The playground at the New Life Kids Centre in Ocean View is empty and the classrooms locked.
For a small group of about 46 children who found peace in the place of safety last year, there will be no playing, no food and no comfort from the harsh conditions they face on a daily basis due to several break-ins at the centre earlier this month.
Founder, Johann Kikillus said the centre had four break-ins since the beginning of January and they have been “cleaned out”.
The New Life Kids Centre is based at the Ocean View Care Centre, just off Hydra Road, and provides a safe haven for vulnerable children in the community.
Mr Kikillus said he could not open the centre’s doors as the burglars took all their stationery and toys, and damaged lights in the containers they use as classrooms.
It is alleged that a gang is responsible for the break-in as they left their signature mark on one of the desks and left items of clothing behind.
Mr Kikillus said he opened two cases at the Ocean View police station but to date, no one has come around to the centre to collect evidence.
But despite getting off to a rocky start, Mr Kikillus said the incidents has given him time to reflect and he is determined to open the doors of the centre again and implement new strategies to help the children.
He wants to focus on emotional healing, reading and writing and parent and child interaction as well as encouraging children to play and be creative.
He said many children at the centre have been abused and are traumatised and taking care of their emotional needs is vital to their development.
The centre plans to setup an informal developmental clinic where occupational therapists can assist children with developmental problems.
Children will also be encouraged to participate in art activities and he plans to engage with trained volunteers to assist with reading and writing as many primary and high school pupils struggle with this.
Mr Kikillus said they will also focus on parent and child interaction.
“Parents don’t sit with their children and play with them or help them with their homework and this year we want parents to be involved. Interaction is a way of bonding,” he said.
Mr Kikillus said the centre is currently the only safe playground in Ocean View as many of the parks in the area are used for drug dealing.
He said he would also like to reach out to gangsters in the community and help them break free from the cycle of abusive violence and make something meaningful of their lives.
If you are able to assist with art supplies or food for the children, call Mr Kikillus on 084 280 2213 for the list.
Ward councillor, Simon Liell-Cock said open spaces across the city were becoming a problem not just in Ocean View.
He said the parks and recreation department are responsible for the maintenance of the parks but their budget is spread very thin and wide which can be anticipated following the public outcry and subsequent turning down of the drought levy.
He said the budget will be reduced even further as the City seeks to find R1.7bn from the existing budget to keep the water infrastructure going.
He said revamping a facility, whether it be a parking lot or park, is wasted due to immediate vandalism unless the space is occupied.
“For this reason, wherever possible, the City encourages the immediate community to take local ownership of their parks. Their eyes on the space and their sense of ownership and pride act as a deterrent to petty crime and vandalism. I will ask parks to report to the next sub-council on their plans for the rest of the 2017/18 budget year as well as for the 2018/19 budget,” he said.
Ocean View acting station commander, Captain Masiza Ponco, said he was aware of the break-ins but said it was not the police’s responsibility to visit the scene of a crime to dust for fingerprints and collect items left behind by the burglars.
He said it was he duty of the local criminal record centre who have been informed. He said no arrests have been made yet.