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'Auntie MAY' gives solace to neglected children

By Namhla Tshisela | Aug 13, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

MAY Kroats is a mother to more than 50 children in her community of Eldorado Park in Johannesburg.

"Children are my weakness. I just can't say no to them," she says.

Known as Auntie May, 57-year-old Kroats opened her one-bedroom house in 1994 to 50 children who were neglected and abused.

"There were many reports at the time of children as young as two years who were raped, some by members of their families," Kroats says.

"I was also concerned about children in many households who missed school because they had to look after their siblings."

The Little Rainbow crèche soon turned into a haven for older children fleeing violence at home," Kroats says.

"The children would flee to the crèche when their mothers and fathers were fighting. I realised that their mothers also needed help to regain their self-esteem and independence.

"Most were unemployed and depended on their husbands or boyfriends to put food on the table."

With training by Johannesburg Child Welfare to prepare children for court appearances, Kroats worked with the Kliptown police station, which referred child victims to her centre for help.

Due to poverty and alcohol abuse, children often suffered neglect, with their parents leaving them at home alone for days on end.

With a few sewing machines and eight women, Kroats opened the Kopanya Women's Support Group in 1999 to help the women empower themselves.

"I could relate to some of their experiences because I was once in an abusive relationship. I counselled and encouraged them to speak out against abuse so they could seek help," Kroats says.

The support group helped the women realise that they did not have to rely on men to provide for them and their children, Kroats says.

The organisation, which is run from containers, now makes use of volunteers and women who have survived violence and abuse.

Thoko Sekasha, 48, is one of them. Sekasha teaches a group of four-year-old children at Little Rainbow.

She also encourages other women who come to the centre to rise against abuse.

"Through speaking to other women I found that there were countless others who were in similar situations," Sekasha says.

Kroats also started a soup kitchen and a youth centre through the help of the Telkom Charity Cup, which donated R80000 in April.

Kroats used the money to buy books, clothes, nappies and computers for the youth centre, which is manned by unemployedmatriculants.


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