Little ‘pumpkins’ well-cared for at ministries’ home

Louise and Mark Wilkinson, with their Great Dane, Emily.

One can hardly imagine what it would be like to care for 10 children, three dogs and a bird, but this has become the norm for Mark and Louise Wilkinson, the founders of Pumpkin Ministries.

Pumpkin Ministries is a safe house in Durbanville described as a place where abandoned children can find a safe, secure and loving environment, where they are shown the love of Christ and what a true family is.

Louise says they started the organisation in 2011 to make a difference in the lives of abandoned, “broken” children.

Pumpkin Ministries started when Louise said God showed her a picture of a house full of children who were abused and abandoned. She at first kept this to herself and shortly after she went to visit a safe house. At the house there was a little girl who had been abused and she came to sit on her lap.

“At that moment, everything just came together for me,” she said.

Louise went home and told Mark about the little girl, he turned around to her and asked why she wasn’t living with them. That was the start of the non-proft company.

In that same year, the couple received their first baby, a four-day-old baby who had been left on a train. They have taken care of 25 children since 2011, some of whom stayed on at the home and others who were reunited with their parents or family. Some went on to be adopted by other families.

“Our hearts’ mission is for children to belong and not to be shifted from one home to another,” said Louise.

For 10 years, the Wilkinsons rented a three-bedroom home in Goedemoed where they took care of their 10 children. In September this year they were able to move to a bigger farmhouse in Durbanville which they are also renting, giving them ample space to take care of the children. Their home is filled with loving signs and messages which serves as reminders and “pick me ups” for everyone in the home. In the kitchen hangs the menu for the week, while the calendar on the table is filled with reminders.

They currently have 10 children in their care, two are biological, three adopted, four in foster care and one in a place of safety.

Mark said the circumstances of the children that come to the home differs from case to case, from their parents being addicted to drugs and alcohol, being involved in prostitution or living on the streets. He said the rehabilitation process varies and largely depends on what they have been exposed to.

“While a baby may have some abandonment issues, if they are fed, clothed and loved, they often adapt. But with a five-year-old, it is harder as they are able to understand what they went through and they battle to attach and detach themselves. The hardships they have been through becomes their norm and it’s hard for them to accept love, kindness and tenderness as they are often broken. They tend to reject you at first and display tendencies of bad behaviour,” he said.

But the Wilkinsons say this is a continuous process which requires patience.

They have a little girl in their care who lived on the streets for five years but say her mother was brave enough and loved her daughter enough to ask for help. The Wilkinsons describe her as a loving parent, who was simply not able to take care of her child, as she could barely care for herself. She has been in their care for two years and Louise said she has only recently started opening up to them about her life on the streets.

Children are placed at Pumpkin Ministries by the police, Badisa, and the Department of Social Development.

Louise said she once received a letter from someone in their church referring to pumpkins. In addition, her parents did “kangaroo” fostering and there was one baby who had bright red hair. They referred to her as pumpkin as they could not name the babies. When Louise told her father of the name she had in mind, he reminded her of the picture he had of her and “Pumpkin”. Louise also said they found out that Durbanville used to be named Pampoenkraal – which was a place of rest and refreshment for farmers.

Pumpkin Ministries will be holding their first fund-raiser on Friday December 2 at the Barnyard Theatre. It will be a musical tribute show to Bon Jovi, Freddie Mercury, Meat Loaf, Billy Joel, Pink and Cher with tickets at R190.

Part of the ticket sales will go towards Pumpkin Ministries, which they will use to pay off their nine-seater van to transport the children. Tickets must be bought directly from Pumpkin Ministries. Bookings can be made through Tanya Visser at 076 505 4874 or