She was a small little thing. Small but strong and healthy. Nobody knew when she was born, where she was born or what her name was. Nobody knew anything about the beautiful little girl when she was first brought into hospital.
Her mother abandoned her at the taxi rank. She had asked a woman to hold the baby for just a moment while she quickly ran to the shops. The woman did this without any suspicion because of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is just part of the Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which literally means that a person is a person through other people. Ubuntu is that nebulous concept of common humanity, oneness: humanity, you and me both. Ubuntu is an ancient guideline of how Zulu people choose to relate to each other.
When the mother failed to come back, the woman contacted the police and the police officers took the little girl to the hospital. A social worker was assigned to the case and gave her a name. The doctors gave her a date of birth and that is how she got her birth certificate.
The childcare workers at the centre became her “mothers” and the other children her “siblings.” It is a strange life; the “mothers” are constantly leaving every 7 days to change shift and different “mothers” take their place for the next 7 days. Suddenly there is a new “sibling” or suddenly your favorite “sibling” is gone. It is constantly attaching and detaching.
She was well taken care of but did not gain any experience of a family’s warmth and that special bonding with a mother. Nobody ever came to visit her. Her life was within the walls of the centre, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The social workers at GCF worked together with the social worker in the area where Philisiwe* was found, to try and find a way forward because no child should have to grow up in an institution. A publication was done by local newspapers, but to no avail. What was going to happen to Philiswe? What was going to be her future?
Because Philisiwe did not have anybody to call her own, she was matched with one of the families from our database of screened and trained foster families. During a period, she slowly got to know Mr and Mrs Cele*, and their son. The family visited her at the centre and she visited them at home. She finally experienced family life, having a mother and a father, having siblings that do not leave and are not replaced by new siblings every couple of months.
The little girl has her own family now. Looking at her you would never be able to tell that she had such a turbulent start to life. She is thriving with a quirky personality. She is now 3 years old and has a sense of belonging. Even though her family does not share memories of her first steps, her first words, her earlier tantrums from her first two years of life, she knows she is loved and wanted. They all look forward to sharing more firsts together.
(*not their real names)