Cape Town women go above and beyond for child trauma survivors

NOTHING is as comforting as a mother’s touch, especially in times of trouble.

For 18 years, a group of Cape Town women has been providing comfort for children in the desperate hours after they have survived a violent crime.

Flo Borchers, is the chairperson of Friends of Child Protection (FCP), an organisation which supports children in the traumatic hours after being raped, sexually assaulted or abused. While the young victims undergo police processing, or physical examination in hospital, Borchers’ initiative makes sure they are given a care pack with some essentials and luxuries to help them through an impossibly difficult time.

“Our intent is to help children in the first few hours after a traumatic happening in their lives by giving them a comfort bag which includes items that can soothe and help them,”she said. “We’ve had feedback from so many of these places saying how much this means to children when they are in crisis and feeling alone with no resources.”

FCP began its work in 2002, but only started counting bags in 2006. Since then, it has distributed 81 500 throughout the Western Cape, to facilities such as hospitals, Thuthuzela Care Centres for rape survivors, as well as to police stations.

The packs contain some snacks as the children are often hungry after sitting for hours at a police station, as well as some age-appropriate toys and activities like a ball, bubbles or a notebook and pencil. They also include some toiletries, and a fluffy toy animal for comfort that is either sponsored by Born In Africa toys or handmade by a team of knitters.

“People who have been through this, it’s something that never leaves your life,” Borchers said. “Just to know that somebody cares – it’s a small thing, and it has helped so many children.”

She is emigrating next month after 18 years of running the organisation, and will be handing over the reins to her committee of 9 dedicated and passionate teammates.

Their work has been especially crucial to the Saps Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Swiegelaar has worked at the Nyanga Saps FCS unit for 20 years, and has a long-standing partnership with the Friends of Child Protection team.

“Our lifesavers, they are real stars,” he said. “They are always going above and beyond putting in great effort to support us. They are the only people supporting us like this.”

Swiegelaar said they see children processing trauma in many different ways.

“We deal with all kinds of emotional victims continuously. Some children cry; some are quiet and don’t show any emotion, but that doesn’t mean the hurt is less.”

The young survivors have to go through all the police processes including giving their statements first. This is to avoid any possible accusations in court that police may have elicited a statement out of them by promising the gift pack as a reward.

Once the police process is complete and the child is ready to go home, they are surprised with one of the care packages. Swiegelaar said that for the officers, it feels good to be able to leave the children with something positive after their trauma.

“It’s a difficult situation, so it’s nice to afterwards say, here’s something for you on your way home. It’s something small, but it helps. The parents appreciate it. Maybe the child will feel afterwards that somebody cares,” he said.

“We’re working with the poorest of the poor. Many times it’s the first time these children will get something as a gift.”

Friends of Child Protection is a faith-based organisation who operate from Gardens Presbyterian Church. Donations and funding come from their community and from fostering good relationships with their suppliers where they buy items in bulk. Volunteers from the church spend days packaging all the items into bags which are then sent off to the facilities where they are distributed by police officers, counsellors or healthcare workers.

To find out more about the Friends of Child Protection and their next comfort pack drive, please visit friends of child protection.org.za.

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