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About this story

Author: Brandi Kellam

Date: January 2011

People: Mandelakhe, in the featured video and sidebar, was interviewed in his room at the shelter.

Kids swing from the tree branches on the grounds of the Eluxolweni shelter.

Data points: According to government statistics gathered in 2007, 65.6% of households in the Eastern Cape Province use electricity for lighting, which is below the national average of 80%. Some 70.4% of households have access to piped water, which is below the national average of 88.6%.

Shelter for kids makes life livable

By: Brandi Kellam

Not far off a dirt path, just past a white gate and up a short set of stairs, the sounds of everyday life filter out doors and windows: dishes clanging, feet stomping, and lots of music playing. But what seems like the entrance to a typical home on the South Side is actually the door to a shelter that overlooks the city of Grahamstown, South Africa.

Here, the children of unsafe and broken homes find refuge at the Eluxolweni Charitable Trust Child and Youth Care Centre. Many are street kids who have no stable place to live; others have been abused by their parents or guardians. They come here voluntarily.

About two dozen boys ages 10 to 18 eat together, sleep together, play games with each other and learn the basic principles of discipline such as chores and education. They have the option to return home when living conditions improve, but many of them enjoy the stability that the center brings to their lives.

Mandelakhe, a 12-year-old boy, refuses to go home to his mother. “Yes, I talk to her, but she likes to beat me when she’s drunk. When I go home and sleep there, when I wake up she beats me.”

Many kids at the shelter share similar stories. While Mandalahke speaks, another shelter boy recalls witnessing his stepfather beating his mother. He ran away from home.

What seems to be almost a guarantee for most kids in the United States is special for these youngsters. The draw of being able to shower, eat, and sleep keeps most of them at the shelter until they are able to live on their own.

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