Child protection service Childline made their presence felt in June, after disturbing indecent images of infants went viral on social media. The organisation was alerted via their toll free line, and their officers were able to identify the children in just a few hours and conduct a home visit on the same day.
Swift action by Childline soon had the police on a manhunt for the perpetrator who had since made a quick getaway. The police are still looking for him. Childline meanwhile is doing what it does best – taking care of the children with counselling and care services to ensure that the tiny victims can survive the trauma. The parents are also in care, receiving support and advice on positive parenting for the benefit of their kids.
This dramatic horror story is just one instance of the kinds of things Childline must deal with on a daily basis.
“We offer psycho-social support, counselling and we do home visits in response to an average of 50,000 calls we receive every month reporting children who are being abused or in need of help”, said Stella Motsi the director of Childline Zimbabwe.
Speaking to Harare News, Motsi cautioned parents to play a very participatory role in the lives of their children as it is very easy to miss things that might be going wrong for children, who might not be able to communicate their experiences well. When children do communicate, it is important for parents to take it seriously.
“When it comes to child protection, everyone is guilty until proven innocent. Let us believe everything our children say until we prove otherwise, even if it is something that happened at home or school,” she said.
Childline is a non-profit organization whose operations are made possible by the support of corporations such as Spar who every year host the Spar Fun Run which took place last month. The annual event is a fundraiser for Childline which this year raised a total of $10,000 for the purchase of a new vehicle to add to Childline’s depleted fleet.
Spar Marketing and Public Relations official Shamiso Pfumayaramba says that besides fundraising through marathon registrations, individual companies also pledged 10% of proceeds from sales made on that day to Childline to support their day to day work including: responding to all children in distress, counselling, comforting and protecting children through the provision of a free, confidential, 24-hour helpline, free postal service and drop-in advice centres.
“Our sponsors now understand the importance of our relationship with Childline and we are thankful to them for their increasing support”, said Pfumayaramba.
All calls to the Childline hotline are received through two call-in centres: one in Harare and another in Bulawayo where most of the call agents are volunteers. “We have retired people or young professionals who offer their time to attend to the calls for free,” said Motsi.
Depending on the nature of the case, Childline responds by doing home visits, or referring those in need of help to one of their 26 Drop-in Advice Centres dotted around the country.
In describing their work, Motsi said that Childline literally holds the child’s hand until they are convinced that the case has been dealt with. “Of an average of 2,000 cases that we deal with per month, both our volunteers and paid staff complement each other in helping the children,” she added.
When faced with a case that needs legal, medical or any other expertise that they cannot offer, Childline refer the child to independent professionals.
Besides volunteers, Childline receives free network services provided by various local network providers. They still however need money to fund home visits and sustain their Drop-in Centres. The organisation gets most of its funding from international donors and locally Spar is their main funder. Spar also gives monthly donations that include $1,000 cash and $500 worth of food vouchers. Donations from the public are also welcome.
If you are a child who needs assistance, dial 116 for help.
To get involved visit www.childline.org.zw or call 796741/793715 for more information.
Image: Terrence Yetman from Spar hands over a cheque to Childline director Stella Motsi.