John and Bethany Arndt

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It Takes a Village…

Posted on by bethany

April 24th, 2007

It Really Does Take a Village…

I remember being a teenager and one of the motto’s of the Clinton administration, particularly the 1st Lady was, “ It take a village to raise a child.” My mom would always rebuttal quickly with a “ No it doesn’t, it takes responsible parents to raise a child.” In later years I have come to understand the two different philosophies, especially as I have studied sociology and human behavior in the social environment. But here in South Africa, and in my line of work, I often think, “Sheesh.. It really does take a village…”

It takes so many various resources to intervene with a suffering woman in a holistic way. For instance take Nosisi a young Xhosa girl. She was abandoned at a young age, never knowing her biological parents. Raised by an older foster mother in one of Cape Town’s largest townships called Gugulethu. I have heard black people say they take off their jewelry before going to visit relatives in Gugulethu and they leave their cell phones at home, due to the risk of attack. Nosisi’s vulnerability isn’t just due to being orphaned, but she clearly lacks the IQ and communication abilities that most of us have, and further more she never had access to support to even be diagnosed with a particular disability.

Nosisi only went through the 9th grade, undoubtedly because of learning difficulties. Her foster mother raised her with love, but her foster brother was another story.   At 17, Vuyani began to fight and assault his 80 year foster mother and he also began to violently rape his vulnerable foster sister. The produce of these assaults became a living being growing inside of Nosisi, at the age of 21. Ashamed and angry at this pregnancy, she tried on her own, several times to kill the life with in her, but with out success.

Enter Baby safe here. I was contacted by Cape Town’s largest hospital, Groote Scurr. Intervention was needed for this young girl, and her even more vulnerable, one day old baby. Nosisi was so withdrawn and traumatized because the last year of her life that she needed to stay in a psychiatric ward to try and work through what had happened to her. Her foster mother was too old and unfit to take on another child, so I took this precious little bundle and placed her with an amazing woman named Maria. I was very prayerful of which foster family I chose for this baby named Noxolo, as I sensed it would be a long road for this little one, and I was lead to ask someone I believed would be most willing to potentially work with Nosisi  as well.

Alli and I ended up waiting longer than we expected when we went to fetch Nosisi from the hospital, we then went on an adventure through Cape Town’s roughest areas to find a hidden safe house for Nosisi to be transferred to. As dusk approached and we grew lost, driving past gangsters and drug addicts, with a newborn, a grieving orphan, and a random Zimbabwean woman (one whom we were giving a ride to) in tow, we tried to receive directions from the police, another shelter, and various pedestrians, yet with no luck. Not giving up, as darkness, frustration, and nervousness came upon us, we finally found the shabby little Salvation Army shelter. Thank God for the Salvation Army! For the love of God, literally… give them your coins! Nosisi tearfully kissed her new baby goodbye and we headed back in a hurry to our side of town, getting home pretty late.

That night was over 5 months ago. The baby remains with Maria, and Alli or Danielle have spent many afternoons driving to pick up Nosisi or to take the baby to visit her. The sight of her daughter is literally one of the only things that will illicit a smile from Nosisi. Alli taught her how to change her daughter’s nappie, how to feed her, how to comfort her. And a better foster mother than Maria can not be found. Even though she lives in a one room shack this baby is spoiled rotten, and whats more Maria has played a hugely significant role in Nosisi’s life as she has welcomed her foster child’s mother into her family as well. She has hosted Nosisi on many weekends, so she can have the joy of bonding with her child and work towards a long term reunion. Even when Nosisi has responded much like a child herself, wetting the bed once, and withdrawing into a semi conscious state, Maria has offered her love and comfort, far above what she ever signed up for.

