Orphanage celebrates centenary

The Holy Cross Orphanage in Parow

The Holy Cross Orphanage in Parow celebrates its centenary this year, and a special mass was held at the Immaculate Conception Church on Sunday to mark the milestone.

Eddie Cyster has been the manager of the orphanage since March. It was originally run by an order of nuns from Holy Cross Church.

“In 1911, a small mission school was taken over by the Holy Cross sisters. In 1918, when the Spanish Flu broke out, the nuns were asked to take in and care for sick and orphaned children,” he said.

It was out of this crisis that it developed into an expanding welfare organisation.

The number of children, taken in increased until 1964, by which stage it was caring for 230 boys and girls.

Later the orphanage moved from Voortrekker Road to its current premises close to Modderdam Road due to the Group Areas Act.

“As the orphanage looked after children of colour it had to move to where it is currently situated,” Mr Cyster said.

Sister Bernice Nero, who has been at the orphanage for the past 29 years, said it had raised many successful adults.

“There was a girl who came here in the 1990s who could not speak English or Afrikaans. The orphanage helped her tremendously, and today, she has a very good job and comes to greet us every year.

“Many of the kids that I have looked after have gone on to become nurses and teachers,” she said.

According to Mr Cyster, the orphanage now has 110 beds and looks after 101 children.

“When a child is identified as being at-risk there is process that must be followed by the Department of Social Development (DSD). The DSD would recommend that a child be placed at a place of safety and following that the commissioner of the Children’s Court would suggest that a permanent place be found for the child. There are close to 43 different homes in Cape Town. Children are placed depending on their specific needs,” he said.

Many of the children at the home suffer from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“The DSD gives 60% of the orphanage’s operational budget which is roughly R4 million a year. We make up, the rest of the money by hosting fund-raising events, receiving donations and gifts in kind,” he said.

Ms Nero said many of the children at the home were orphaned, neglected or had been living in homes where substance abuse was a problem.

“We act as mother figures for these children and over the years we develop a very deep connection,” she said.

The orphanage also has 18 youth and child care workers who run programmes for the children.

“We are always looking at new ways to develop our children and we hope to change the trajectory of these children’s lives. We teach our kids to respect each other and we recently hosted an anti-bullying workshop to educate the children,” Mr Cyster said.