The Homestead: Projects for Street Children

While studying at Georgetown University, Janel McTaggart spent a semester abroad at the University of Cape Town. After teaching art and ESL (English as a Second Language) for two years, she was interested in returning to South Africa to work with street children. She wanted to provide them with art workshops including drawing, painting, sculpting and photography as part of their rehabilitative process. She was looking for a nonprofit organization in the U.S. to support her in this initiative and she approached the Coalition for assistance.

Since then, The Coalition for Effective Local Democracy has been supporting the work of Janel at the Homestead Project in Cape Town South Africa. The Homestead Project focuses on working with street children in Cape Town and the surrounding townships. Their mission is “to help street children reconstruct their shattered lives.” Currently there are seven projects being run under the auspices of The Homestead Project. They include a children’s home, two intake shelters, a drop-in center, an outreach program (street work), a job creation program, a family reunification project and a prevention program. All of the programs are located either in Cape Town, or surrounding townships.

Janel completed her year volunteering at the Homestead Project in 2004. She submitted the following report on her work there.

There have been some great things happening. I’ve told you about a young boy that I became quite close to – Maniho. He was staying at the shelter and then moved to the childrens home that’s part of the Homestead projects. He had a very difficult time there and came to me saying that he feels like leaving. Afraid that he’d go back to the streets, I looked at a few other options for him and was successful in getting him placed in a very nice boys home that he can live in until the age of 22 if need be. It’s a Christian organization, which is perfect for Maniho since he is a Christian. This is really amazing and I do believe this boy’s life has changed in a very positive way. Making this possible was a very important event for both him and me. Knowing that I’ve helped this amazing young man has really completed a lot of this experience for me.

I had my last day teaching at the school last week. It was very emotional for both the children and myself. Leaving these kids will be one of the hardest things I do. Recently, I took two boys that I’m quite fond of (Titus and Anthony) to the movies (“Spiderman 2”). It was actually the first time ever for Titus and that was an incredible experience.

I’ve also been involved in a project in the juvenile section of Cape Town’s prison. It was an arts and culture project working with thirteen boys. I will also write more details about this very emotional but very real experience. You really look at life in a new way after seeing it through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old boy in prison.

Some really simple changes that I’ve been pushing for at the shelter are finally happening. I really don’t think I had that much to do with it, but there’s a new director who is motivated and fresh and it’s really a pity that I’m leaving as she takes charge. Oh well, that’s the way life goes I suppose.

I honestly do have so much to say but I will try to give it in small doses. Life is very good now and I feel fortunate for so many things. Working with children who have nothing allows you to stop and see just how much you actually have.

Oh yes, thank you all again and again and again for making this experience possible for me.

Sincerely,
Janel McTaggart

For more information on The Homestead, you can visit www.homestead.org.za. Janel McTaggart can be contacted at janelmct@aol.com if you have any questions.