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KIDS' refuge turns 50

By unknown | May 14, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Nkosana Lekotjolo

Nkosana Lekotjolo

Girls & Boys Town, established in 1958, grew from humble beginnings in the town of Magaliesburg near, Johannesburg.

Now, 50 years later, the organisation is home to more than 300 youths in eight centres in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Girls & Boys Town and the former members came to celebrate and share their experiences with children at Magaliesburg Centre last week.

Through the years the organisation has offered residential childcare for children between the ages of nine and 16 years.

Most of these boys and girls were facing difficult situations in their families and decided to run away to find refuge at the centres. The centres gave them a home and hope for the future.

Jodi-Anne Williams of the centre says the concept of the organisation is based on the principles of Father Flanagan's famous Girls & Boys Town in Nebraska, US.

"Most children arrive at the centres with shattered dreams, sick at heart and often half-starved," Williams said. "Some have been physically or sexually abused, neglected or abandoned.

"Some come from broken or poverty-stricken homes and others have done badly at school, have discipline issues, challenge authority or lack social skills."

The organisation is based on the model of the peer-group system of self-government - a unique concept in which youngsters are significantly involved in decision-making about their own affairs.

Under the guidance of adults they govern themselves and empower their peers, electing a mayor, councillors and managers.

The centre's mission is to create opportunities for youths to grow and develop into responsible citizens who are able to contribute to family and community life.

One example is Vincent Bones. While he was at the centre he was inspired to find his passion and hidden talent in music.

The organisation helped him record a CD and launch his music career.


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