18 January 2005
British singer/songwriter Elton John has opened a care centre in Eldorado Park, Johannesburg that runs life skills projects for orphaned, abused and neglected children.
The Elton John Masibambisane Centre provides aftercare facilities as well as running various programmes during school holidays and on weekends.
The UK superstar got involved after the centre and Johannesburg Child Welfare approached the Elton John Aids Foundation for help. They received funding in December 2003 and work began on developing a new venue in 2004.
Elton John formally opened the centre on Wednesday, 12 January.
In a press release, Elton John said: “The success of the Elton John Masibambisane Centre is an incredible template for what can be done to assist children to get into the mainstream of life.”
During his low-key visit to the country, the flamboyant musician hosted a private charity dinner in Cape Town to raise money for the fight against HIV/Aids.
The event, during which he performed some of his hits before an audience of local celebrities, business figures, sports stars and politicians, reportedly raised around R7-million.
The singer also visited an Aids clinic in KwaZulu-Natal and toured several projects supported by the Elton John Aids Foundation
The Elton John Masibambisane Centre
Since opening its doors in September 2003, the Elton John Masibambisane Centre, run by Johannesburg Child Welfare, has had to move from one venue to another as the numbers of children attending courses or using the aftercare facilities burgeoned. Initially some 70 children made use of the centre. It now caters for 165 children.
Since its establishment, the centre has worked closely with the community, schools and clinics. Community groups liaise with the centre when a child is in need and the social workers then follow up the request, talking to the family and the child.
Part of the work of the Elton John Masibambisane Centre is to visit families in the neighbourhood, particularly where parents are critically ill. “We counsel ill parents and make an agreement with them to keep and take good care of the children when they die”, says project coordinator Eunice Mahlanga.
The children do not live at the centre. They come to the centre after school, where, with the help of community caregivers and extended family members, they are given a meal and helped with homework and preparation for the following day’s school.
The children are also able to take a bath or shower at the centre, and can also use the facilities to wash their uniforms.
“We don’t want to take the children away from the people they are used to, especially their siblings”, says fundraising manager Jill Edgar.
By running the centre in this way, “we want the children grow up knowing that there is someone out there who loves and cares for them”, Edgar adds.
The centre also offers counselling to the children. “Our plan is for the children to start making memory boxes to remember their deceased parents”, says Mahlanga.
Source: City of Johannesburg