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The Otago Benevolent Institution has now entered preliminarily upon its work, in a systematic way.
The only system hitherto practicable has been that of doing as much good as possible by the application, in a necessarily unsystematic way, of the funds provided by the public. Assistance in money, weekly, has been given to not a few aged persons who were unable to help themselves; and as many as 25 or 30 children have been kept out of the streets, fed, and taught.
But the aged recipients of aid have had to spend it as they could, and they have as a rule not been so circumstanced as the promoters of the Institution desired - for cramped and badly-situated homes, with no real means of securing comfort, are not what the charitable desire for those who are helpless.
Of the children, 16 or 18 have been under the charge of Mr Andrew Lockie and his wife, in a small house in Forth Street, Pelichet Bay; and the others have been placed with other residents in the city.
As a rule, the sum allowed by the Committee for the maintenance of each child has been 10s a week.
About ten or twelve days ago, the first wing of the Institution, near the Caversham Road, was taken possession of; Mr and Mrs Lockie going there as master and matron, and the children under their charge being increased by others, until there are now 26. During next week, that number will be further increased; and several aged men and women will also find shelter there. The very slight experience yet had at the Institution leads to the belief that when all has been got into regular work, the cost per head per child will not exceed from 5s to 6s a week.
Let it not be supposed for a moment that this will be a saving after the fashion of that in those Union Workhouses where all the possible harshness obtainable under the Poor-law system are grimly obtained by the rigid enforcement of that system.
There is no idea of trying upon how small a sum it is possible to keep life in an adult or a child: the saving will be such as necessarily results from system in wholesale purchases and in general management.
That the 26 children now in the Institution have been for some time well fed and humanly cared for, will not be doubted by anyone who will visit the place; and we believe we may say that the Committee earnestly desire to have the place freely visited by subscribers, or by any who would like to be subscribers.
As a mere cash question, which is the cheaper, to develop children into hardworking men and women, at a cost of 6s a week for a few years, or to leave the little miserable ones to battle as they can with their misery, to yield to temptation as they will, and then to have them preying upon society or kept in costly gaols?
Let any one go to the Institution and see the 26 children there. For all that can be discerned to the contrary, there are as great capabilities for good in them collectively, as in any 26 children of similar ages that can be selected from the homes of any class of our residents.
Many of them are "bonnie weans" in every sense; and in others it is not difficult to see signs of child-goodness growing rapidly.
Six shillings a week, to secure to one of that group of young humans, the chance of doing well! That, we fancy, will be the substance of the appeal which the Committee would desire to have constantly influencing the minds of the community.