Posts Tagged ‘ orphans ’

‘Daniel, a man greatly beloved’

DadMy father was not an educated man. Forced to leave school at the age of 16, he joined the then South African Railways and Harbours, where he worked until his medical retirement during his early 50s. My father never wrote his matric exam, nor did he ever obtain a degree or diploma.

But none of this ever mattered to me. As far as I was concerned my father was the best daddy in the whole word. As a little girl there was no safer place than in my daddy’s arms, nothing broken he could not fix, no problem he could not solve.

My father’s life was, and still is, a classroom for me. Not in matters of philosophy, science, or maths. No, the lessons I learned from him were far more meaningful and indeed, precious.

The first lesson my father taught me was God’s Word. As a tiny baby, the moment I began to talk he taught me scripture, beginning with his favourite passage, Psalm 23. To this day, it is one of the first passages I turn to for comfort during times of trial.

My father strongly believed in rightly dividing the word of truth. “Rather err on the side of conservatism,” he would say, “than distort the truth for the sake of liberal appeasement.” He taught me to never be afraid to take a stand for righteousness, especially where the Church was concerned.

My father taught me about generosity. He gave all the time, to almost everyone he came in contact with, simply because he loved to do so. An avid rock-and-surf fisherman for many years, his favourite fish to catch was shad. He would bring it home, clean it, cook it according to his own recipe, and then proceed to share it with as many people as he could find. The kitchen freezer was almost always packed with fish my father had previously caught and he would give it away whenever anyone came to visit, or when he went to visit someone. He did the same with practically everything he cooked and baked, and he cooked and baked often; it was another of his favourite things to do.

My father taught me about compassion. He could not bear to see a woman or a child hurting. During one of his many stays in hospital, I visited him, and took along his favourite snack at the time – two Chelsea buns and a coke – as a special treat. At the next visiting hour I noticed that the food was gone and asked if he had enjoyed it.

“No,” he responded. “I gave it to that little boy in the bed in the corner of the ward. His family live too far away to come visit him. Please, go and see if he’s okay.”

Another time a man knocked at the door of my parents’ home. When my father opened the door the man asked if there was any bread to spare because he was hungry. My father told him to return in an hour and then proceeded to cook the man a hot meal.

My father taught me about service – to God and others. He served the Lord’s Church in many ways from the time he and my mother became Christians in 1956, the year they were married. As a member of Queen Mary Avenue Church of Christ in Durban, he taught the teenaged boys, while my mother taught the girls.

While my brother and I were still very young, he was transferred to Kimberley, where there was no Church. This did not deter my father. He led a worship service for the four us every Sunday. From this I learned the importance of attending Church, even when there were no other saints to fellowship with. After our family moved to Pretoria in 1969, we placed membership with this congregation, where my father was often asked to lead the singing. He loved to sing, especially songs of praise to God. He sang them when he was happy, and when he wasn’t in a good mood, which wasn’t often, he whistled them. So many hymns we sing every Sunday remind me of my father, because he either led them or they were one of his many favourites.

My father loved to work with his hands. He could take a piece of wood or metal and lovingly fashion it into something beautiful and functional. When the congregation purchased the property in Ashlea Gardens, my father helped to build the building. As a child, I remember spending many a Saturday here while my parents, along with other members, worked on the site. I watched this building grow from its foundations to what it is today. The floor tiles my father laid in the passages and classrooms are still there. Years later, he installed little boxes behind the pews to hold the notes for our Loveliners ministry.

My father was happiest when he was serving others. There was no task too menial he would not do, and no time too inconvenient, even if it was the middle of the night. He never failed to respond to a call for help, no matter where or when it came, or from whom.

He was always there for his family, through good times and bad. To my mother he was more than a provider and protector; he was a soul mate. “She is my better half,” he liked to say.

To his grandchildren he was a loving Grandpa who spoiled them with toys lovingly made with his own hands, took them to the beach, played games with them, gave them treats, and even tucked them into bed at night. When he heard of Keenan’s recent engagement to Janine, his immediate response was: “I have become a Grandpa again, overnight.”

