Healing with a mom’s touch for children in need
Cape Town – Among the many hats women wear in our society, it goes without saying that it is only a mother’s touch that can genuinely heal and care for children who are not their own.
With a team consisting of women who are foster mothers, social service professionals and support staff, Home from Home is a cluster foster-care organisation that oversees the running of 36 foster homes in 16 communities across the Western Cape which translates into 200 foster children receiving care.
With 56 staff members and only five male members included, executive director Peter Marx said that women have a special ability to create belonging for children who otherwise would not have this through the unconditional love that they have.
“I believe this ability is a resource that is not recognised enough (like hidden gold) and if it were we could create more positions for women like this to assist with the healing of the many issues in society,” said Marx.
Founded by Jane Payne and Pippa Shaper, the two met while working at Nazareth House in the mid-1990s, which was one of the only children’s homes in the country at the time willing and able to cater for children who were born HIV-positive.
“Due to the fact that antiretroviral treatment was unavailable at that time, the home became a combination of a children’s home and hospice catering for children who were born HIV+ who were admitted when their parents died because very often, the remaining family members were not willing to look after the children, due to the stigma associated with HIV and the medical and emotional challenges of looking after a very sick child,” said Marx.
As time went by, Nazareth House expanded over the space of a few years and the sisters of Nazareth decided that even though the community homes were successful and cost-effective, they did not have the capacity to expand further to open more homes.
“Having been very closely involved in the setting up and running of the community homes and seeing just how well they were functioning, Payne and Shaper continued to extend their work and that was when Home from Home started.”
“With the mission of creating families for vulnerable children through supported and supervised community-based foster homes since 2005, the organisation has grown and now has foster homes in the broader Western Cape region and four further homes in the Eden Karoo area,” said Marx.
Among the foster mothers at Home from Home, Nomnikelo Kemele is one of the first foster moms who worked with the organisation since it was founded. Now 16 years later, she is still standing strong with six foster children in the Khayelitsha community under her care, and persevering through all the challenges.
“Being a foster mother feels amazing. Despite having the challenges of dealing with different children who come from different backgrounds. The only way I overcome this is by really spending time and putting effort into understanding them, that is how I persevere through the challenges.”
“Being called mom every day is something special and that, till this day, inspires me to look after them because they need me. I try by all means to help them not only grow physically, but spiritually, mentally and give them all the love I have,” said Kemele.
“The reason I started to work at Home from Home is because growing up, my mother would tell us about her upbringing and how she too was an orphan and could not continue her studies. Raised by her uncles and aunties, they barely took note of her education and she started taking care of cattle. Hence till this day, my mother’s upbringing continues to be the driving force of what I do today. I make it my life’s mission to give back to children who are motherless and fatherless in order to make a difference and make my mother proud,” added Kemele.
As the primary goal of Home from Home is to provide a second chance at a loving family for the child, foster mothers aim to create a feeling of belonging that allows the child to rise above their past weaknesses and take advantage of the possibilities available in order to survive.
“I feel like as women and as mothers, we may not be prepared for the future of our children but at least we can all prepare our children for the future and that is what Home from Home does for our children. Everything we do, we do with love because we genuinely care for our children and we want them to be a part of something way bigger,” said Kemele.
Kim Chipendu is a columnist for Healthy Organic Lifestyle.