Because the authorities in Gugulethu will not do their job, and because Nosisi remains incapable of caring for her baby full time, the village has rallied together for a solution for these two beautiful girls, who have no idea yet of the plan their Maker has for them, one with a hope and a future. In addition to all the work towards therapy, a protection orders, medication, care & concern, the pursuit of justice, provision, accommodations,  court reports, and foster care grants, for these two vulnerable ones;  Danielle, Alli, Myself, Maria, Frithe, the hospital social worker, and Carlyn the shelter social worker,  have added another mighty woman of love as a key player. Orelia is now taking her seat as a Village elder sent to bind up Nosisi’s broken heart. I met Orelia last year, when someone asked me to check on a child who she had taken in. I knew then that I had come upon a gem of a person, one whose story blows your mind, and one whom honor is due.

Orelia was the daughter of a Rwandan doctor and his upper class wife. When her father decided to leave the family with not so much of a farewell or explanation, her mother became destitute. Her mother’s family, who were considered socially elite, refused to take her in unless she made other arrangements for her children. Unwilling to leave her children they slept on the streets of Rwanda, more specifically in a field. Orelia remembers at the age of six walking 7 km to the catholic church, asking the nuns if she could have a job, so she could buy food for her family. When they laughed at her they quickly drove her back to the field to discover the story she told them was entirely true.

Through a series of events the Bishop of the church actually came to adopt her, and he raised her as his own daughter. She loves to tell the story of getting her period and having no idea what was happening to her, she walked into the Bishop’s office proclaiming that she was dying. This man who she reveres, drew a picture of human anatomy and explained everything, then he literally drew her a picture of how to make her own pad, with cut up cotton wool. Orelia grew up in catholic boarding schools with the finest education the country of Rwanda could provide. She married a man who was a Rwandan ambassador to other countries, and they had four children. During the genocide her husband & child where shot in the head in front of her face.

She fled the country with her remaining children and after being imprisoned in Namibia, she made it to Cape Town. This traumatized family of four slept under a bridge for months. She can recall the depth of coldness they felt at night, almost as if it was yesterday. She recalls laying down to die, one night as she was ill in a shelter bed, where bugs covered the walls, after her son had a near fatal seizure. Orelia some how found the strength to keep going and during Apartheid she was moved to live in Masiphumelele, after she gained refugee status. That was 14 years ago, and here she remains, but not without success. Orelia is the only african woman I knowwho has sought out funding on her own and built a Kreshe (daycare/preschool) for Masi’s children.

Its not just a Creshe but a brilliant little school, where she only charges parents who can pay. They serve over 100 kids on a beautiful property, and they actual implement excellent, early childhood, education. In addition to opening this preschool, Orelia actually helped build it herself, somewhere along the way, she learned brick laying! She requires all her teachers to have a high school diploma ( most Creshe workers are drop outs). My friend Vovo’s son, goes there at no charge, and he knows no English except the songs he has learned there, and he can recite Psalm 91 verbatim; its pretty adorable. Orelia has helped me with other clients as well, Nosisi isn’t the first. But we arranged for her to live with Orelia and work at the Creche by day, where she will be supervised to have her baby with her. The baby will stay with Maria at night and weekends, but Nosisi will be free to be at Maria’s any time. Our Vulnerable Children program has partnered with Baby Safe to provide sponsors for women and children Baby Safe highlights as particularly in need. So Nosisi and her baby have been sponsored and will receive a food parcel each month, as well as winter blankets, and clothing.

As a Baby Safe team we weekly pray for all our clients by name, and our continuous prayer is that Nosisi’s heavenly father would provide healing to her feeble heart. That he would bring her joy, peace, and enable her to be the mother that her child needs. We trust that He has brought together this village of resources and compassion to raise up two women who can walk proud and empowered, who can learn to thrive and not merely survive. He has Nosisi and Noxolo written on the palm of His hand and He has commissioned a village of humble advocates to make sure they know about their Father’s tattoo.

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2 Responses to It Takes a Village…

  1. Nydrie and Scott says:

    awesome story! We will keep them in our prayers! xoxoxo-the Edwards

  2. Marie Campbell says:

    Wow! Unbelievable story. Thanks for sharing it. I’m in awe….

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