During my father’s long illness I received many messages of support from friends, family and brethren in Christ. I could not but help notice the common threat that featured prominently among them all. “I remember when your father did this for me…”; “I remember when your father helped me with that…”; I remember when your father gave me…”.

Even those who only knew him for a short time spoke of his gentleness, compassion and kindness.

These are the godly principles my father taught me. This is the legacy he has left for his family. For this reason, Dad, Grandpa, we are proud to be known as your children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, and we shall strive to carry your legacy forward in our own lives.

I shall miss, so much, Dad, your fish and chips, Chelsea buns and last calls for coffee, but the knowledge that you no longer have to bear the excruciating pain you suffered for so many years fills me with joy, and the certainty that I shall be reunited with you again, in a little while, gives me perfect peace.

You epitomised Matthew 25 – you fed those who were hungry and thirsty, took in strangers, gave to those in need, visited the sick and in trouble. You practised “true religion”, as stated in the book of James, because you took care of widows and orphans. As Paul urged the Galatians to do, you never “became weary in doing good… to all people”.  You did all these things for no other reason than you loved to do it.

Because you did so many things for others out of love, you were loved by many in return. For this reason, I can confidently echo the words of Christ when He spoke to your biblical namesake: “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved.”

Prepare to ‘WOW’ in 2012 for orphaned and abandoned children

World Orphan Week 6-12 February 2012

Children’s charity SOS Children’s Villages South Africa is encouraging all South Africans to do something ‘WOW’ to raise awareness for orphaned and abandoned children.

World Orphan Week (otherwise known as WOW) 2012 takes place during the second week in February. Raising awareness for this cause is the world’s largest children’s charity, SOS Children’s Villages.

WOW was introduced in the UK in 2005.  Since the inception of this event, SOS International has played a key role in raising awareness around the needs of orphaned and abandoned children around the world.  SOS Children’s Villages South Africa spearheaded the introduction of WOW to our nation in 2009 and has played an important part in making every vulnerable, abandoned and orphaned child’s plight known.

“Sadly, society today has far too many people, mostly children and the youth, who are unable to speak or fend for themselves,” says Leigh Swartz, fund development manager for SOS Children’s Village’s South Africa. “In South Africa, many have lost their families to diseases such as HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis; some are abandoned by family members who are no longer able to care for them due to extreme poverty; others (some 50 000, according to UNICEF stats) are victims of domestic violence and crime. A voice for the unheard is needed and SOS seeks to be that voice.”

The statistics are alarming, poignant and woeful. This is the sad reality:

  • Every 2.2 seconds a child becomes an orphan (stats from SOS International)
  • There are over 160 million orphans around the world (stats from SOS International)
  • In SA alone, the number of orphaned and abandoned children has risen 4.5 per cent since 2005 (Stats from HRSC, 2010)
  • There are approximately 3.6 million orphans in South Africa, 1.8 million of whom as a direct result of the AIDS epidemic (stats from UNICEF)

“The need for organisations and individuals alike to become involved has never been more urgent,” Swartz continues. “The task is simply too great for any single government or organisation to tackle alone. Working together, however, we can achieve this. Our aim for 2012 is to get as many people as possible involved in achieving the common goal of assisting those youth and children without families.”

With this in mind, SOS is calling on all companies, organisations, schools, communities and individuals to do something ‘WOW’ to aid vulnerable, orphaned and abandoned children in February 2012. There are no limitations to how to get involved. In fact Swartz encourages those wanting to participate to be as creative as possible.

For those not sure where to start or how big or small a role you can play to make an impact, she offers the following ideas to inspire action:

  • Buy a R5 WOW sticker from SOS.
  • Host a WOW event for friends and family in aid of orphaned and abandoned children. Go to www.justgiving.com for tips and ideas on how to hold such an event.
  • Use your Facebook page and/or Twitter account to encourage others to get involved. Posta link on your page to SOS’s Facebook page and invite people to ‘like’ it.
  • SMS the word ‘SOS’ to 36976 to donate R5.
  • Donate online at www.sos.org.za.
  • Clean out your cupboards and donate old clothing, blankets and toys to a SOS Village near you (go to www.sos.org.za to view all villages).
  • Donate your time, skills or professional services to SOS Children’s Villages facilities across South Africa

“Any money raised for SOS Children’s Villages will go directly to supporting the 7300 children in our care, as well as toward our community programme known as the ‘SOS Family Strengthening Programme’, a sustainable operation developed to support vulnerable children without removing them from their natural family environment,” Swartz explains .

