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A place of love and care

Open Arms in Komga is a haven for orphaned, abandoned or abused children from across the Eastern Cape

The team at Open Arms home for children in Qumrha has been nominated as local heroes.
The team at Open Arms home for children in Qumrha has been nominated as local heroes.
Image: MICHAEL PINYANA

The Open Arms Home for Children in Komga has committed itself to raise children to become independent adults through love, care, and comfort.

The NPO was founded by Bob and Sallie Solis, an American couple who used their life savings to buy the 28-hectare farmland in Komga in 2005 and who still organise the American donations.

New director Kerry Krull said Open Arms took in children up to 17 years old and worked with social services, who sourced children who were either orphaned, abandoned or abused from across the Eastern Cape.

Our admissions have no set criteria. Social workers contact us to see if we have space. We cater for the children’s best interests

Krull said: “Our admissions have no set criteria. Social workers contact us to see if we have space. We cater for the children’s best interests.”

Open Arms now has 40 children in its care who sleep in dormitories separated by age and gender, with a house mother or father who stays with them. 

Krull said: “In the morning we have breakfast, we transport the kids to school, we help them with their homework and provide anything they need, clothes, toiletries, sports equipment.

“What we do comes from the heart. This is not an institution, it’s a home. We love what we do.” 

The home has a vegetable garden, netball court, creche, TV lounge, play area, homework room, a food court for meals and a lush green lawn for playtime. 

The Dispatch visited Open Arms and walked through the colourful space.

The walls were beautifully painted with portraits of animals, trains and plants by American volunteers, the grass was bright green and the creche filled with clean toys, carpets and a heater for the cold. 

Krull said Open arms had 54 employees who worked with the children in various roles as mentors, teachers, drivers and in the kitchen.

We are always involved. We are hoping to build a new space for the older kids — we don't just dump them at 18; we are a family

“We are always involved. We are hoping to build a new space for the older kids — we don't just dump them at 18; we are a family.” 

Internal social worker Joy Peter, 43, said it was amazing to see the children transform after they received proper care.

“The transformation from being broken, abused or malnourished in a few weeks’ time  into loved and well-fed kids is making a huge difference. I feel very privileged to help protect them with love and care.” 

Peter said the biggest challenge was children who suffered from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. 

“Children struggle with mainstreaming in schools, but they go to Parklands. They are not academic but they still have skills.” 

Youth care worker and house father Thembekile Makeke, 57, started as a driver in 2008 but is now a house father in the Green house, where boys from 10-17 live together. 

“I started here as a driver but transitioned in 2010 because I like working with kids. They love to play soccer and pool. They are like friends, even family.” 

Educational consultant Simnikiwe Makwayiba, 49, said that during the day she was with the toddlers in the creche and helped the older children with homework in the afternoons.

Makwayiba is in charge of the sports programme and runs a netball and soccer team.

We are caring for the kids and tell them that their background doesn’t define their future

“We are caring for the kids and tell them that their background doesn’t define their future.”

American volunteers Sue Pokorney, 66, and her husband Jim, 65, said they were to spend six months volunteering at Open Arms and had brought 70 books to share with the children. 

They also took the teenagers to Nahoon for the parkrun on Saturdays and organised quiz and bingo nights and were helping with academics. 

Jim said: “In the evenings both of us read to the girls and boys before bedtime. I’m with the boys and Sue with the girls and they get right on top of us and huddle together to listen to stories.”

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