Day 14) Back at New Jerusalem
Today’s highlight is our visit to New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is a former project from Orange Babies; a project we assisted in financial and management support for more than 6 years. The start-off involved the renovation of the orphanage. This was necessary due to poor hygiene endangering the health of the babies and the 15 toddlers who stayed in the orphanage.
With the support of our ambassador, Herman den Blijker, we renovated the entire kitchen, including a “walk-in” refrigerator in order to preserve the quality of the goods. We also built a complete new unit from containers to accommodate 30 new children. Neglected and HIV infected children in need for a home. The container house was so beautifully executed with so much creativity… the international media picked it up and articles were published in several architecture magazines. To encourage the children, more opportunities were created and a pre-school was built. For several years Anneke and Rene Neelissen partnered in this project and we managed to make New Jerusalem a huge success.
Anneke and Rene believed that education is key, just like us.
I recon 45 children attended the pre-school. We managed to convince the families in the neighbourhood to take their children to our school. That was not easy because they were afraid to send their children to a school with HIV children.
New Jerusalem appeared to be our flagship project. From zero to hero, a world class project; hand in hand with the sisters Anna and Phina Mojapelo.
Nevertheless, Orange Babies had to make the difficult decision to discontinue the New Jerusalem project in February 2011. It was time to let go. Over the course of 2 years we reduced our support in a responsible way. It was time for them to find a structural solution during our withdrawal. February 2017, 6 years after our decision, John and I are back… It started a week before when I sent the sisters Mojapelo an email: “We are in Johannesburg and if it is convenient we would love to come by for a visit.” Both sisters replied immediately: “Any time, any day!!” You created this place, Anna said. “You are part of us forever,” Phina said.
6 years later….. The children have grown up. They still remember us; John-John is 17 years old now. He was shaking of happiness when he saw John. He embraced him with both arms, eyes closed, a long hug. Our John was quite surprised; he had no idea he had been missed so much. The same ritual with some of the older boys and girls follows. Extremely beautiful and emotional. After that Anna gives us a tour which ends at the pre-school. 145 toddlers are dancing in front of us.
I was very happy. The school has been well maintained during our absence. The sisters did a fantastic job. After we pulled out they managed to keep the ambition high. A super-beautiful end of our day which started with a visit to our South African office of Orange Babies. We had been invited by Liesbeth van der Voort, our new country manager. We started with a very nice conversation with Ivette Walet who did a fantastic job as a volunteer for the past year. She provided us with a professional and transparent overview on the OBSA’s financial situation. Soon, she will be returning to the Netherlands. We will miss her, but are hoping to receive her support again in the Netherlands.
We also met with Victoria Law. She voluntarily used her talent for organising art and design commercial activities for OBSA’s benefit. She is moving back to London, but she promised to continue her support to OB. She has a lot to offer because of her artistic network, exciting! Our first meeting with the new country manager, Liesbeth has been proven successful. Thank you Liesbeth. You’ve convinced me that you will take good care of Orange Babies South Africa.