This Web Site
This web site serves the public with information about our programs. Additionally, the site provides opportunities to discuss related matters with members of the organisation and other interested parties. The House Group is a community organization that exists because as a community service BY the community.
online since Dec 1995 - served more than 7 million pages of information and research material since 1995
Brief History of The House Group
The House Group was founded in 1990 by Jean and Adéle du Plessis in the inner-city of Johannesburg, South Africa. The organization was started in response to the problem that, at the time, there was NO legislation in place that allowed anyone (even Government agencies) to provide outreach or care services to destitute girl children. While there were numerous, well developed residential care and outreach services for homeless and destitute boys (called Street Children at the time), the little sisters of these boys were not taken care of and were therefore forced to fend for themselves on the streets of the slums. Inevitably these abandoned or run-away girls (the Human Services and Resources Council estimated their numbers to be in the region of 50,000 country-wide) ended up at the mercy of pimps and brothels, drug addicted and with absolutely no resources from family, state, society, or care organizations. In fact, soon after they started helping these children Jean and Adéle were warned by the police, courts and social welfare system on numerous occasions that they were exposing themselves to be charged with abduction, kidnapping, and aiding and abetting runaway children - those were the only laws in place to take "care" of the "problem" of girl children in prostitution.
Jean and Adéle set out to make alliances with international organizations to help protect themselves and The House Group should Government try to close them down. These alliances as well as the alliances with the Royal Dutch government, the USA Embassy in South Africa, The Belgium government, and the Swedish government ensured the organization's continued existence over the following decade.
To start dialogue with national Government to address the lack of legislation, the couple had to expose the South African Government's attitudes about these children in the national and international media and embarrass them into agreeing to meetings. The South African media pooled their total weight behind the cause and for the next 11 years they published and broadcasted hundreds of television programs, newspaper articles, magazine articles, and international television broadcasts about The House Group and its cause. The House became internationally known and Jean and Adele were called on to deliver papers and talks and host workshops in numerous countries in Africa, Europe, India, Canada and the USA.
The House Group grew and later had four residential care centres, a skills training center and various other programmes. The work of the formidable activists never stopped. For more than a decade this young couple lived 24/7/365 with the children and managed the tremendous growth and international popularity of the organization - all the time against tremendous odds ranging from threats from President Mbeki's office, attempts by the Department of Welfare to stop the flow of donations from foreign governments, from knife wielding and gun shooting pimps and pushers attacking and threatening workers, from burnout and consistent financial worries how to care for, feed, school and clothe 60+ girls all of the time.
In 1997 the South African Government passed legislation that made it legal to help destitute girl children - thanks to The House Group, tons and tons of volunteers, the amazing South African media, various international Governments and assisting organizations worldwide. During years of workgroups with the Department and various Ministers of Welfare (they come and go! and every time you start all over again) The House Group could help local and national Government to have a manual of best practices and minimum operating standards ready when they passed the new legislation. Almost immediately, hundreds of organizations sprouted up all over the country to help those once discarded children. Even Oprah got onto the bandwagon and started a 5-star hotel-like centre.
But, the fight was not over yet. The new President of South Africa was of opinion that prostitution is a good skill and that our girl children did not deserve help, and definitely did not need to learn additional or new skills. That same mindset made it illegal in South Africa to administer anti-retroviral drugs to victims of rape (because Government declared AIDS as “..white-man’s propaganda to get blacks to wear condoms, so they don’t breed”). - and again Jean and Adéle were arrested and threatened with incarceration. The quest was not won yet but took a new turn. The President's office did all that they could to stop the flow of donations to The House Group to force Jean and Adéle into silence. At times there were 17 staff members working without pay, and 60+ children going without food. If it was not for the kibbutz-like program, Kulula Life Skills Centre, where staff and children cultivated vegetables and raised chickens for meat and eggs, the organization would have died. But, but the girls and staff banded together and survived. At one rally Adéle took 15 girls and marched into President Mbeki's office to demand release of the donations that were given to The House Group of projects by the Dutch Government - and she got it!!
Activists and agents for social change inevitably burn some bridges and often make enemies in high places. By the year 2000 the couple were unwelcome in Government circles and Parliament buildings - to the extent that the President Mbeki’s office told them in rather harsh words that they (Jean and Adéle) would do the organization a favour if they left the country in a hurry, because if they did not, things would not go well for them … and it would mean the end of The House. Jean and Adéle started the organization with their own money when they were about 30 years-old. They sacrificed their 30s to the cause and arrived in Canada in June 2001, with four suitcases and their books - well into their 40s. Their fight was over and their burnout was real. They became Canadian citizens in 2008.
The House Group survives to this day. In Jan 2011 it will celebrate its 20th birthday. Since Jean and Adele left we had to close the Skills Centre (a farm kibbutz-style programme) and other smaller programmes but we still run the two residential care core programmes in Hillbrow. Some volunteers and board members have been with the organization for 15+ years. Some of the girls who once made use of the resources as children actually grew up in the program and are now adult members of the staff. The House Group receives Govt grants but still still relies on public sector assistance to provide additional care services not paid for by grant money. Your assistance will be much appreciated.