Wandile works tirelessly within her capacity to help the children we seek to help.
She talks to their guardians if they have any, especially where drunkeness or abuse is involved. She spends time with the children and is gentle with them. And she sews and hands out blankets and clothes where she finds children and child headed families in great need. If only we could multiply her by thousands.
Wandile explained the need to us over tea at Lindiwe’s house which she emphasised was far greater then we could imagine.
Interestingly we learned from her that there are some government social services for children that are ‘found’ and have lost both their parents. They are provided with a uniform and a place in a school where they receive food while they are at school. That was encouraging. But here’s the anomaly. The children don’t often have homes, wherever they live, they have no food over the weekends or the school holidays. It beggars belief doesn’t it.
We went into a supermarket in Soweto and it was heartening at least to discover that food was perhaps half or less costly. Although we worried about the lack of evidence of vegetables and the quantity of meat and processed food.
How frustrating it is knowing how much good nutrition would help and realising how impossible that is under the circumstances, which is why it was so encouraging to meet Gail Johnson the following day. More about that later.
The message we continually receive no matter who we talk to is that the refugee situation from Zimbabwe has massively exacerbated this crisis. There are an estimated 4 million people who have survived the perilous journey across the Limpopo River at the border of Zimbabwe and South Africa. These people are in a parlous state, a huge percentage have HIV AIDS. The children born here from refugee mothers are truly the world’s forgotten victims. It makes us deeply sad to reflect on this having been born and raised in Zimbabwe.