Astron Energy: Packing a ‘whole lotta love’ into comfort packs for young victims of sexual abuse

Every two months a small group of volunteers in Cape Town gather to put together comfort packs which are distributed throughout the Western Cape to provide a small degree of comfort to children who have been the victims of violence and sexual abuse.

NGO Friends of Child Protection (FCP) put together around 1,200 comfort packs every second month which are collected by the police’s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units and and Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) for survivors of rape across the province.

The packs are age and gender appropriate and contain items such as food in the form of baby formula, cereal or snack packs, clean underwear, and a soft toy like a teddy bear. Each packs costs between R80-100 to put together.

Antonia Zechner, chairperson of Friends of Child Protection, said it was a sad indictment on the state of society that over a thousand packs had to be prepared every two months.

“Those are just the numbers who come into the system via the FCS units or TCCs for survivors of rape,” she said, adding that the Covid-19 lockdown had seen a huge increase in reported cases.

“These packs give a little comfort to a traumatised child. At FCP we have been packing ‘a little bit of hope, a drop of dignity and a whole lot of love’ into these Comfort Packs since 2002,” she added.

Fuel company Astron Energy has sponsored the most recent batch of over 1,200 comfort packs.
On Thursday 7 July, Astron Energy employees joined Friends of Child Protection to sort and pack the comfort packs.

Zechner said the comfort pack was one small way to help lessen the trauma young victims of sexual abuse experienced. “We find that often the soft toy is an incredible emotional aid for young victims.”

FCP had distributed 2,375 packs so far this year, with the overall total standing at more than 90,000 since 2002.

The packs are distributed to 25 FCS units in the Western Cape, as well as to Thuthuzela Care Centres in Atlantis, George, Heideveld, Khayelitsha, and Worcester Hospitals, Karl Bremer Hospital, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and Victoria Hospital. Packs are also supplied to the Wynberg Sexual Offences courts and four Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centres.

According to Zechner, careful research over many years in conjunction with FCS Units, social workers and hospital staff have helped to refine the packs which now include underwear to replace “that which is taken for forensic testing, toiletries to help them to feel ‘clean’ again, a snack pack, a soft toy, ball, spinning tops, bubbles and colouring packs are included for the younger ones and notebooks and pens for the older children”.

Winny Dubazane, Astron Energy’s Social Investment Advisor, said that the company had designated July as Care Month and undertook a number of initiatives to see how and where it could support vulnerable communities or sectors of society.

“Violence against children, especially of a sexual nature, is abhorrent and as a society we really need to take a hard look at ourselves,” Dubazane said.

“But as long as there is the scourge of child abuse and rape, we must do all we can to support these brave young children to put their lives back together. That starts when these incidents are reported and the police and social workers who must attend to and counsel these young survivors.

“The love and attention that goes into these comfort packs make a huge difference and we can only applaud and support the work that Friends of Child Protection does for this most vulnerable sector of our society.”

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