On 6 February 2019, a team from Leadhome went to visit Nkosi’s Haven to deliver a donation of UVC lights and to get to know a little bit more about this special place.
For the Leadhome team, there are generally “no ordinary days at the office”, but taking time out to visit Nkosi’s Haven on a Tuesday morning proved to be a rather extraordinary way to get to know more about the work being done, and the vision of one little boy with a dream . . .
Situated in the south of Johannesburg, Nkosi’s Haven is an NGO that has been around since 1999, offering holistic care and support for destitute HIV/AIDS-infected mothers and their children, as well as AIDS orphans.
It was named after Nkosi Johnson, an incredible, young soul and AIDS activist, who died in 2001. His dream was for a place where mothers and children with HIV could be cared for without discrimination. His foster mom, Gail Johnson, has been nurturing that dream for over two decades and the spirit of empathy, compassion, and community is very evident here.
The team from Leadhome – Wendy Case, Brett Herbert, Sarel du Plessis, Charl Swanepoel, Jasten Ndebele and Aubrey Hara – spent the morning at Nkosi’s Haven, meeting the staff, children, and founder Gail Johnson.
A Colourful Sanctuary
Nkosi’s Haven village has 17 resident cottages, a baby day-care facility, a sickbay, workshops and classrooms, a library, music and arts centre, a sports field, a kitchen, its own bakery and administrative offices.
Johnson says there are currently 107 kids, 28 mothers and 12 resident caregivers (who look after the orphans) at Nkosi’s Haven, as well as a resident manager.
“We employ some of the moms; they work in the kitchen, the sickbay, in the laundry, and two of the mothers run the bakery. They earn stipends but Nkosi’s Haven carries the cost of their children’s education, as well as other expenses – as there is always something to pay for when it comes to kids,” she says affectionately.
Johnson says that although the NGO receives international funding and support, there is still a great need on many levels.
“We had a very tough time towards the end of last year. We don’t receive government funding, so existed purely on donations. Everyone is going through a difficult economic time and it just has a ripple effect.”
Creating income-generating projects is important for Gail and her team, and one of the initiatives is the building of an early childhood development centre with four remedial classrooms. Unfortunately, the builders that were working on the centre absconded without finishing the job at hand and more funds are needed to complete the building.
“We were planning on opening the remedial centre to non-resident children in the area. More and more of our kids are experiencing learning difficulties. Of course, early childhood development is one of the buzzwords of the moment, but very, very needed.”
Walking around the premises, one begins to understand the different aspects and initiatives on the ground. There is a bakery that generates a certain amount of income, although not enough yet to cover running costs.
The NGO also has a farm just outside Vereeniging, which was going to be set up as a kibbutz, but is now going to do rabbit farming. Johnson says the farm needs quite a bit of TLC, and there are basic operating needs like buying implements, tractors, lawnmowers and the like.
Lights for Health and Wellbeing
There is always room for improvement in all of the areas, and the Nkosi’s Haven team were thrilled to receive the Leadhome donation of the 8 HRMS UVC lights, that will be utilised in the sickbay, kitchen and dining area.
The lights not only illuminate but double up as an air cleaner, using UVC (a subtype of ultraviolet light) to kill airborne germs and pathogens.
Due to the advent of antiretrovirals, Johnson says thankfully that the sickbay at Nkosi’s Haven is not as busy as it used to be and is now used more for emergencies.
While things are very much better these days when it comes to HIV/AIDS, there is a concern around teenagers and young adults in the 15-25 age group, as HIV among the youth seems to be on the rise.
“The panic around an HIV-positive diagnosis is not nearly as drastic as it used to be. However, the stigma around HIV is still pretty intense and people are still dying when they shouldn’t be,” Johnson says.
In addition to all of the other initiatives that the NGO facilitates, there is also an International Mentoring programme called Infinite Family, in which participants can be mentored by an adult on various aspects of life and learning.
So what keeps Johnson going? She says the adrenaline rush of solving problems and seeing development is incredible. When one of her “kids” passed third year at university with distinctions, it made her heart burst with pride.
The Work is Never Done
Johnson has a vision for the future and is passionate about the plight of abandoned babies.
“I seriously want to look at adding one or two more cottages for kids from teenage pregnancy, so the babies are not thrown down the drain. I also want to really develop the farm more, so that it can start generating an income.”
The Leadhome team agreed that it was a day well spent, not only because it was an opportunity to understand the valuable work that is being done in our country where help is needed the most, but also to play a little role in ensuring that Nkosi Johnson’s vision of a healthier, happier world lives on.
“Our company ethos is one of supporting communities first and foremost. We especially recognise the importance of NGOs and the vital role they play. In terms of Nkosi’s Haven, it’s not just about the children, but also the rise of HIV/Aids and the unnecessary lives lost. Leadhome has committed to support Gail to assist with the several plans she wants to pursue, while also taking care of her extended family at Nkosi’s Haven,” says Case.
Case says that Leadhome understands the plight of Nkosi’s Haven and will look at other initiatives that will further assist the NGO whilst urging our community to give back and support Nkosi’s Haven.