South Africa: Radiant lights the way for Thuthuzela orphans – so can you

Let them know it’s Christmas – help secure their home – In part of a rundown office building on the corner of 5th Avenue and 5th Street in Marlboro, Alexander, you’ll find Thuthuzela Aid Community Centre (TACC). At night, its 27 full time residents – abandoned, orphaned and vulnerable children ranging in age from four months to eight years – sleep in a single room upstairs; by day, 65 other children from the neighbourhood attend Thuthuzela, the crèche. Radiant Lighting and Electrical (Radiant), one of South Africa’s largest lighting and electrical manufacturers and distributors, thought to assist in a small way by fixing the lighting in the structure. It is doing so – but Thuthuzela will need more help.

Radiant lights childrenSays Brigitte Nell, campaign and events manager at Radiant: “We were searching for a worthy CSI cause to support as we do every year and we were introduced to Thuthuzela by Rays of Hope, a registered NGO. The orphanage is housed in a property that is almost on the doorstep of our Wynberg showroom. The property is being ‘lent’ to the orphanage by the owner and is in a state of disrepair. Radiant undertook to improve the lighting. When we investigated, however, we found that the orphanage will soon lose its home unless it can raise the money – approximately R500 000 – to purchase and refurbish the property.”

The orphanage occupies three rooms upstairs – one bedroom, one small changing room and a bathroom (two other rooms remain locked) – with a kitchen, toilet and study downstairs. The crèche is a covered area in the front of the house – once a parking bay or garage — which is completely sealed off from the road. It is primarily the community that keeps Thuthuzela running, but there is precious little spare cash to put towards upkeep or purchasing the property.

Says Nell: “Until there is more surety, Radiant will do only remedial work, improving the lighting where required and making it safer by installing exterior security lighting, and fixing wiring and broken fittings inside the building where necessary. The upgrade to the lighting will increase the functionality of the building and make it a brighter place to live. And with the outside areas well lit, occupants will be safer.”

Ongoing utility costs were also taken into consideration. “By using energy efficient exterior metal halide and compact fluorescent (CFL) floodlights, we ensure the orphanage’s electricity bill will remain low. And since the interior CFL bulbs use less power and last longer than traditional bulbs,they won’t have to be replaced as often,” says Nell.

Radiant has also undertaken to refurbish the lighting at the new premises when or if the orphanage moves. But the greater challenge – securing premises for the orphanage – remains. Rays of Hope have created a trust fund for Thuthuzela to go toward the purchase of a home.

Says Nell: “These orphans and abandoned children are among the most vulnerable in our society. It’s important that every one of us who are more fortunate does what we can in our personal and corporate capacity – however small our contribution.”

At Thuthuzela the human spirit is nurtured — “the least each of us can do is contribute toward a safe physical environment for that to happen,” says Nell. “Just take for instance the plight of the most recent arrival at the orphanage, a two-year-old whose parents left him alone, locked up at home throughout the day while they went to work and two older siblings attended the crèche. We visited the orphanage on the day he arrived, scared and disoriented, and were struck by how the children embraced and comforted him – in the midst of their own troubles. Here these children are happy – they shout, laugh, sing.”

Elizabeth Monyela, the primary day-to-day caregiver for the orphans and founder of the orphanage, is as remarkable, notes Nell. “Her story began with the loss of her Downs Syndrome son at age 15. He simply wandered off and has never been found. He would be 22 years old now. She told us she hopes and prays every day that someone is looking after him as she looks after these children.”

In addition to the donation of the light fittings, globes and bulbs, and their installation, Radiant has purchased stationary for the crèche, and presents for the permanent residents to be handed out before Christmas. It also held a one-day party event for the children on Thursday, 2 December with a number of activities.

For Radiant, what started as a corporate social investment initiative is fast becoming a company-wide support initiative. “We will keep in close contact with Thuthuzela, and assist them as we can,” says Nell. “Meanwhile, we hope others will also find a spare dime or two to contribute. What better gift for Thuthuzela than the promise of a permanent home for Christmas.”

Contributions can be made to Rays of Hope: Nedbank, Hyde Park. Branch code: 197205. Account number: 1972126903. Please state as a reference: Thuthuzela. Or contact Rays of Hope directly at (011) 784-6214.