Children at the Little Angels Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre are at risk after illegal housing structures were built next to their premises in Hangberg.
Since Liezl Mathews launched the ECD back in 2011, Little Angels has become more than a creche; they’ve also become a place to keep little children off the streets and away from troubled family conditions.
Volunteers from the Netherlands, Ron and Anja van de Zand, teamed up with Little Angels and started a foundation back home called Angels for Little Angels, to help raise funds to renovate the ECD.
Little Angels currently have four classrooms which accommodate 100 children, aged from 18 months to 6 years old.
“I’m not saying people shouldn’t get houses. I’m just looking out for my children because it is unsafe to have structures put up next to our school, the children are at risk,” said Ms Mathews.
“Last Saturday my husband had to clean up all the alcohol bottles that got thrown into the school where the children usually play.
“It’s become a bit of a danger zone now and I don’t want to make a scene while the children are here either. Metro (police) were here and issued the people with a summons but they still haven’t moved,” she said.
Over the years, Little Angels have been leasing one section of Erf 5606, with the Peace and Mediation Forum leasing the other side. The two organisations came to an agreement, with the Peace and Mediation Forum allowing Little Angels to take over their section of the land as well.
“We sat in several meetings with the Peace and Mediation Forum and came to an agreement with them that we will take over
their section of the land in agreement with the government, and to amend the lease to Little Angels,” said Ms Mathews.
“They initially wanted to build a safe house for kids but don’t have the funds for it. With Anja and Ron on board with us, we will now build the safe house for the kids,” she added.
Anja first got involved as a volunteer with Little Angels in 2017. Impressed with what she saw
being done there, she went back home with a mission to make the ECD financially independent and help them renovate and extend the school.
“I organised a big event last year where we raised enough funds to do renovations on the daycare. But when we arrived in February, we couldn’t do anything because there are people who have just started building homes on the land,” said Ms Van de Zand.
“We’re planning to renovate the classrooms because that’s the rule of the government in order to get a subsidy. The safe house will be for kids who are in difficult circumstances at home, or when parents who need go to rehab to get clean from alcohol or drugs, then those children can come here,” she said.
Ward councillor, Roberto Quintas, said they were aware of the plans for Little Angels and the issues preventing them from carrying them out. He said he was also aware of the housing issues in Hangberg and was taking the necessary steps to help resolve the problems.
“We are very aware of the good work being done by Little Angels and I have spoken with officials about it. (But) we can’t simply go there and smash down structures,” said Mr Quintas.
“We have to deal with the illegal building taking place there as it impacts both Little Angels and their operations and adversely affects the stability of the embankment which supports rate-paying households.
“Illegal building comes at a cost to law-abiding citizens and puts larger projects of wider public benefit at great risk.
“Although I am cognizant of the dire housing shortages in Hangberg, the City is addressing these by embarking on two new housing developments and I
must condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing
illegal building seen in the area,” he said.