Surrounded on all sides by dusty overcrowded streets, condensed housing, and haphazard garbage, a green oasis sits at the top of a hill. Underneath towering power lines, this picturesque garden thrives because of the dedication and passion of two unwavering leaders: Ingrid Moloi and Koos Maredi (pictured left). The pair has poured their entire lives into building and running Ratang Bana, an urban garden and community empowerment project that puts children at the center. Evidenced by colorful playground equipment and the sound of children laughing, Ratang Bana is a symbol of growth and hope in a desperate place.
Ratang Bana (meaning love the children) sits in the center of Alexandra, South Africa, a poor, densely populated township just outside Johannesburg. the project supports more than 460 vulnerable children, orphans, and children affected by HIV and AIDS in the area by providing fresh fruits and vegetables, care, a safe space, and invaluable emotional and physical support.
Specifically, Ratang Bana distributes food parcels to orphans and vulnerable children, makes referrals for counseling and social services—such as foster care, child support, and disability grants—and makes home visits to check on the household environment of the kids they work with. Ratang Bana advocates for sick and vulnerable children, negotiates exemptions for school fees, organizes events and outings for beneficiaries and their families, provides skills training (such as computer skills), and delivers fresh fruits and vegetables and meals to families. These services come are crucially needed in Alexandra and cannot be found anywhere else for many of these children.
Ratang Bana’s goal is to give a smile to all orphans and vulnerable children. The mission of the Ratang Bana project is to add value to children’s lives and help them reach their goals, through multiple approaches to youth empowerment:
Building team spirit and a sense of belonging for the children
Strengthening the development, welfare, health and education of children
Removing children from Alexandra’s streets, thus reducing crime, drug use and alcohol abuse
Working with the Health Department and forming support groups of people affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS
Empowering grandmothers and guardians through income generating projects