WATCH: Hearts of Hope children’s home plays its part

Hearts of Hope volunteer Caroline Sharp and caregiver Princess Khumalo feed some of the babies at the Hearts of Hope home in Wendywood. Photo: Sarah Koning


Hearts of Hope is a children’s home with a family feel in Wendywood, where each child receives individual attention and intervention for their spiritual, physical, mental and emotional needs.

The home caters for 34 children aged between birth and 18 and began in 2003 as a response to the HIV crisis in the country. It all happened when a group of volunteers at a centre in the Joburg CBD decided they wanted to give children a home environment instead of the institutional living options available.

Hearts of Hope founder and director Deborah van Dongen said, “Our objective is to reunite children with their families or be adopted working through social workers.”

Children enter the home from a variety of situations, some are babies abandoned at hospitals, others are children removed from parents due to abuse or neglect, others are given up for adoption. Children can stay for as short as a few months, while some have remained for as long as nine years.

Hearts of Hope founder Deborah van Dongen plays with some of the toddlers at the children’s home in Wendywood. Photo: Sarah Koning

“It is our philosophy that the minute a child enters the home, they are not victims, but are cared for as if they were part of our own family. When you see the transformation in a child, it is such a privilege to be part of making that difference,” said Van Dongen.

She mentioned the case of a girl who was placed with them at the age of nine who weighed only 18 kgs. “She was living alone with her grandmother who was unable to care for her. She went through the home and completed her schooling and is now nearly 21 and working as an intern for a catering company,” said Van Dongen.

“She also runs her own baking business on the side. She took advantage of the opportunity given to her and created a future for herself.”

The home includes two houses with a large outdoor play area and swimming pool in between. Thirty dedicated staff care for a variety of children’s needs and assist in making individual care possible. Children are either placed into local schools or are home-schooled until they can be assimilated into the schooling system. About 50 children come through the home each year, with some staying on and others going to forever families.

Volunteer Tanna Behrmann and Hearts of Hope founder Deborah van Dongen play with some of the toddlers at the children’s home in Wendywood. Photo: Sarah Koning

The home costs R3 million to run each year and receives 26 per cent of its funding from the Department of Social Development and relies on donors for the balance. A large portion of the funding goes to school fees and therapy costs for the children.

The community is encouraged to get involved by donating financially, through goods, or by volunteering their time or expertise. If you would like to volunteer, you will need to complete a volunteers’ form on the website and commit to attending regularly, since volunteering is monitored closely so as to not let the children down.

They are also looking for occupational, educational and speech therapists who can offer their services to the children.

Details: For more information on the home, visit; or call Deborah on 082 458 2677.



Sarah Koning

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