What was just under a year ago a site under construction, with walls held together by scaffolding, unconnected pipes and dark dusty spaces, has been transformed into a modern communal home with the latest in home decor trimmings.
The Ronald McDonald House – a 27-room guest house adjoining the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, the first in the continent – was launched on Tuesday and will provide families a place to stay when their child is sick and being treated at the state-of-the-art hospital.
“We are so humbled and honoured to be here,” said Sheila Musolino, former president of the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and CEO.
“As a global organisation, our vision is a world where all our children have medical care and the families are involved in the care. This is the 366th house of its kind in the world and the first in South Africa.”
The RMHC is a global organisation whose mission is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families.
In 2016, the charity helped over seven million children and their families access quality health care in 64 countries.
On Tuesday, the media, RMHC executives and donors were lead around the house, which boasts plush bedrooms that can accommodate small and large families, TV rooms with top-of-the-range flat screen TVs, hallways with magazine stands and trendy chairs, a stocked library, a meditation room, resource centre and play area for children visiting their sick siblings.
Chairperson of the RMHC global board of trustees, Steve Ramirez, said the house was the culmination of a dream and many people had contributed to it. One was local RHMC chairman Reggie Skosana.
Skosana – who was first introduced to the RMHC in 1995 – said: “Our first project (in SA) was two family rooms in Bara (Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital), and since opening those rooms, no babies have been abandoned.
“I think that’s one of our biggest achievements there We stand for families being close, we stand for what Mandela stood for – in this house, everyone will be treated equally.”
At a capital cost of R25-million – R10m of which was donated by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, leaving the RMHC with a R15-million budget from corporate and individual donors – Skosana said the house offered families something deeper than just a roof over their heads while their loved ones were ill.
“I went to the Bara rooms and saw mothers holding each other’s hands. Normally when a candle is lit, it’s because a baby has died.
“One mother opened her purse to take out the only R5 she had – she made a contribution towards the other mother.
“I asked her how she was going to get home. She said to me, the other mother had lost a baby and had a far greater problem than her.
“I then realised we had created a shrine where greatness was espoused,” Skosana said.
McDonald’s SA CEO, Greg Solomon, added that as a father, he believed the healing of a sick child involved several things: medical care, as well as love combined with hope.
“We cannot give medical care as McDonald’s, but we can give love, hope and family support. When family is around, the healing process is magnified. Sometimes, that care is far away, and that’s what RMHC is all about, a home away from home.”
McDonald’s has donated R5-million towards the house and has pledged operational support for the house for the first five years.