NGOs battle budget blues


When the provincial Department of Social Development’s budget speech was delivered last month, it was filled with much gloom as the “sluggish economy and the growing pool of unemployed South Africans” were fingered as reasons for NGOs being placed under more pressure than ever before.

On Tuesday March 29, Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, delivered his speech at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament.

The department received a total budget of just under R2 billion, an increase, said Mr Fritz, of just over R62.5 million.

Mr Fritz said an increased need for services and above-inflation wage agreements for the civil service were among the factors forcing his department to make “some hard budget decisions”, which meant NGOs would miss out on inflation-related disbursements.

Nevertheless, he said, the budget was still “a tool for maintaining and expanding quality services”.

But what do those on the ground think?

TLC Outreach project is a welfare organisation based in Table View that cares for destitute youth at risk. Founded by Colleen Petersen almost 20 years ago, it works with homeless people, drug addicts, and children from the townships surrounding Table View. Ms Petersen says TLC survives from hand to mouth.

“There is too much pressure on NGOs. We don’t have enough funding, which makes it tough. We live by faith, but we are the happiest people. We feed our people with Woolworths waste and give them second-hand clothing,” said Ms Petersen.

Fundraising was not always easy and the money they used to get from the City had dried up.

When Tabletalk visited TLC, Ms Petersen’s genuine passion to help those dealt a bad hand in life was evident.

Ms Petersen regularly shares lunch with the people she helps.

One of them, Robert Pronk, 35, has been on the streets for almost a year. He said several things had put him there, including money problems and divorce. He heard about TLC from someone he met on the street who was already in one of its programmes.

“When I came to TLC, it was difficult at first because you’re still disorientated and not adhering to rules. It takes a few weeks to settle in,” said Mr Pronk. He said every day was a challenge, but he hoped to get off the streets.

“We would be pretty lost without TLC. There is no actual lifeline for those on the streets, such as a night shelter,” he said.

Elize Janse Van Rensburg, 19, was also homeless before Ms Petersen got her into a safe house for women. When she could no longer stand life on the street, she went to the Table View police station and they sent her to TLC.

She said although she was heart-broken about the suffering she had endured she has found “a new mother” now.

“Colleen feels like a mother to me and her husband, Derek, is a great father figure. I always tell her I want to be like her. Without her help and TLC I don’t know where I would be,” she said.

Boost Africa is an NPO based in Dunoon that helps children with things needed to finish school, such as school uniforms, stationery, and school fees. Its manager, Elizabeth Arendse, said their main focus was the children but they essentially helped the whole family as well, if necessary. The biggest problem, she said, was that children were losing their parents at a younger age every day.

Gideon Sithole,17, is finishing matric with the help of Boost Africa. Raised by his sisters, Gideon has battled in his school career. He used to do construction work during the school holidays to make money. He would also miss out on school at times when he was pressured to earn money.

“I was thinking of leaving school this year because I couldn’t afford to pay school fees, but since I’ve been with Boost Africa, I don’t have to stress about things anymore. They give me food twice a week and sometimes toiletries. They are like family to me” said Gideon.