"I was crying so much I don't know where all the water came from?" . . .
"I had lost hope – but then you came along and gave me a new vision." . . .
"There was no light at the end of the tunnel and yet now I am standing in the light."
These are words spoken by Yolanda at the share and prayer at our meeting on Sunday. A very special person – Yolanda – and I was amazed at her confession – because whenever I have met with her she is always laughing and so positive…
I was sitting waiting in the car for Liezl to finish her crèche class at Molly when suddenly there was a tap on my window. Now – if you are sitting alone in a "high-risk" car, in the middle of a township and you know that you are most probably the only white person (other than your daughter) in a 5 km radius , and you are a woman – a tap on the window does wonders to the heartbeat. It soars to limitless heights and the adrenaline flows. Caught between fleeing and leaving Liezl or just turning my head – with a prayer I did the latter. And there was Yolanda. A friendly grey haired Gogo. "I have been watching you – and would like you to come and visit me". She lived 5 houses down the road.
And so began our relationship with Sinekhaya (meaning "This is home"). For the past 18 years Yolanda Pama and Frederick Kekesi have provided a place of safety for abandoned and vulnerable children in Tembisa (
). They are part of a project to rather provide cluster fostering in a home environment until the children can be adopted – rather than being placed into orphanages (which the SA government is phasing out). At the moment the 5 boys and 3 girls are all under the age of 3 – which means Yolanda has a very busy and active day. She hand washes all the clothes, cooks and feeds, cleans her home and manages to be a loving mother to each child. Lighle – the latest addition is only 6 months old. She was found abandoned in a dustbin in centre Gauteng . Yet under Yolanda's care – within 7 days she was fatter, relaxed and smiling under a tiny pink grazed nose. Johannesburg
Yolanda and Frederick have devoted their whole home to these orphans and semi-orphans. Sinekhaya is not a big home. You enter through the kitchen door and the first door to your right is to the older boys bedroom and a bathroom. 2 beds and a cot will generally have at least one sleeping child tucked under a blanket. Neatly folded t-shirts and pants are on the shelves across from the door – and blankets packed in a rickety cupboard behind the door. If you decide to rather walk straight through the kitchen into the lounge - there is another bedroom just off the lounge. This is actually Yolanda's room – but in an alcove there are 3 cots for the youngest children. It is small – but compact - always neat with an atmosphere of caring and family living. Compared to living on the streets or in an informal settlement these young children have a safe haven in which to play and sleep.
The semi-orphans are allocated to Sinekhaya by Lifeline, Childline or children's courts. Yolanda is a qualified social worker with much knowledge and experience regarding child welfare, child abuse and group support training. This stands her in good stead to provide a safe home for vulnerable children – as well as teaching these semi-orphans values, morals and the importance of relationships. Sinekhaya is a registered non-profit organization – but – this does not bring in any finances. Yolanda and Frederick are very dependant on donations – be it financially or in the form of clothes, food, toys, blankets – as the government grant per child barely covers the cost of the monthly nappies.
Their dream is to add an additional 2 rooms to their home. This would mean that she and Frederick could have the privacy of their own bedroom, while the children could sleep in their bedrooms. Then to top it all – the second room could become a playroom where they could play, eat, be taught and generally mess (as young children should do); and the lounge could again become an adults visiting area.
We were blessed to have a P2P team in September doing general maintenance at their home, plant grass and even sponsor a jungle gym for the kids (normally they play in an area of 1m x 2m in the lounge – never venturing outside as it is stony and dusty in the yard). But the biggest bonus of all – both Yolanda and Frederick did the Bible Correspondence Course – and then
started attending Bible classes at Aphiwe – and the meeting on Sundays. And now – when we have the opportunity to provide transport – Yolanda and all the kids attend the meeting as well. Frederick
With the "touch and teach" philosophy we have reached out to people we would never have even met. We have never needed to preach to Yolanda. She has seen God using us as instruments in answer to her prayers – and now her thankfulness has created in her and Frederick a desire to be closer to people who serve and love God.
Similarly to Ruth they are saying
"I want to know your God"
"I want to thank Him for giving me hope"
"I want to be people who have a vision and walk the talk".