_: “Children have a right to know their surnames and parents”. This was a strong message sent to MEC Vusi Shongwe of the Mpumalanga Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison by an orphaned child who depends on the existence of the Umphumela Drop-In Centre in Embalenhle.
The centre is an orphanage home that takes care of more than 300 children, 15 of them share eight rooms at the centre while the others visit during the day for assistance and food. Some of these children were abandoned by their parents and dropped in at the centre by good Samaritans and the police.
Shongwe visited the centre to hand-over food parcels, toys and school uniforms for the children on Tuesday 31 July 2012. This activity is part of celebrating the life of former president Nelson Mandela as the department believes that poor people, children and the elderly should be taken care of everyday for the sake of Mandela.
The centre was identified due to the fact that the children are most vulnerable to abuse and easily exposed to criminal activities and that they do not have any support base.
Speaking during the hand-over function, Shongwe urged community members to protect children against criminal activities.
He expressed his appreciation to Ms Merriam Potwane who looks after the children and encouraged her to keep on doing the great job because it takes someone with courage to look after children whom are not known to the family.
Shongwe continued to say “we need people like you in our communities, people who can take children that do not have parents into their homes and bring them together so that they can be loved, protected and cared for. This action decreases the chances of these children to be involved in drug abuse and other criminal activities,” he said.
The station commander of the Embalenhle Police Station, Colonel Lizzy Mtungwa thanked the department for coming to the rescue of the centre. She also praised Potwane for welcoming children to the centre, saying that when police bring abandoned children she never turned them back.
MEC Shongwe also made a personal donation of R3000 to a teenager at the drop-in centre who desperately needed bigger shoes, as it was difficult to get sponsors for the boy.