WHERE WE WORK:
Our house is in Zwelihle. In Xhosa, Zwelihle means ‘place of beauty’ but the name is ironical as it is definitely not a beautiful place in which to live. While there are many families in this township who live upright and honourable lives and who care for their children, there are also those who do not. The poverty, alcoholism and HIV/Aids as mentioned before, as well as a spirit of hopelessness, cuts deep swathes through this section of our community with devastating effects on the children.
Izibusiso is situated in a good and safe area of Zwelihle, close to the police station, the local crèche and the Zwelihle clinic. The house blends in with the surroundings but, because we have the responsibility of looking after so many little children, we have the property walled and fully secured.
The majority of our children are with us because they have either lost, or are losing, parents to the Aids pandemic – in most cases alcohol plays a major role in the dissolution of the family. Teenage pregnancy is also a problem as infants are born to teenage mothers, some still in primary school, children themselves and emotionally and financially unable to care for a baby. Often children are left uncared for thus becoming vulnerable and open to neglect, injury and the sexual deviants who prey in these areas.
SOME STORIES ABOUT OUR IZIBUSISO CHILDREN
(names have been changed)
Noah’s Story (new!)
Noah was placed in Izi when he was 18 months old. He lived and thrived through all the love at Izi until he was 5 years old. We are a South African couple who live in France for work reasons. After a very lengthy and difficult adoption period we were finally able to take Noah back to France. Noah’s case was a very difficult one, which resulted in us contacting Carte Blanche who helped us highlight the failed adoption system in South Africa. After it aired we were able to make headway with the process in a relatively short time due to suddenly having the ear of certain government officials, a very tenacious legal team, Wandisa Adoption Agencies expertise and the support of the South African viewers.
Noah’s years at Izi have contributed hugely to who is today – a very confident, joyous, loving, compassionate, popular young man. He has very positive memories of his life at Izi and often talks about his “brothers and sisters” and the “mamas” who he shared his life with.
Today, he is firmly entrenched in French life – he attends a French school, is totally fluent and feels very much that France is his home. We are a ‘proudly South African” family and Noah is proud to tell people he is a South African and adopted. He loves the story of how we met and how we became a “forever family”. He is our joy and our blessing and we feel so privileged to have this beautiful child as our son. Every minute of hardship during the adoption process was worth it when we look at him. We are incredibly proud of who he is as a person and as I said much of that is due to the love and feeling of security he received at Izi. We will always be eternally grateful for the years Noah had at Izi.
Temba was born in the local Provincial Hospital to a single mother who was HIV+ and suffered from TB. He was premature, sickly and born with a rare and ugly congenital skin disease. Too overwrought by her own problems, Temba’s mother probably did not have the emotional or physical energy to cope with a needy baby, so she absconded from the hospital leaving her baby behind. Until Izibusiso opened, Themba had no permanent home.
Temba was one of the first toddlers to arrive at Izibusiso, except he couldn’t toddle; he was minute, suffering from Kwashiorkor and wheezing because of repeated chest infections, his little legs so weak some thought he would never walk. If you had visited Izibusiso some months later you would have seen a completely different little boy – though still small for his age, he was happy and healthy and had the biggest smile anyone could imagine. Every morning he proudly put on his little satchel and set out to walk to nursery school. Twice a year he has been scheduled to see a specialist to check his congenital condition.
Sadly, Themba will never know his own mother – she came once to Izibusiso to see him but he did not know who she was. She sat apart, hunched up and coughing – two weeks later she died. After his mother’s death, Child Welfare placed him with his aunt in the Eastern Cape. She was given full details on how to handle his condition and he is happily settled with his maternal family.
When Nono arrived at Izibusiso, most of the adults who saw her cried, she was only three years old, but her eyes were older. She was dressed in tatters and was obviously undernourished, but it was the condition of her skin that was the most disturbing. Nono had impetiago, it covered her face and a lot of her body. Neglect of the condition had caused the child to scratch, creating weepy sores which attracted flies. The eggs laid by the flies were hatching under her skin and we could squeeze the living larvae from the sores. Upon further inspection it was found that Nono had also been subjected to sexual abuse.
Nono stayed at Izibusiso while she was healing – she was a brave little patient and let us treat her sores without complaint, it is not often that such fortitude is seen in one so young and she stole the hearts of all who met her. She was legally removed from the care of her single mother and is now living with her Grandmother in the Eastern Cape.
Jacko’s mother never wanted him. Months before he was born she contacted Child Welfare to enquire about what options there were for an unwanted baby; she was counselled on many occasions and made aware of the various routes she could follow. Concerned Social Workers, fearing for the health of the baby also informed the expectant mother about the danger of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. Jacko’s mother gave birth at home and then took him to the local hospital where she left him – apart from naming him, she has since neither seen nor enquired about him.
One day after his birth, Jacko arrived at Izibusiso where he was immediately welcomed into the Izibusiso family. The caring House Mothers bottled fed and cared for this baby boy and, although he was tiny for his age, we watched him grow and develop into a beautiful and happy baby. Initial concerns that there might be some neurological damage were, happily, unfounded and Jacko has now been adopted by a loving family. (Welfare workers were able to trace his mother to a nearby town and she signed all the necessary legal forms, enabling the adoption process to take place).
Vusi was born when his mother was in her final year at primary school, she was 14 years old. He is one of the luckier children because, even though she was still a child herself, Vusi’s mother loved him and had tried to care for him. The problem was Vusi’s grandmother – she was an alcoholic who could not keep a job and therefore could not provide for her own children, let alone a grandchild – too many mouths to feed when your major concern is where the next drink will come from.
Vusi was removed from the family because he was left alone in the house while his mother attended school. Apart from the fact that he was inadequately clothed, he was undernourished as his diet consisted mainly of a mealiepap gruel, he also arrived with a pot-belly full of worms.
At Izibusiso, Vusi enjoyed a nutritious, balanced diet; he was well clothed and safe and had people to care for him. His mother visited him as regularly as she could, as did his uncle, who was all of 12 years old. He stayed with us until he was a toddler and was one of the chubbiest and most charming of the Izibusiso inhabitants. He has now been placed in the foster care of his maternal Great Grandmother and his mother lives there with them.
Zeb, a 10 month old boy, was taken by his disinterested teenage mother to the Zwelihle clinic – the clinic saw gross neglect and contacted Social Welfare who removed him from his mother and sent him to us.
When Zeb was brought to Izibusiso we immediately took him to the paediatrician, who admitted him to hospital. Concerned staff from Izibusiso and Child Welfare stood outside the emergency ward while the doctors and nurses worked on him – the cries of that small boy were terrible to hear. Apart from severe malnutrition and a chest infection he had 7 other ailments – everything from severe dermatitis to scabies – his baby skin which should have been soft and silky brown was an angry red and full of lesions. Due to severe malnourishment he was extremely small for his age. Thankfully he survived, but think of all the unnecessary suffering he had to endure. When we now see this little dynamo whizzing around the house, it is easy to forget how close he came to dying. Our paediatrician recommended to Child Welfare that he stay with us for a minimum of 6 months. When he is cleared for discharge from the house, he will be taken in by his maternal grandmother.