I don’t know the writer of these wonderful words but they represent what Kids Haven means to me. I see the hand of God at work healing the children’s wounds, restoring their dignity, providing finances, opening closed doors and giving us strength to carry on during difficult times. It is within these walls that children find love, encouragement, inner beauty and are given an opportunity to build their future.
It is not always easy to work with hurting children; there are both painful and joyful moments in this journey. There are children that we manage to reach, and those that reject our help. Some have built a wall to protect themselves and they find it difficult to allow anyone into their pain. The interesting thing about difficult children is that they always come back when they are older and have matured to report that they regret not listening to the staff. One of the children recently told me ‘Mum it is tough out there and I started to see the value of Kids Haven now that I am older.’ She reported that ‘nice time’ meant a lot to her during her teenage years hence she made a wrong choice and absconded from the institution. She indicated that Kids Haven empowered her with knowledge and skills years back but she can still use it now to change her ways. This means that our work was not in vain.
I am touched by simple stories of humanity, Ubuntu, genuine love and kindness: I heard the story of an elderly lady who used to give R1000 per month to Kids Haven. What that granny does not know is that she contributed to the upbringing of the stars that we are so proud of today. I hope that God will bless her with a long, healthy life.
When I first arrived at the institution, my colleague was in the process of reuniting a chronically ill child with her family. An angel of God volunteered to meet her financial needs at home. I was surprised that there are still people who care about those that are less fortunate than themselves.
Who will forget the genuine love between a mentally retarded Domingo and his blind mother Cecilia. Domingo was brought to Kids Haven by a concerned community member. Kids Haven managed to trace his family and found he was living in shack with a very special lady Cecilia who is blind. Cecilia reported that Domingo was abandoned by his mother when he was a baby and he is not related to her. The mother had alcohol problem and Doming was fed with alcohol instead of milk when he was a baby. Cecilia then decided to take care of Domingo. The bonding between them was amazing. Cecilia was so proud to be called ‘Domingo’s mother’. She reported that ‘my boy is naughty these days but I still love him’. I don’t know how Cecilia managed to raise Domingo alone despite her disability, Domingo’s intellectual challenges, and her poor circumstances .She is really amazing, and special woman like her should be appreciated. Domingo absconded from the institution after two years. He visited the institution in 2011 and reported that Cecilia passed away the same year. He also reported that he is employed and in a position to meet his own needs.
To work at Kids Haven also helped me to appreciate simple things in life; what other people take for granted means a lot to the children.
I was touched by the story of Mavis. Mavis is a sixteen year old girl who came to my office in tears. She reported that she never had a birthday party in her life and she does not know her date of birth. Her grandmother reported that Mavis was abandoned by her mother when she was a baby and her date of birth is not known. The family decided to give her 27/12/1992 as her date of birth when she started school. Mavis’s dream was to have her own birthday cake one day. Kids Haven made her dream come true by organising a birthday party for her on the 27/12/2009. Mavis was overwhelmed and tears of joy covered her beautiful face. She reported that it was a very special day for her to celebrate her birthday for the first time at the age of seventeen. Mavis was placed with a very good family in 2011 and I know that she will never forget her special day, and will keep it in her heart forever.
One day I took a walk with nine year old Bongani and bought a juice for him. He enjoyed it very much and said ‘I wish my mum could take a walk with me.’ It is amazing that simple things like a walk, a hug, juice and ice cream can make someone else happy.
There were also strange stories like this child Thulani who ran away from home and his family was unable to control him. He reported he spent his day catching animals for a traditional healer. He was paid R50 for a snake, R100 for a bunny and R50 for a hedgehog. Where in the world do you hunt for a snake and a hedgehog and how can an adult use a child to do this dangerous work?
I was also touched by a story of a girl Happiness who reported that her mother had a chronic illness around 1990 and her family dumped her in the cow’s kraal due to the stigma attached to the illness. Her mother later passed away in the kraal without the family support. The family rejected her after the mother’s death hence she ended up at the door of Kids Haven. She is now a beautiful lady and she is employed. She was thinking of accepting a marriage proposal from her boyfriend.