International writer and geologist Bronwen Jones has been awarded the 2011 Inyathelo Award for Philanthropy in Health for her remarkable work with children disfigured and orphaned by fire.
Using her own money and savings, Bronwen founded the charity Children of Fire more than a decade ago after meeting a little girl called Dorah Mokoena who was badly burnt in a shack fire in Mpumalanga. Dorah’s face was left a mass of melted flesh but Bronwen saw the little girl trapped inside and started raising funds for reconstructive surgery. 15 years later, Dorah is now a teenager and a permanent member of Bronwen’s family. Miraculously, she now has a nose, lips, can communicate and loves to dance.
Since it was set up, Children of Fire has helped some 350 severely burned children with complex surgery and more from across Africa with rehabilitation. The charity works with a network of doctors, surgeons and health care specialists, many of whom volunteer their services. It also tries to teach communities on how to prevent shack fires which burn thousands of children in South Africa each year. To this end, Bronwen has initiated community safety projects, fire fighting courses, first aid training and placed water tanks in informal settlements where fire engines cannot pass through. She also works with inventors of pragmatic safety solutions aimed at the poorest of the poor.
Children of Fire now has start-up projects in Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.