When I was studying my honors in Trauma counselling I had a module that required six months of volunteer work. I have been bought up in a family of “give backers” so this was no great stretch for me and I soon found a shelter in Rustenburg called “lighthouse baby shelter”. They are a shelter for children and babies in crisis, under 4 years old. http://lighthouseshelter.info/. I was told that I couldn’t volunteer more than 2 days a week, as it is very heavy going and they didn’t want to wear me out! I tried to argue but they wouldn’t budge. Yes, heavy heavy work but amazing all the same. I didn’t blog then, but I did keep a journal. I thought I would share with you some of what I wrote:
I fed Chris today, he is +- 2 weeks now* but might be a bit older. His approx. birth day is 28th March. Apparently his mom hasn’t come to visit him since Wednesday last week, I really hope she hasn’t given up. He is so cute. I saw on his chart that he is taking Retrovir. I don’t know what that is, I am going to look it up but I suspect it is ARVs, I really hope I am wrong. Learnt today that Kego is 5 months old, she is so tiny I thought she was 5 weeks! She was born very prem. Leeann has started to crawl at 6 months old, she is gorgeous! Thabo won’t let me hold any of the other babies and throws a tantrum when I do, he cries when I leave every day, it’s awful.
*Chris came to the shelter when he was 3 days old.
Just looked up retrovir. It is an ARV given to babies to stop AIDS. I feel like I have a rock in my stomach, I wish I hadn’t looked it up; he is only 2 weeks old. I am getting too involved already.
I hung out with Leanne a lot today, fed her porridge which was so messy and gross but she seemed to enjoy it! Every time I look at the kids I can’t help but think how unfair it all is, how can someone abandon a child?
Thabo has moved into the big kid’s side as he has outgrown the babies. I have been putting off spending too much time there, the babies are easy and cute, and the big kids are wild and exhausting. Will have to spend more time there though, they really all need the attention
Went to the big kids today and it was hectic, the kids are all so nasty to each other, and I’m not used to it. They fight for my attention, all want to touch my hair and sit on my lap. I can’t imagine how the carers survive!
Haven’t written in a while, I have had pleurisy so have been in bed a lot. It was very very painful! Went back to the shelter this week though. Chris cried a lot today, maybe colic? The newest baby is very quiet, only a week old we think. Kelly is two but can’t walk or talk, she is so sick. She can hardly even cry, she just moans and looks so sad. Breaks my heart because it is all she has ever known. She didn’t even have a choice, has been bought into this world and sick and abandoned. It makes me sick.
Kego has gone home to her mom. I am so happy for her but will miss her! Vanessa donated money to LCS and they were so grateful. They are all such good people. Hope some of it rubs off on me!
So long since I last wrote, been so busy. Leanne has been adopted, she is going to Holland. I am so thrilled but shew I miss her, she was so special to me. Tsolofelo has also gone home and we have two new babies. Amos mom tried to kill her; she has a bad cut on her wrist and scars on her head and neck. No one seems to know exactly what happened to her. She is about 3 months old. This is the first abuse case that I have dealt with and I am struggling. I am battling to connect with her because I am scared to hold her, scared I hurt her.
Thabo has been adopted and is going overseas. His mom came to look at his bed and see where he grew up, she seems really nice. She said that he is battling to bond with them a bit but they are all persevering. What an amazing thing to do.
Struggled today with the toddlers, I have never been a kid person and I am really battling with the hair pulling craziness. I need a pep talk because I know they need me more than I need to be alone. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER SHANNON! Suck it up and be there for them, not for you.
Ria has gone home after living for 2 years at LCS. His gran finally came and got him, apparently she has been looking for him all this time! His mother tried to kill him so I really hope she is long gone. Phumelo was sleeping when she came to get him and when he woke up he was looking for him. When Janis told him that he had gone home to his family, Phumelo kept asking where his family is, and why they hadn’t come for him. That broke my heart. They were best friends and he didn’t get to say good bye and doesn’t understand.
I went to school with the big kids today, it was really fun. Rhenelwe has gone home and I didn’t get to say good bye which is sad, will always remember her having permanently wet pants and saying “mommy look” at everything in her sight.
That was my last entry. What I didn’t manage to write was Chris dying. Unfortunately the Retrovir didn’t help and his immune system was so weak and he just couldn’t fight. He was 5 months old when he died. I was devastated. I held him two days before and he looked like a different child, I hadn’t seen him for two weeks and had to go and check his chart because I didn’t believe it was him. I will spare you the details. But it will stay with me forever. I can see his face in minute detail still; it is not something one forgets easily.
Working at lighthouse changed me and helped me grow. It also helped me see things clearly and has definitely shaped who I am today, as a person and as a mother. I saw the worst and heard the worst. The things that people did to the children there were to cruel for words, but the people working there were amazing, full of love and working selflessly, something I have to learn to do on a daily basis. Working there helped me see that I could handle it and was strong, despite everyone telling me I couldn’t. A lot of friends and family didn’t want me to do it, they didn’t think I could cope with what I would experience and see. I did cope; in fact I coped so well that it scared me. I wish I hadn’t coped so well, it also helped me see that I didn’t want to be a trauma councillor. I didn’t want to not be affected by those things; I wanted my heart to break with every story of abuse, neglect and abandonment. I was scared that if I was exposed to it every day, and I saw the worst side of society every day, I would become immune.
This was all when I was 22 years old. Straight out of varsity, had just moved out of home and learning about the world. It was an eye opener and a game changer and something that I would recommend everyone does. Give back, maybe it hurts you. Maybe it breaks your heart. Maybe you cry yourself to sleep. I don’t care. What I do care about is that it is not meant to be easy. Those kids don’t have it easy. You need to put your feelings aside and think of them because they are what matters. They are the future, as clichéd as that sounds. We need to help them now, when they are still babies, so that we can ALL live in a better world in the future.