialized care for children with specific medical needs
- Specialized care for children with physical disabilities
- Foster parenting
- Grants and pensions
- General prevention education