With the International Day of the Girl Child (Sunday, October 11) approaching, tributes to Ons Plek from former beneficiaries are pouring in. With their messages, they are urging the public, businesses, and other stakeholders to contribute towards a campaign to keep open Cape Town’s only care organization for girl street children.

Cancelled fundraiser events because of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a significant funding gap, threatening the initiative’s remedial and preventive work in protecting vulnerable girls aged 0-18. When the news broke last month that Ons Plek was in trouble, Cape Town and beyond jumped into action to keep the organization, founded in 1988, open.

So far, a crowdfunding campaign has raised R145,000 of an initial target of R250,000 and features donations from all corners of the world, from Cape Town and Johannesburg to The Netherlands, Bali, the US, Abu Dhabi, and beyond.

Other forms of support have poured in, too, from organizations like Gift of the Givers, Springfield convent school, and VC Cares, the student outreach group at the Independent Institute of Education Varsity College. These donations are more than deserved, says Allerease Olanrewaju (42), who lived in one of Ons Plek’s residential shelters in the 1990s.

“People should support them because of the value they add to the lives of young girls who are struggling to see their own value,” she explains, noting that Ons Plek has been fundamentally important in helping her find her feet. “They changed my life by making me realize that I belong in society and that I can play an important role in my community. Today, I am still applying the life skills they taught me.”

Nomawethu Mathunda (34), who was at Ons Plek between 1994 and 2003, agrees. “Ons Plek has changed my life in terms of the care I received and boosting my self-confidence,” she says, explaining how she has grown from strength ever since, expanding her wings beyond South Africa. “I now live in Italy and am working at a local pre-school as an English conversation facilitator. My husband and child are for whom I live!”

Like Olanrewaju and Mathunda, Amanda Baloyi (43) says the assistance Ons Plek gave her has shaped her future. She was twelve when she ended up at Ons Plek in 1995, where she stayed until 2003. “They are important to me as they stopped me from being a street person and helped me through many battles,” says the successful small-scale farmer who doesn’t want to have her true name revealed.

Baloyi explains how she ended up on the street after her mother abandoned her when she was just four years old. “I lived on the street for a long time before someone took me in and sent me to school. I, however, had to do a lot of housework and was often working late at night. That lady died when I was twelve, and so I ended up on the streets again. Another woman then found me and brought me to Ons Plek. I finished school and got a bursary to do a business course.”

Olanrewaju’s story and the stories of other women like her show how important Ons Plek is in society at large, she says. “People should support Ons Plek because of the valuable impact they make in the lives of young girls who are living and have lived at Ons Plek. They need support so they can continue to empower them to be successful in life, just like they helped me.”

Director Pam Jackson is moved by these and other tributes, as she is the support that has come in over the past few weeks. “We are not there yet as, technically, we need R800,000 to see us through to the end of this financial year. However, the funds that have come in so far are giving us some much-needed breathing space, allowing us to help as many vulnerable girls as we can – particularly now that COVID-19 has made the vulnerable even more vulnerable.”

Pictures: Supplied

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