Carmel Lawry: Learning and teaching

So what have I been doing lately? Well, for the first time ever I have not been present for Harold’s birthday and Bug’s (Amelia – my niece’s birthday) however we all survived with phone calls. The kids here sang their version of Happy Birthday to Bug over the phone.  She had a party and had lots of fun – Harold assisted with the kids party but did not replace me as did not wear my fairy princess outfit!

I have continued to teach Olga with the knowledge and skills required for the clinic. It is all going well – I have really learnt a lot! Its amazing but true – in order to pass on skills one has to know what they are on about and I have taken the opportunity to hone my skills too so a win / win situation. It is also good to spend time with Olga – learn about life for her and improve my Sepedi language.

Fran and I have been doing cooking lessons with the local staff – we have tried their local food and we have introduced them to Bread and Butter pudding, lemon slice — of course, mango smoothies. We get them to come to our place during their lunch time and have something already prepared. We then demonstrate how to cook it – we all sit and enjoy a portion and have a laugh as well. They requested some recipes with their local ingredients so as we are in a tropical fruit growing area, mangoes and bananas are popular and easily obtained – hence the mango smoothie – Fran is going to make a banana cake next and they also asked for a pumpkin cake which is very similar to a carrot cake. More than anything it is a great way to spend time with them.

Well I am sitting in the clinic at Holy Family ready and waiting for the kids to come to get their AIDS treatment at 6pm.

One of our girls left today and it was very sad.  She had been here since 2002 when she was just under 3 years of age and is now 12 ½ years old. The social worker came on Friday to tell her she would be going home to her mother permanently on Monday. I don’t know the mother’s situation but when our girl was little she had major issues with her hips and HIV and the mother was unable to care for her. Later at Holy Family she developed Aids and has been on treatment for 6 years.  She did not want to return home and was incredibly sad over the weekend and was taken by the social worker early Monday morning. I watched him drive her out as her tears were flowing.  What a traumatic change in the girl’s life to find herself suddenly back with her mother that she hardly knows and all the security she has been used to taken away. The Government is pressing for children to be returned to families and making the families take responsibility regardless of their circumstances.  The social workers are supposed to follow up but we have never heard that they actually do.

Another boy again came as a 2 yr old from the hospital and is now 8 ½  – Holy Family has never had any knowledge of a next of kin. I even searched his hospital file to see if anything was recorded from original admission but found nothing. The social workers have found a relative – not sure of the relationship and they have been told they may have to take him – again the boy has no idea of anyone. Obviously being reunited with families can be a great thing and is part of our mission but not if they are being forced to take them and the children not actually wanted – what will become of them – particularly if an adult is required to ensure of their ongoing AIDS treatment and monitoring.

These situations have made me feel very sad for the kids and they probably do not understand that it is out of our control. The social workers are pushed by the higher powers and of course dare I say that reducing the funding for children in care is a motivation, Holy Family has been receiving government funding for about 4 years – of course the amount does not cover anything near what it costs to run and maintain / build etc and thus relies heavily on international donors.

Anyway onward I go, time seems to race. I hope life is good for you all and 2012 is a great one.

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Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have. - Emile Chartier