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Abaphumeleli- Home of Safety

Abaphumeleli- Home of Safety

“Sisi! Sisi! Sisi!” Before I can step foot inside the house half a dozen children are already upon me. Running, hugging, speaking, pulling me every which-way… and I absolutely love it! I come here at least once a week, to the township of Khayelitsha, and spend a minimum of three hours helping, talking, laughing, and having a blast with over forty kids at the orphanage.


Before I get into how much I love it and how the experience is so rewarding, I want to explain a little about the township and the orphanage itself. Khayelitsha is one of the many townships located in what is known as the Cape Flats. The region is exactly like it sounds: flat. During the apartheid era, black and coloured families were forcibly removed from the city center and placed in the Cape Flats. Since then, violence, crime, drugs, and poverty have been a rampant problem. Development in the townships has been slow and many of the services promised by the government have failed to follow through. Local organizations within the township have arisen with the goal of combating these issues.


12 years ago Mama Evelyn* opened her doors to the orphans of Khayelitsha and Abaphumeleli was created. She saw many children without homes and decided that she wanted to do something to help. She chose the name Abaphumeleli because of its meaning “Home of Safety”. This is what Mama wanted to give these children, a home. Since then, Abaphumeleli has provided shelter, food, clothes, an education, safety, and a family for the over 40 children currently in residence and the children who no longer live there. The newest addition to Mama’s family is a beautiful 2-month-old girl named Angel. Mama does not turn any child away. The children under her care come from different background, parents who gave them up, parents addicted to drugs and alcohol, and parents who have passed away.


It is hard to imagine anyone going through what these children have, and yet every day I see them they are full of smiles. They welcome all visitors and enjoy the company, showing off their spelling, jump-roping, singing, and dancing skills. My job here as a volunteer is pretty simply to have fun! No, that is not it exactly, but that is what it feels like it should be. I arrive and the first thing I do is get the children started on their schoolwork. I can only help with math, spelling, and English, so any Xhosa homework they have I am useless. After about an hour of work, most children have finished so it is time to have fun. There is a small play structure in the orphanage and the boys love getting the ball out to play soccer in the street. For the next two hours it’s games and dancing. I made the mistake once of trying to cheer up one of the kids with Snapchat filters. Suffice it to say, the next hour was spent taking picture of every child with different filters on their face. They had so much fun and it was hilarious seeing their faces when the filters would change.


I love volunteering. Helping others is one of my passions and always gives me such joy to know that the smile on another’s face is because of me. The fact that these faces are of children makes it that much more rewarding. I can already tell that my last day at the orphanage will be full of tears but it won’t be full of “goodbyes”, only “see you laters”.


*In South Africa when you are welcomed into another’s home, you call the woman/mother of the household “Mama”. It’s an expression of respect, endearment, and captures the unique perspective of community.

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