Believing strongly that a loving home and a nurturing environment produce healthy, happy children, Thea Jarvis founded The Love of Christ Children’s Home (TLC) to help place abandoned and orphaned children with caring families.
Jarvis established TLC in 1993 when she took in the first of her 19 foster children; since then the organisation has placed some 833 children with loving families.
Jarvis’s biological daughter, Philippa Jarvis, and her four siblings now run the home, which can accommodate 35 children, in Eikenhof, in the south of Johannesburg.
A CHAMPION FOR CHILDREN
In 2012, when the organisation faced funding problems that led to it turning children away, long-time associate, Jeffrey Long, a law student at the University of the Witwatersrand, saw the opportunity to play his part. Drawing parallels between the TLC facilitators’ enduring strength, and the mental toughness required for endurance running, Long decided to run the 2012 Two Oceans marathon to raise funds for TLC.
He says, “Before this I was never an endurance athlete; I mean I hated fitness. I’d be the last guy at fitness practice.
“Then seeing the struggles that they [TLC facilitators] go through on a daily basis just to keep things going made me decide to do endurance because I feel like it relates more to what they’re doing … you really have to struggle and work hard every day to be able to achieve something like this.”
The home only takes in children under the age of three; social workers, the police and hospitals alert Philippa Jarvis and her team to take in children who have been abandoned with them.
She says the organisation’s goal is to get the children ready for adoption as quickly as possible so they don’t “end up in the system”, i.e. remain registered as up for adoption with the Department of Social Development for longer periods. Jarvis says the older children are less likely to be adopted, because “people looking to adopt children often look for younger or newborn children who have less health or social issues”.
INSPIRED BY CARE
Despite recent surgery on a damaged knee, Long completed the arduous 56 km race and raised R30 000, more than his targeted R10 000, for the organisation. He said, “If I had done the Two Oceans for myself I doubt I would have made it. The fact that I was doing it for the sake of TLC … is what helped me push on until the end.”
This year Long aims to complete the Ironman South Africa race, regarded by many as the most intense triathlon format in the world. The race will be held in Nelson Mandela Bay on 6 April.
Standardised by the World Triathlon Corporation, the Ironman consists of a four kilometre swim, 180 km cycle and a 42 km run, to be completed in that order with no pauses or rest periods. Finishing the course within 17 hours earns athletes the Ironman accolade.
Long hopes to match, or beat, his 2012 fundraising effort by collecting donations of 50 cents, R1, or R10 or more per kilometre. “Because the donations are made per kilometre it means that even though it’s a small amount of money, by the end of the event it all adds up to a sizable donation,” Long explains.
Jarvis adds, “We rely a lot on community support … and he [Long] has become our champion and every year he does something amazing. He challenges people to take on a cause and to raise funds or do what they can to make a difference.
“Without help like that we wouldn’t be here so it’s been a real blessing for us to have support like that.”
Jarvis adds that TLC also relies on volunteers to meet the children’s needs.
She says, “Our volunteers come from around the world and they volunteer for between three months and one year and they stay on site so that the children get constant care,” instead of having a new caregiver each week.
“It’s hard to say but the better they bond [with volunteers and facilitators] before the bond is broken, the easier it is for them to bond again with their new families.”
Jarvis says TLC’s success is as a result of “the many hundreds of people from around the world who support us, pray for us and love the work we do so much that they are willing to walk alongside us even during the difficult times”.
PLAY YOUR PART
To donate to Long’s cause, deposit or electronically transfer your amount into the following bank account:
Bank: Standard Bank
Account number: 208074805
Branch code: 007205
Reference: (your name)