The New Life Kids Centre, a safe haven for underprivileged children in Ocean View has reopened.
It closed in October last year after a health inspector expressed concern about the children not being able to wash their hands under running water and having to use a toilet at the civic centre next door as the centre does not have a flushing toilet, (“Ocean View safe haven shuts doors,” Echo, October 11, 2018).
The centre was established in 2015 and is based at the Ocean View Care Centre, a non-profit. It provides local vulnerable children with a meal and safe place to play. It is not a registered early childhood development centre (ECD) and makes use of volunteers to run it.
Although the health inspector did not order the centre’s closure, its founder Johann Kikillus said he felt like he was fighting a losing battle and decided to close it until he could get more clarity from the City of Cape Town about the water and toilet situation.
He said having only one toilet often resulted in long queues and it was difficult to ask a 5-year-old to “hold it”.
However, following the closure, parents still brought their children to the centre as, in some cases, it would be the only meal they would get all day.
Mr Kikillus said parents could not understand why they could not leave their children there anymore and returned with the children day after day.
Earlier this month, following several shoot-outs in Ocean View and the death of a 47-year-old man on Wednesday January 9 (“No arrests as cyclist robbed, stabbed,” Echo, January 17) Mr Kikillus did a walk-about at the flats between Brookside and Petunia Court opposite the multi-purpose centre to see if residents were okay and if anyone needed counselling.
He said during the walk-about he was approached by about 40 parents asking him to reopen the centre and look after their children as they feared for their safety.
“They begged me to reopen the centre and said there were no safe places for their children to play anymore,” he said.
A day later more requests came in from parents asking him to help keep their children safe.
The children are aged between 4 and 5 and their parents are not able to afford a creche.
At the time of the Echo’s visit on Thursday January 24, the centre had 68 children.
Mr Kikillus said he met with mayor Dan Plato in December to discuss the needs of the centre which included running water, flushing toilets, repairing the fence and providing a fire hose.
Two days after the meeting, he said, City staff had come to repair the vandalised fence, but the job was unfinished. He said he was still waiting for feedback on the water and toilet situation.
The centre relies on the public for food, toys, stationery and educational material.
Mr Plato’s spokesman, Greg Wagner, said a standpipe had been installed on Monday January 28 and a water meter would also be put in so the centre can manage its use and cost.
He said the fence had been repaired and he was unaware of any further work that needed to be done on it.Mr Kikillus said the centre was unable to pay for water and it was never discussed with him. The tap, he said, needed a lock as anyone can jump over the fence and steal water.
For more information about the centre, call Mr Kikkilus at 084 280 2213 or email firstname.lastname@example.org