by Fiona Ingram, a South African writer who loves books, travel, animals, antiques, and adventures of all kinds! Read Fiona’s author site and find out about her recently published children’s adventure novel
Christmas around the corner made me start thinking about those less fortunate and how to give back. There are so many needy organisations, run by wonderful selfless people to choose from.
I met Bronwen Jones (founder of Children of Fire) about 10 years ago, with her badly burned daughter, Dorah. I was struck by Dorah’s happiness and self-assurance, despite her terrible injuries. The encounter stayed with me.
What is Children of Fire?
Children of Fire is a UK and SA-based charity, which assists badly burned children with reconstructive surgery. The organization also promotes legislation and legal assistance for children disabled through burn injuries.
Since it began 17 years ago, ChiFi has helped 350 children with severe burns as well as others from across Africa who required less complicated surgery.
I went along one Saturday afternoon to offer my services in the reading/writing/acting/having fun with books department, and to meet some of the kids. It was great. A mixture of ages, and varying degrees of disabilities, but with a wonderful sense of fun and excitement. They all laugh, talk, and jostle for attention, due to Bronwen’s love, compassion, and ability to make each child feel special.
Because of their injuries, some kids do not get enough schooling—much time is spent in hospital, with ongoing procedures interrupting the learning process.
Burn injuries are a terrible and harrowing experience for children. At least 15,000 children in South Africa are burnt every year. The figures rise in winter when the chances of children rolling half asleep into open fires are higher. Sadly, one in three children is burned intentionally.
Apart from the actual burn injuries, many children come to the charity with extra problems such as starvation, malnutrition, HIV/Aids, as well as poverty-related illnesses. Added to the trauma of the burn experience is fear of doctors and hospitals.
ChiFi works with a network of doctors, surgeons, and health care specialists, many of whom volunteer their services. The charity operates entirely on public donations, using volunteers from across the world. Reconstructive surgery is incredibly expensive, and funding is always welcome.
Besides helping children with burn injuries, ChiFi also tries to educate communities on how to prevent fires, and helps communities affected by fires rebuild their lives. The biggest challenge is educating people to see these children not as victims but as individuals, with ongoing lives to lead, goals to achieve, and the ability to give and receive love.
The website has a list of things they urgently need. They need so much that we take for granted. If we all help, in whatever small way we can, ChiFi can assist many more needy children and set them back on their life path.
Click here to find out more about Children of Fire