TOPSY TRUSTEE, Fiona Ghosh’s visit to Topsy SA
On Sunday, 11th December 2022 Fiona and members of her family met Marianna Pretorius, the Topsy General Manager, who gave them a tour of the facilities which have been set up over the years to meet the needs of the community and in particular, the needs of the children.
Fiona's account of the visit: Grootvlei is just over 100km south east of Johannesburg, just past the town of Heidelberg. The N3 is a toll road in very good condition, so the driving is easy. The six towers of the Grootvlei power station can be seen many kilometers before the turnoff, dominating the landscape. The coal fired electricity plant was built in the late 60’s, mothballed when there was a glut in electricity production in the 90’s, but brought back online by the state-owed electricity utility, Eskom, in 2008. At the time of writing South Africa is in the grip of a severe electricity crisis, so the 585mw of power produced by Grootvlei is sorely needed. We are greeted by a cloudburst of heavy rain, rivers of water running off the road. The need to avoid the enormous potholes ever more important as they are filled with water making it impossible to determine their depth. Hit a pothole badly and we will be having to find a new tyre. The Topsy Health and Stimulation Clinic is situated in what was an old mine office, within a large beautifully manicured garden. There is a fabulous outdoor children’s play centre adjacent to the clinic, and a marvellous fenced and verdant vegetable garden next to the office block. Marianna is kind, efficient and very much in charge. She greets us with enthusiasm and introduces us to Nompi Sibeko and Meikie Mashinini, Head of Department, who take over our tour from Marianna once photos are taken of us all. The women have been with Topsy since the inception of the charity. Being a Sunday the centre is empty, which gives us a chance to look around the Clinic. There is a large open room divided into sections, each area offering a different activity from drawing, dressing up, lego and blocks, number, etc. There is a sick bay which is separate from this general play area, a large commercial kitchen where snacks are prepared and the observation room where children are weighed, and have their vital signs and eyes checked. Children from 24 EDC’s (Early Development Centre's) attend the clinic once every month on a rotation basis. And they are transported to the centre by 8am and returned for 12 midday after they have been given a snack. We then have a tour of the gardens and the amazing vegetable patch. The resident gardener is not available today, but we spot carrots, tomatoes, spinach, mustard leaf and onions growing with gusto under the protective netting. This is the pattern of the gardens we are to visit with Nompi and Maria. Nompi and Maria then take us on a tour of the local community where we are able to visit 3 families and see a local EDC. The first home we visit is that of Stephen, who along with his sister have been in the care of Topsy since they were orphaned as children. They live locally and have a magnificent vegetable garden and peach tree to the rear of their home. Stephen also sells some of his produce for extra income. The second home we visit is that of Mr Mokoena. Both he and his wife are unemployed and take care of their 3 grandchildren. Topsy assist the family with food parcels. Their vegetable garden has pride of place at the front of their home and besides the spinach, broccoli, and onions Mr Mokoena is also growing a few edible nasturtiums. We also visit iMiriam Mokoena, who has the largest and most well established veg garden we have seen. Her pretty garden also has an area of neatly mowed lawn and vines heavy with grapes. The exterior of the Sipho’okuhle ECD in Grootvle ihas been decorated with the help of the Topsy staff, and they also assist with the vegetable garden. Because the schools are closed some local children are relaxing on Sunday,
very excited about the World Cup matches which were being played at the time. A final goodbye to the team and we are off. So very grateful to Marianna, our guide and the team. .