Breaking the cycle

Pictured are children who learnt how to play rather than get involved in crime, at Volksang Way, in Retreat.

A self development intervention programme was launched in Cafda and Retreat after too many children, some as young as 13, were found to be facing criminal charges.

Pastor Paul Phillips, of the Phillips Foundation in Parkwood, teamed up with Janine Lawrence, coordinator of Winni’s Wayside Kids programme, to change the mindset of children as violence in these and other communities appears to be “a way of life.”

The programme at Volksang Way, in Retreat, on Sunday April 29, aimed to teach children between the ages of 3 and 12 how to simply play.

Mr Pastor Phillips said areas such as Parkwood, Lavender Hill and Steenberg face similar challenges. “Children are becoming at risk of being exposed to violence daily,” said Mr Phillips.

He said gangsterism, substance abuse and violence are the norm in these areas.

“The aim was to engage with children and parents through faith-based programmes by teaching them values and principles, while a feeding scheme as well as a counselling service were offered. It is critical for children to focus on self development, and it will be a benefit to parents,” said Mr Phillips.

Southern Mail received a call from a mother fraught with worry as her two sons, aged 13 and 15 years, were arrested at midnight, on Tuesday April 24.

This incident also involved a 16-year-old boy and two 23-year-old men who faced charges relating to armed robbery.

Warrant Officer Wynita Kleinsmith, spokesperson for Grassy Park police station, said all five had appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday April 26 and the case was postponed to today, Wednesday May 2.

A neighbour of the accused said the 13-and 15-year old boys came from “good homes with both parents in their lives”.

However, while discipline is implemented in their home, children who spend most of their time outside are becoming complacent and unaware of the dangers which have become “a way of life”.

The neighbour said children think violence is normal because they witness and experience it as if it is okay.

Trauma counsellor at Grassy Park police, Veronica Nicholas, said she noticed that most of the time children who experience some kind of abuse or witness it in their homes are prone to be violent outside.

“I noticed many 13, 14 and 15 year olds are causing havoc and trauma in their parents’ lives. We then refer the kids to the social workers at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court.”

Ms Lawrence said to prevent the young children from getting involved in criminal activities, they provide them alternatives to violence, which is play.

“Children don’t play games anymore as they are always on their phones. But we have included the parents as well and we are planning to do so every Sunday afternoon for an hour.”

Ms Lawrence said the idea to intervene was sparked because of poverty and children were freely roaming the streets late at night.

”A lot of kids knocked on doors and asked for food. So we decided to have something constructive to show them there are other ways to live life and getting parents involved as much as possible.”

Ms Lawrence said she moved in three years ago with her mother Veronica George who also “knows her community quite well”.

“We didn’t aim at any specific age but the kids that showed interest were from three to 12.

“This programme is not churched-based but it comes from that angle. We show them how to play and how to be kids.”

Ms Lawrence said too many teenagers are pregnant and when they have a child they themselves do not get a chance to be a child. “I am glad the parents are involved and if we reach a child, we reach a family and then a community.”

If anyone wants to join, meet the group at Volksang Way, in Retreat, on Sunday, from 3pm 4pm, or for more information call Ms Lawrence on 062 707 4006.