“The Oxford English Dictionary describes WOW as ‘significant success’, she adds. “Our wish for WOW 2012 is that through increased awareness and participation each orphaned and abandoned child will benefit and as a result the World Orphan Week will indeed be true to its name and simply be – WOW!”

To make a WOW donation or sponsor a child in need, please deposit funds into the following bank account:

Nedbank Randburg
Account Name: Fund Development Unit SOS South Africa
Account Number: 1984 563 068
Branch code: 198 405
Reference: WOW -Your Company Name/Your name


Waiting to adopt? Please don’t give up

“My earnest plea to all prospective adoptive parents is don’t give up. The adoption procedure is fraught with difficult obstacles but see it through. God has a special place in His heart for people who take care of orphans (James 1:27).”

I was addressing a group of around twenty at a meeting of the Pretoria Adoption Support Group. I wasn’t scheduled to speak. I had only been invited to sell copies of my book, the proceeds of which were to be donated to the Southern Africa Bible College.

But as I listened to the discussion going on around me, I began to sense a rising sense of frustration among the audience, comprised primarily of pre and post adoptive parents.

The topic under discussion was the latest amendments to the South African Children’s Act 2007 and how these affect the adoption process.

I listened as an experienced adoption social worker explained the rationale behind the extensive waiting periods prospective parents must endure before a baby is placed with its adoptive family, and how every decision made by a social worker has to be done with “the best interests of the child” in mind.

It wasn’t long into her presentation before someone in the audience posed a question, which was quickly followed by another, and another. Although the social worker responded well to each one, it soon became apparent that the Act, although an improvement on its predecessor, remains fraught with flaws.

Under the new Act, babies only “become adoptable” after 60 days, the social worker explained. After this period, the birth mother has an additional 30 days in which to rescind her decision to give up her baby. Factor in the time required by the Act to search for birth fathers, and that they are also afforded 30 days to give their consent to the adoption, and it can be months before a child is eventually placed in their adoptive parents’ arms for the first time. For abandoned babies, the waiting period can be even longer, as the Act affords the birth mother, father and even extended family members ample time to come forward to claim the baby. By then, adoptive parents may be faced with serious bonding issues with their adopted child.

“Government adoption agencies expect us to wait months before placing a baby in our arms, so who can blame couples for choosing to work with private social workers who give them a newborn baby immediately?” one father asked (I later learned that he and his wife are waiting to adopt their second child). Everyone could hear the exasperation in his voice and as he spoke other parents nodded their heads in agreement.

I could not remain silent. As an adoptee, I felt a responsibility to speak for the orphaned, unwanted and abandoned babies. After obtaining permission from the group co-ordinator I stood up after the final presentation and faced the group. I knew that all they wanted to do was give a loving home to an orphaned, unwanted or abandoned child, but complex legal procedures made it so difficult for them to do so.

“After listening to everything that has been said today I cannot help but feel thankful that I was adopted under the old Children’s Act, which enabled me to be placed in my mother’s arms when I was a few days old and stay with them while the adoption process was finalised,” I began.

“That said, part of me also wishes I had been adopted under the new Act, because then my birth mother would have been legally required to name my birth father on my original birth certificate and that piece of my life puzzle would not still be missing to today.

“What this has made me realise is that sadly, even though it is intended to protect children from being exploited, the Children’s Act will never be perfect. It is formulated by imperfect humans who will never be able to devise a law that will satisfy the needs of all the parties involved.

“My parents also went through a difficult screening process and had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to adopt me. But they did it. They never gave up and today I am so thankful, because were it not for their perseverance I wouldn’t be standing here today pleading with you not to give up hope.

“The adoption procedure may lengthy, complex and frustrating, but stick with it. Orphans all over the world need you and God will bless you richly for your selfless act of love.”

 

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