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REBECCA'S 139 STREET CHILDREN

Rebecca Tsiane has unselfishly dedicated her life to the plight of street children in her South African home town of Kimberley. A few weeks ago, at a ceremony arranged by Kimberley Rotary Club, she received a Paul Harris Fellowship, an award made to her by the Rotary Club of Brownsburg, Indiana (US).

The award was a tribute to the outstanding and selfless work by Rebecca and her husband, Martin, in housing, feeding, clothing and educating an ever growing number of street children. At present, they have 139 children in their care at the Thusong Kids Haven in Kimberley.

The link between the Rotary Clubs of Kimberley and Brownsburg began when members of the American club visited Kimberley. They met Rebecca and Martin at the Thusong home. That led to the two clubs agreeing to make a matching grant to the home, and later resulted in one of the first video conferences between Rotary clubs in Southern Africa and the US.

Introducing Rebecca, Kimberley Rotarian Peter Hohne, a member of the Thusong Home Committee, said "Kimberley, the city of diamonds, has in its days produced some wonderful gems. This evening I would like to introduce a very special gem...

"Rebecca Tsiane attained a diploma in Fashion Design after leaving school. She became proficient in dressmaking, shoe design, hat covering and leatherwork. However, as a member of her community, she could not walk past the growing numbers of street children appearing in her home town of Kimberley.

"In 1994, Rebecca began reaching out to the children living on the streets by talking to them at length and taking them food twice a week.

"In 1995, after a discussion with her husband Martin, they decided to give the children a home for a year. They rented a four-roomed house in Warren Street in the suburb of De Beers and began caring for 17 children. The home was christened The Thusong Centre. At the time Rebecca was working at the Elizabeth Conradie School for the disabled, while Martin looked after the children during the day. Rebecca used her salary to fund the project.

"Eight years later Rebecca now runs The Thusong Kids Haven. The premises have grown to three houses, accommodating 139 children."

  • You can see photos of Rebecca and Martin by clicking on ROTARY. Barry Downs (webmaster of this e-book) is a past president of Kimberley Rotary Club. He says: "Little Hope (shown in the top photo with Rebecca) was found abandoned in the veld ('bush' in Oz-speak) as a two-day old baby. Rebecca and Martin looked after her, and she is now a happy two-year-old. The other children call her The Queen of Thusong."

 

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Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted November 2003

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