June 15, 2024

By Beverley Maphakane

The first thing that welcomes you upon entering the gates of Tumelo Home is the spirit of serenity and calmness, before being welcomed by a warmth and friendliness at the reception area.

Situated in the outskirts of Midrand, in Ivory Park Extension 2, the 24-hour residential home has been providing care for children with mental and physical disabilities since 1996 when itwas established by Dr Moses Thindisa, a medical doctor, and his wife, the late Mrs Orina Thindisa.

ThisAbility recently visited the premises and during an interviewwith managing director Solly Khuthama, he narrated how Tumelo Home came about and the journey ever since.

“Having his own surgery, Dr Thindisa would experience parents coming with their children with disabilities for consultation and noticed that most did not know how to take care of them. Upon deeper research it was also realised that children with disabilities in the community were mostly abused, abandoned and lived in hostility. He then decided to open a daycare centre on the same stand where his surgery operated. It was later converted to a 24-hour operational centre,” Khuthama said.

According to a thesis published by the University of Pretoria in 2015, violence and abandonment against children with disabilities occurs at least 1.7 times greater than for their non-disabled peers.

Khuthama: Like at a normal home, children get bathed, dressed, fed, play and participate in stimulation programmes such as speech and cognitive behaviour therapies to empower them.

What inspired the idea to convert the centre to a 24-hour residential home?

Some parents would drop their children and never come back to collect them. They would use false addresses and details upon registrations. So the abandonment was intentional. As our main purpose is to care for the children and ensure their safety, it was then decided to turn the daycare centre to a home.

There are currently two branches, with a third one underway. What compelled the extension of the home?

The high demand is what pushed us. The second branch is in President Park, Midrand (West). It is two times bigger than this one in Ivory Park, and upon its completion beneficiaries from the age of 18 years, with the oldest person currently being 51 years, were moved to stay there. The one under construction is in Glen Austin, Midrand (Southwest). It is two times bigger than the President Park one and it is being constructed to be more user friendly and easier to navigate by developing structuressuch as wheelchair friendly facilities.

What is the biggest challenge currently?

Our biggest challenge is lack of space. People are still on the waiting list. We do, however, accept those who are abandonedand come from hostile environments. They are usually brought by the police officers or social workers. Our priority is the child’s safety and we cannot put those on the waiting list.

How are the operational and other costs of the centre covered?

Most part of the income is a subsidy grant [from the department of social development] which meets 50% of the commitments. The other 50% of the costs are covered by way of fundraisingsuch as donations. Our duty is to make sure that every cent received is invested and put in to take care of the children. Also, about 50% to 60% of the active and present parents pay a certain amount from the children’s grants received from Sassa.

ThisAbility also caught up with one of the care-workers, BongiDubezane, who said Tumelo is a second home for her. “The minute I get home, I miss the children. I miss calling their names and teaching them,” she enthusiastically said, adding that they also teach them physical exercises as part of the stimulation programme.

Dubezane said working at Tumelo Home has changed her perspective on people and children with disabilities. “Coming from a society which views disability as a taboo, since I got introduced to these children, I have learned that they are like any other children who need to be loved, taught and accepted. Our societies need to be taught that disability is not a curse.”

Tumelo has an in-house surgery, which is the one Dr Thindisahas been operating at before the inception of the home. As it has always been, the surgery also serves the community, besides the current 28 children of the home, who get regular check-ups.

Having started in a shack, in the days when the area was an informal settlement, the headquarter has now been massively developed to include the reception area, manager’s office, kitchens, separated bathrooms and bedrooms, two classes and aplay area.

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