14th Jul 2020 8:19:23 AM

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Children of Fire Miss Cyprus SA

Photos taken by Chris Taute Photography and the development sponsored by Express Foto Hatfield

Children of Fire started to work with Miss Cyprus SA in August 2000. On the premise that every beauty queen has to do something beautiful, the link came about at the suggestion of Pretoria public relations company Platinum Projects.

South Africa has an incredibly diverse mix of people with origins from across the African continent and from across Europe. Many of these groups maintain their cultural links while also feeling strongly South African.

Miss Cyprus SA and PR pal Janet greet a burn victim in hospital

The Cypriots celebrate the traditions of their forefathers, crown a Miss Cyprus SA once a year, and play a significant role in the economy and the well being of South Africa.

Rebecca Georgiou, this year's Miss Cyprus SA, joined forces with Children of Fire to visit the paediatric burns unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and to take the children gifts. On a typical winter weekend at this largest hospital in the Southern Hemisphere, there can be 20 serious burn cases in the children's ward with many other children being helped as outpatients.

Janet Potgieter, Dorah, Rebecca Georgiou (Miss Cyprus SA)

Most of the children are under five years old and a large number are burned with hot water. Two of the children we met on this latest visit had been burned with boiling water thrown by their own fathers. With high unemployment and a high level of alcoholism, these injuries are too common. Debt relief from the West and investment in manufacturing (rather than in casinos, alcohol and carbonated drinks) would have a major positive impact on the country.

The more serious burns and deaths are from shack fires. With this in mind, Miss Cyprus SA also went with Children of Fire to visit a squatter camp where the charity has undertaken a lot of preventative work: the Joe Slovo squatter camp in the Johannesburg suburb Crosby.

Miss Cyprus SA remembers the nursing staff in the burns unit need sustenance, seen here with ward sister Christine

Rebecca had never visited any sort of informal settlement before and was visibly moved by the experience. She saw the area of swings that Children of Fire had introduced with the help of the German School of Johannesburg, which is intended as a safe play place and as a firebreak where no shack can be built. Rebecca also visited the creche and handed over a gift of some 200 Zulu-language reading books and colouring-in books.

Janet Potgieter of PR company Platinum Projects giving learning toys to burn victims at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, through a Children of Fire initiative

While some of these activities are peripheral to the main work of Children of Fire, we want to work with people living in a situation almost beyond hope, and to give them some hope. The start of a community library in the creche shack is a good beginning. The safe play place is working wonders. Gradually morale is improving and with it comes better neighbourliness and better safety.

Three young men trained in firefighting through Children of Fire, holding Dorah on her latest visit to Joe Slovo squatter camp

One of the youngest burn victims in the ward will at least wake up to a new toy of his own

By August 2000 some 30 different people from the Joe Slovo squatter camp have been trained in first aid, fire fighting and prevention, and most recently, in the St John Ambulance course in home-based care. The home-based care course covers such topics as the treatment and dressing of burn wounds but is wide enough to even cover the nursing of a family member with Aids, in a shack environment. Almost every South African family will have someone dying of Aids in the years to come.

Each person trained through Children of Fire is recognised as an asset to their community. They are praised in the media to build their status and self esteem and, whenever the charity receives something that can be shared, the trainees benefit.

So as Miss Cyprus SA waved goodbye to the little community living in corrugated iron shacks, first aiders and fire fighters stood proud in their new "Freedom for Cyprus" T-shirts. Most probably don't know where Cyprus is on the map but they met a beautiful Cypriot descendent who cares.

In the creche with some of the Joe Slovo squatter camp children who will benefit from the donated books

This material is Copyright The Dorah Mokoena Charitable Trust and/or Children of Fire , 1998-2020.
Distribution or re-transmission of this material, excluding the Schools' Guide, is expressly forbidden without prior permission of the Trust.
For further information, email firechildren@icon.co.za