Cape Town – From the outside, Al-Noor Orphanage Centre seems well kept, with signs reading “Welcome to our village” and “It takes a village to raise a child” on its concrete fence.
A sad reminder of the children who once lived there are hand-prints on a wall at the entrance. Brightly coloured locked containers, likely a sewing room and a library, were also decorated with prints.
Emotional after opening the girls’ room and being greeted by emptiness, a staff member said the children had lacked for nothing.
“Our children had clothing, shoes and toys. These are all things which were donated to them. The children here were really spoilt.”
Pink bedding caught the eye in the room. Cupboard doors were still open, showing signs that whoever had lived there had packed in a rush before they were removed on June 12 by the Department of Social Development.
Rubbish bags lay in a row on bunk beds.
Looking out onto the field from the room, an empty playground caught the eye.
A broken swing-set surrounded by overgrown grass stood out in the corner of the field.
Speaking to the Weekend Argus, a social worker at the orphanage said the government had placed the orphans at the home.
“Our children here were getting everything, even things that our kids at home do not get.”
A football trophy was displayed at the entrance of the boys’ room, with a fooseball table in the corner.
Clothes and shoes peeked out from some of the lockers and cupboards.
In the boys’ shower, a pair of sandals lay on the floor along with other litter.
There was a pungent smell at the exit to the boys’ room and near the dining hall, where the children ate and did homework.
It was a smell that lingered even after stepping out for some air.
The trophies and certificates from past and recent residents were on display outside the hall. In the same vicinitywas a small prayer room and computer room.
Toni Tresadern, who visited the centre in 2006 with a sponsor, said red flags had gone up when they were taken on a tour of the premises and she noticed that none of the computers in the computer room were plugged in.
Tresadern is a community worker and runs a safe house for special needs children.
“They were very old units and I was surprised when the owner told us that they offered comprehensive computer courses to the children.
“It was clear that no money had been spent on maintenance of the home for some time.
“Children from hard places are terrified of being sent to worse places and very often feel that nobody would believe their stories anyway.
“When children are removed due to neglect and abuse, they often ask to go back to where the abuse happened as they are extremely frightened about the road ahead.”