Little hearts of hope

Originally published in Sandton Chronicle, 18 February 2021

WENDYWOOD – Interested in making a donation to Hearts of Hope? The team is looking for donations of any long-life food or fresh fruit and vegetables.

CEO and founder Deborah van Dongen continues to impact the lives of children who come through her doors. Photo: Sarah Koning

The Heart of Hope organisation looks forward to a year of possibilities.

The organisation, based in Wendywood, is home to 43 orphaned and vulnerable children. “Our objective and primary goal is to find forever families for those children,” said founder and CEO Deborah van Dongen.

Van Dongen has spearheaded Hearts of Hope for nearly two decades as it served as a gateway for children in need.

To date, the organisation has reached and impacted the lives of 179 children. “We try and reach as many children as we can with good care, good medical care and education.”

Like many non-profits across the community, Hearts of Hope was impacted by Covid-19 and the lockdown in various ways, including the possibility of children finding their forever homes. “Social workers were not working, that meant that local and international adoptions were not happening, we did not have many children move,” said Van Dongen.

The organisation hosted an Easter egg hunt for the children during lockdown. Photo: Supplied

She added that many adoptions and unification processes were also not able to take place because the necessary government departments were closed for over six months of the lockdown. “Before a child gets adopted, goes for fostering or goes to extended family, they have to undergo a Form 30 application (sexual offences clearance) and that office was closed for most of the lockdown – it is still only working on a part-time basis one year later.”

The lockdown has also been tough for a few of the children who would regularly attend school. Adjusting to home-learning was a big change for them.

Van Dongen is, however, thankful that all of the extra health and safety precautions which the organisation adopted, are proving to be fruitful. These precautions included going into a voluntary lockdown and having all of its staff members stay on-site for the first six months of lockdown. “We went into a voluntary lockdown on 8 March and we have not come out since. Thankfully, we have not had a single positive Covid-19 case at Hearts of Hope.”

All of the staff has however tried to make every day a fun one for each of the learners. In April last year, the team hosted a fun-filled Easter egg hunt for the children. “We have just tried to do as many activities for them to enjoy.”

The community is encouraged to get involved with Hearts of Hope in any way possible. Interested in donating? The team is looking for donations of any long-life food or fresh fruit and vegetables. Contact Deborah van Dongen on 082 458 2677 or email info@heartsofhope.org.za

Originally published in Sandton Chronicle, 18 February 2021