R7.5m donation secured to rebuild Durban children's home

22 February 2023 - 11:19 By Lwazi Hlangu
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In February 2018 a fire broke out at the Edith Benson Children’s Home, destroying the wing which housed babies. The Sibiya Community Trust has donated R7.5m to rebuild it.
In February 2018 a fire broke out at the Edith Benson Children’s Home, destroying the wing which housed babies. The Sibiya Community Trust has donated R7.5m to rebuild it.
Image: supplied

Plans are under way to rebuild a Durban children’s home destroyed in a fire five years ago.

In February 2018 a fire broke out at the Edith Benson Children’s Home, which housed 55 babies and children up to the age of five in Sherwood.

At a sod-turning event on Tuesday, Child Welfare Durban and District president Desmond Msomi said the organisation had secured a donor, the Sibaya Community Trust, to fund the R7.5m rebuild.

“Construction will start soon. We have appointed the contractor and he has given us about eight months to make sure the building is habitable,” said Msomi.

Businessman and chairperson of the Sibaya Community Trust, Vivian Reddy, said the trust aligned itself with child welfare organisations.

“We’re passionate about children and this project has been close to our hearts, so it’s something we could not walk away from. It unfortunately took a long time to get this project going so we, as Sibaya, decided to change the fate of the babies' home to ensure building starts in the next few weeks,” he said.

“This project is huge for the city because there are not many homes for children, so I hope it’s completed as quickly as possible.”

After the fire, the babies were housed in another wing at the centre, the William Clark Gardens Child and Youth Centre.

“This place had two buildings. It was the Edith Benson babies' home, which housed babies from newborn to five years old, who were abandoned, then we had children from five to 12 in the other section, the William Clark. We had to put all of them there,” Msomi said.

Children are cared for until they are adopted or turn 18.

Msomi said the organisation had to stop taking in babies due to lack of facilities.

We’re excited we will have babies coming back here, because without healthy children there is no future
Desmond Msomi, Child Welfare Durban & District president 

“We couldn’t take in new arrivals because we didn’t have the facility to house them. Babies are costly in terms of nappies and food. So we’re excited we will have babies coming back here, because without healthy children there is no future.”

Msomi said there was a “huge backlog” of babies who needed to be housed, adding the number of abandoned babies in South Africa had increased from 3,500 five years ago to between 7,000 to 10,000 a year.

“It’s largely because of poverty, people losing jobs because of Covid-19 and people having babies they are not able to take care of and they abandoned them. We take care of such babies.”

The new facility is expected to accommodate up to 70 babies.

eThekwini department of social development acting chief director Bilo Ntombela said the department would “plan properly” to review registrations.

“We have to plan to align with capacity and registration and ensure the budget is available to fund children placed here,” she said.

“In eThekwini metro we get most of the abandoned children because people migrate to the city to seek employment and abandon their children, so we have to place them.”

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