24th Jun 2017 10:54:43 AM

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Piet Moloja
Piet Moloja is a boy aged sixteen who wants: 'to look normal,' but he never will. He was burned on 6th June 1997 and came to see the charity in October 2002 though there had been previous telephone communication. After the visit, the Sowetan Sunday World wrote: 'Piet Moloja has found piece of mind.' Piet speaks Sesotho as a first language, but manages reasonably well in English. He says he was sitting with his friends: 'where people go to tip rubbish. One friend Tidiso went to fetch things for a fire. He came back with five litres of thinners and poured from the plastic container, onto the fire. The fire 'went up' and burned his hand. He leapt back, throwing the container at me. It was not intentional but because he was hurt. The container fell and exploded over me. 'Jerry, a friend of my brother, came with a blanket and rolled me, because I was burning. They went to my uncle to tell him I was hurt. Then they took me to Dunkerville Hospital. I stayed there three months. Then I was transferred to Bara. I stayed there six months. In and out of hospital, I came home in, I think, December 1998.' He had checkups in Sebokeng for two months with a Dr Kota, who said he'd do an operation on Piet's right hand - but nothing happened. Piet was taken to Vaalmed hospital for two months, one week; then to Naledi hospital for six months. He had a hand operation in Vaalmed and a second hand operation in Naledi. He had two above-the-eye skin grafts and he had donor skin from the right thigh taken to his central face. Much of the surgery was done by Dr John Read at full private patient rates over three-and-a-half years. Piet's uncle estimated that the (very poor) family had spent R90,000 on surgery and transport to date - raised from well wishers including from a concert that was supported by well-known jazz singer Thandi Klaasen. Even the most hard-hearted surgeon would usually arrange for the hospital administration to allow such a child to go through on medical aid rates which are cheaper than private patient rates. Other children like Oscar also have a personal trust fund but surgeons like Prof. Anil Madaree in Durban operate on them via the state system, so that the child's money can help with his life-long needs. Piet was due for a checkup on August 20th 2002 but could not go because the surgeon is pursuing him legally for outstanding fees of some R1600 and Piet's uncle says all the money raised for the boy has been used up. The charity will take the matter up with the surgeon concerned, after going through all the medical bills and receipts and checking the veracity of all that has been said. Children of Fire believes that South African newspapers should not try to set up individual trust funds for injured children as few people know how to administer such trusts and hardly any are aware that their involvement will continue over many years. It would be better if e.g. the child was burned, to ask an established charity to accept cheques specifically for that child and so receive cheques made out to 'Children of Fire - Piet Moloja'. Then the trustees and bank staff could record that R10 000 had come in specifically to help that child. That would all be allocated for his surgery, therapy, education and/or transport but the child could still have access to other money within the charity's own financial abilities and depending on other calls upon its funds. If, however, a burned child died later as a result of their injuries or another cause, the residue of money collected in their name could go to assist other burned children instead. The same could apply for different injuries and illnesses and specific charities set up in those fields. Piet would still like surgery on his right hand where the little finger is permanently hooked and two fingers cannot bend fully. We explained to him that it is a long time after the injury, that he has already had surgery and bone movement into the right hand, and it is unlikely that further (highly complex) surgery would be successful. On those grounds and on the fact that he has full use of the left hand and some use of the right hand, the charity could not motivate to attempt anything on the right hand. It might be possible to achieve a little improvement on the lumpy skin beneath Piet's mouth but all in all he is quite a reasonable looking boy and society is more accepting of a scarred man than of a scarred woman. He can run, walk, jump, write, clap, think, play like almost any other boy of his age. His legs are scarred but they function fine. Even his hairline is good. He is however very thin indeed. On his visit we gave him a jersey because he was cold, and T-shirts, a cap and chocolates. We have arranged that he will come and stay for some two weeks in December 2002, to get to know other burned children, to learn alongside the UMashesha volunteers and generally to help raise his self esteem. He was very pleased about the idea. He looked at a lot of pictures of burned children and he met Dorah (see elsewhere on website). He was moved by meeting her, and reacted with compassion. Piet made a point of going to find her where she was playing in the garden on the see-saw with her brother, to say goodbye when he was leaving. For many burned children, it is important to socialise with other people 'like them' once they are all back in wider society - rather than in the artificial environment of a hospital ward. But they generally do not want to live separately from children who are not injured. They want to be accepted and liked for themselves, and they do not want people to feel sorry for them. Piet's mother was stabbed to death by his stepfather in 1996. His biological father disappeared many years ago. Piet has been raised by his uncle, Mktlulu Moloja, in Sharpville. Piet gave his birth date as 4th July.





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