This concept was too interesting to pass up…a holiday home for the underprivileged. People who would probably never otherwise get the chance to go on a holiday, especially not as children, get the opportunity to go spend some time in this huge hostel type holiday home in Hibberdene. This place holds some prime real estate in the sleepy small town down the KZN South Coast. There are beautiful sea views from the big garden that is outfitted with a jungle gym, pool and, what can only be described as an epic water slide. I met Molehe Molosioa there on a bright Saturday afternoon.
He made a good impression on me from the start as he politely introduced his colleague Sherlock Sithole (who happened to be on his way out). Sherlock was the one I’d read about on the home’s website before coming out here. Sherlock was also the one that Molehe had hoped would be able to join him for the interview because he actively runs many of the programmes offered here. Unfortunately timing didn’t work out and Molehe soldiered on, despite admitting that he wasn’t a big fan of interviews.
He had his young son on his arm because he had moved his family from Durban to Hibberdene so he could be more actively involved here at his place of work. While I was speaking to Sherlock he went back to his section of the house to speak to his wife, and I was surprised to feel little arms on my leg as Molehe’s little son had run out and started playing with me. When his dad saw this he quickly picked him up again, laughing and saying that he’s too friendly with strangers.
Despite Molehe’s initial reluctance about being interviewed he warmed up quite quickly. I looked at the plaques on the wall that listed all the donors that have supported the home throughout the years. As we spoke I learned that many of them aren’t necessarily active anymore, and that quite a few of them had donated goods or services, not always funds (as you would assume when you see someone’s name on a plaque).
We sat down and the “official interview” started. I asked him about the background of the home and he mentioned that he had heard that it was probably started during the apartheid years as a type of safe house but that he couldn’t 100% verify this detail – it was talk he’d heard about the place when he first joined the team. Anyway, it was clear that the home had been a place of safety to people for many many years in some way shape or form.
Molehe himself joined the team because of being part of Independent Media’s Community Projects team where he got involved in the bookkeeping of the home. As he was working on the finances of these CSI projects the home crept into his heart. He decided to actually move his family to the site so he can be more practically involved. Originally from Bloemfontein it’s clear that he’s made Hibberdene his home for now.
As I was doing a bit of research about this holiday home I came across people who asked “Why a holiday home for underprivileged people, don’t they have more urgent needs than a holiday?” I would mention this statement in my conversations with friends or acquaintances sometimes and it would provoke various responses. One person said it was the most obnoxious statement he’d heard in a while. I asked Molehe about this. I mean, who doesn’t need a holiday? If those of us who live reasonably well feel like we need holidays from our everyday lives and circumstances, why wouldn’t those less fortunate need it too?
Why did he think it was important for these children to experience a holiday? He thought the question through quite carefully before mentioning that there are various different camps or programmes on offer. Some camps are paying camps (it is a huge facility and needs quite a bit of funds to be run so they need to run paying camps as well). However they provide a few free camps a year. The goal for all of these programmes aimed at children appears to be the same: to give them an experience where they are comfortable enough to enjoy themselves, and to just be children.
Throughout our conversation he made it clear that many children live in circumstances where they are unable to be children. Often they have to walk very far to go to school while also having many responsibilities at home, responsibilities that aren’t traditionally children’s responsibilities. But for those few days while they find themselves here they are in a space where everyone works together to make sure that these young people have fun, that they get to play and make friends and don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning for their family.
Interaction with children is carefully controlled and caregivers are instructed to treat the kids with respect and in such a way that they always feel safe. I love how Molehe said it – once the child steps on site at the home he or she becomes the VIP. This is what compels him to ensure that the facilities are clean and that the food is good. His general rule of thumb is to treat the children like you yourself want to be treated. He offered a practical example of how this works by explaining that he can’t expect a child to eat something that he himself would not eat.
The team here create a proper holiday atmosphere. The place kind of reminded me of some of the school camps I attended when I was young. Cellphones are off limits and kids are given the chance to take part in various activities or programmes like an adventure camp or eco camp. He explains another less obvious reason that phones aren’t allowed…to help facilitate an environment where everyone is equal.
What do phones have to do with an equal environment? Molehe explained how over the years they’d learned that children (actually probably all people if we’re honest about it) judge each other based on items like phones. You can’t compare an iPhone with a Nokia, and that causes children to see one another in a different light. Maybe us adults would claim that we’re too open-minded or sophisticated for that, but I suppose in the honest world that children live in material possessions would play a more obvious role. They found that once the phones had been taken away it a different story! Not only were the distractions gone, but that most basic of items we use to judge whether someone has the same social standing as us was gone too.
As we spend time together it becomes clear to me that this place makes quite an impact on the lives of the children who visit it. It’s obvious in the examples Molehe gave me of children write who letters or make phone calls to thank them once they’ve returned home. Receiving that little bit of time to rest, play and even to make new friends seems to rejuvenate the children and they are sent them home with an extra dose of hope.
All in all this was such a unique concept to me. Holidays for those who need it most. After chatting to Molehe it becomes obvious to me though that this is about more than holidays. It’s about making space for these children to trust adults so they can open up about any issues that need to be addressed. And more than that it’s about showing them that they’re worth it, they’re worth a great experience that will stick in their minds for the years to come. They’re worth our effort and investment.
If you would like to contact Molehe and his team you can visit their website where you will find their phone number, email address and social media details.
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