The first post in our travel report of Orange Babies founders, Baba Sylla and John Kattenberg, to all the projects in South Africa, Zambia and Namibia (written by Baba).
Day 1 –
A lunch is scheduled with the Community Mothers, my “true heroes”…Who would open up their houses on a daily basis to 25 vulnerable children? Kids who have been through a lot? Only these moms can do this, maybe because they, themselves are HIV positive and know the feeling of being neglected, rejected or ignored. How it feels to be lonely or alone and, how it feels to make new friends…
By means of a lunch Orange Babies likes to show their appreciation in a special, personal way. To let them know that we understand their motivation, that they inspire us, our real, true heroes….
We experienced an honest feeling of togetherness and after an inspiring afternoon of laughing, singing and dancing we went home.
We start our day in a supermarket with John, who likes to spend his own money on presents for the 50 kids we’re going to visit. Each Community Mom looks after 25 children. “No Baba, I absolutely need to buy some special cakes for the 2 CM’s as well” he told me when we were running out of time.
“Then you have to hurry, we’ve already treated them for lunch yesterday”. But I know that it doesn’t make sense to argue John’s special intentions. He does what he is planning to do, and actually, he is completely right.
Before our visit to the 2 Community Moms, we stop at the Youth Program. The program has often been introduced to us with the request to join in. Because we arrive a bit later we unfortunately don’t have the time to share the educational program with the 20 to 30 children aged 13-18 year (mainly girls). After one hour we have to leave to visit the 2 Community Mothers; actually I am speechless about the dedication of these moms towards these vulnerable children…
With loads of pleasure the Community Moms explained the insights of their work; they introduced the children one by one and explained how all children proudly graduated. “I have seen 10 children of myself growing up and now I have got these 25 children who I love like my own children”. The children have just returned from school holiday and this is the first day to see each other again, I’d like to listen to the holidays stories, who takes the lead?” Only one boy had a sad holiday as one of his family members got shot.
I watched the boy who felt mentally disabled to me, but before we could say something the next child spoke… John always has a weak spot for disabled children, and again, this child touched him.
At the end of the day the Child Councillor reassured me she would continue to guide and talk to this child.
After a few songs and dances we had to leave. The Community Mom shows me the food she cooked that afternoon: pasta Bolognese. The 2nd visit was of similar joy with songs, dances and presents from john and with a mind full of images and thoughts we went back to our hotel.
We start at 11 o’clock at the Yabonga offices. I thought we would meet the “disclosure group”, a group of children who just discovered their HIV status, but Izelle indicated those groups only meet over the weekend. Instead, we meet and discuss these children with the social workers/councillors.
In the afternoon we meet with Ulpha Robertson, a co-founder of Yabonga.
A pleasant moment as I receive a confirmation that the Orange Babies/Yabonga programme will grow in-depth, no increase in the number of Community mothers, but growth in improvement of care towards the children.
A sensitive subject as I feel an increasing distance between the Yabonga office and the projects, especially with de Community mothers and children. Solidarity is what our projects is about, distance is not what we’d like to see. No fieldworkers opposite office workers, no black opposite white; play, share and eat hand in hand. Ulpha and team were a bit surprised, but on the other hand quite appreciative to receive feedback. John gives us some examples and input of local relations with projects and people. I am glad to have created this discussion as I am sure this will improve our Community Mother projects direction and our collaboration with Yabonga.
In the afternoon we fly to Johannesburg to embrace the next chapter of our trip.