Annie Lennox, international award-winning musician and philanthropist, recently paid a visit to the Nonceba family counseling centre for women in Khayelitsha.
The Nonceba organization was founded in 1997 as a response to the problem of sexual abuse in the town and focuses on the sexual abuse of children in particular.
The organization is run by volunteers from the community along with specialists who have volunteered to provide aid to victims of abuse.
Sexual abuse of children has increased in Khayelitsha due to the serious social issues that the community faces. Nonceba aims to reduce the sexual abuse of children, provide support to abused individuals and promote the prevention of abuse through educational measures.
Nonceba was originally housed within a small room rented from Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO), a non-profit organisation that is affiliated with the University of Cape Town to provide aid to developing communities.
The premises of Nonceba has grown as fundraising from Omsfin and CareCross Health, Vodacom and other organizations allowed the construction of the ‘Safe house’. The campaign raised over R3 million for the organisation to expand.
The funds raised in 2008, allowed Nonceba to construct two safe houses, counseling suite, a therapy room, a community hall, a training room along with an office and reception.
Lennox headed to the shelter in order to better understand the conditions of those living in the rural communities of South Africa along with providing philanthropic aid.
Lennox shared her anger in the current crisis of sexual abuse in Khayelitsha,
“An estimated one in three children living in Khayelitsha have suffered serious sexual abuse by the age of 18. The lack of effective community emergency intervention facilities, with an over-burdened police force and an under-resourced state welfare system, results in an inability to tackle the burden of child abuse and domestic violence.”
Lennox shares her experience
Lennox experienced true South African hospitality as she was welcomed on her visit,
“On my arrival I was greeted at the entrance with a warm hug and lots of laughter from Pauline, who runs the centre and is an awe inspiring women and children’s champion!” shares Lennox.
Lennox described the centre as “an oasis of safety, security and healing for women and their children in the midst of a consistently dangerous environment”
Nonceba offers a range of services, from counseling service for both women and children along with a structured support system for young victims.
“There are play spaces and simple bedrooms in the safe houses, where mothers can stay together with their children. Child care is provided. A crèche is run, so mothers have a safe and caring place to leave their children whilst they are at work.” shares Lennox
Women are given constant support even after they leave the centre.
Lennox describes the emotion that overcame her when visiting the children’s therapy room, “Going into the child’s therapy room was a poignant and sobering experience, realising as I did that the children who come here have been hurt and traumatised by adults in an inconcievable way.”
Children’s dolls are used to communicate in therapeutic sessions with children that have been abused and provides a ‘safe space’.
Nonceba is equipped with experts and specialists who are able to provide the tools for the women and children to manage their situation once they leave.
The organisation provides activities for both the children and women such as yoga, where the power of gentle breathing is able to heal and stretch their bodies out.
Lennox noted that experiences within the township community such as yoga are far and in-between ,”Having opportunities like these are uncommon in townships to say the least. This was a heartwarming and deeply touching moment for me.”
Anni Lennox is the founder of the Circle, a community that is aimed at empowerment for women everywhere in the world.
The government contributes towards the costs for a women and her family to stay in the facility for up to three months but this is not enough time for a lasting transformation to take place according to Lennox.
Nonceba has a wall located on the property with a sculpted ‘tree’ and the hanging leaves are represented by donors. The Circle has become a donor to the organisation.
“I feel so proud that The Circle is making a significant contribution to Nonceba and the women and children of Khayelitsha, in helping to respond to some of the desperate need, and offer support in a situation where there is so little to be accessed” Lennox shares.
Picture: Anni Lennox/The Circle