Batho ba Lerato, People of Love
Johan Viljoen and Ricus Dullaert
On 16 and 17 September, Johan Viljoen and Ricus Dullaert visited Batho ba Lerato orphan project in Thaba Nchu (Free State) to conduct an assessment of needs around housing for orphans. Ricus had the following to say:
“It is a very endearing project, run by a very competent and pleasant woman: Lerato Moeng. Originally from Lesotho, she has been working for the Archdiocese of Bloemfontein for many years, running the “Batho ba Lerato” (People of Love) orphan project in Thaba Nchu, not far from the Lesotho border.
The project’s most striking feature is the fact that the beneficiaries build the orphan houses themselves. Lerato selected 45 of the older orphans, and sent them to Bethlehem to learn various construction-related skills (bricklaying, plastering, plumbing, carpentry, etcetera). After passing government exams, these orphans are being used to build houses for other orphans, under professional supervision. To date they have built 23 houses. Thus, donors’ grants for building orphan houses also create employment and income for the orphans. Pure genius!
Another striking feature of the project is its excellent management and administration. Lerato has a list of 45 beneficiaries qualifying for orphan houses, as well as another list of a further 45 beneficiaries who will be provided for in future. Both lists contain all names, ages and reports regarding their living conditions.
Batho ba Lerato enjoys the services of a social worker who has good contacts with local authorities. The project is run from an office provided free of charge by the Department of Social Development – an acknowledgement by government of the project’s excellent work. Lerato is an expert at using government resources. She does not provide food parcels, as these only lead to dependence. But she ensures that every orphan receives a government social grant. Sometimes she has to travel 180 km to get a birth certificate for an orphan applying for the grant, or wait up to 8 months for a grant to be approved. But this is done with joy.
The local municipality in Thaba Nchu is way ahead of local municipalities in other places where Homeplan works. Every resident has a sturdy latrine. Many have a tap on their property. Those living on busy streets have been provided with fences and gates. Lerato has used this to promote the planting of vegetable gardens – the fences around the properties make it difficult for cows or goats to enter and eat the produce in vegetable gardens.
In general, families appear to be larger than those in other areas where Homeplan works. A serious shortage of job opportunities means that migrant labour is common – resulting in deterioration of family life and in high HIV prevalence. “