Pretoria-based 39-year-old Ilonka
Esterhuyse is the founder of the non-profit organization Fearless Love. Her
wish this Mandela Day is to provide 500 homeless people with blankets to help
keep them a little warmer this winter.
Over the past two years, Ilonka, as well as some volunteers, has distributed more than 650 blankets to vulnerable individuals.
She says, “During my many visits to the streets my heart has been broken countless times. I’ve listened to what it’s like to sleep on the streets in the middle of winter, what it’s like to go without food, and what it takes to survive each day.”
A daily struggle
Ilonka realised the dire need when
she discovered a man in Pretoria sleeping in the coals of a fire just to keep
“It was heart-wrenching seeing this man risk his life to keep warm. His only possessions were the t-shirt and shorts he was wearing. I thought to myself, is this what it means to be a human being? Does he have anyone who cares if he makes it through the night?” says Ilonka.
Children on the street
Also close to her heart is the
well-being of children living on the street.
“I’ve heard from single moms who have described what it’s like to raise a child on the streets and the concern they have for their child’s safety and well-being.
As a mother myself, I think about the dreams I have for my children. That they will grow up to become teachers, doctors or even racecar drivers. Then I think of the young faces I’ve seen on the street and how differently their lives will turn out to be although we live in the same South Africa,” says Ilonka.
Crowdfunding this Mandela Day
As part of a continued effort to improve the lives of those living on the streets, Ilonka has created a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy to purchase at least 500 blankets to be distributed among those in need on Mandela Day and over the next 67 days.
Ilonka has also teamed up with 11 different organisations to put together an event at Marabastad, Gezina and Sunnyside in Pretoria on Mandela Day where homeless individuals will be given a hamper of basic items to make this winter a little easier.
“It will be a day of celebration, music and storytelling to empower the voiceless. One common thread, in all the stories I’ve heard, is that everyone wants to be noticed and to be recognized. Each individual will also receive a home-cooked meal, be able to have their haircut and receive advice from mentors,” says Ilonka.
The crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy has thus far raised R13211 with contributions from 28 donors. External donors have also already contributed 20 000 to this initiative.
“We hope the public will join us in restoring dignity to the homeless and support our BackaBuddy campaign to help purchase blankets for those who have been forgotten, ignored and misunderstood,” says Ilonka.