Where to start. Feeling quite overwhelmed tonight by the immense need of the communities in Hout Bay. For the girls we met today, their families and peers, an unplanned teenage pregnancy is in fact the least of their worries. Before their pregnancies and after, things are much the same. Same worries, same lack of resources, same lack of hope. Same desperation. More on that in a minute.
First – I must thank the children in MY family for being who they are. To Conor, my special young man who helps carry our stuff, cheers us on and gave up a chance to go out with his friends today to look after his little sister while we were at the meeting (without even telling us) – thank you. You’re no ordinary 17 year old boy. YOU are in fact the reason why we’re doing this – you started it all. Without you, I wouldn’t be who I am.
To Layla – my beautiful perceptive 9 year old girl – you are amazing. She iced all the cupcakes for the meeting beautifully, giving me a chance to do other jobs last night. I’m spending more and more time on our group, 2 Saturdays in a row now, and she never complains. She thinks of our moms, knows their stories & understands what they’ve been through. She’s given up many of her toys to the kiddies. She makes my heart glad.
To Logan – awesome 4 year old nephew. We couldn’t do it without him. He comes with to every meeting, and has truly become an important member of the team. He sets the chairs out by himself, helps to unpack & pack away without being asked or supervised. He looks after the little ones, herding them back inside when they stray too close to the door, distracting them with toys when they’re up to things they shouldn’t be, referees argy-bargies between toddlers. He has also given up toys & clothes, and does it gladly and with understanding. So proud.
Every day I’m grateful that we have such special people in our family. Couldn’t be more proud.
About the moms. We were invited by Cherith Langenhoven, LO teacher at Hout Bay Secondary. The moms who arrived were former learners at the school, who for various reasons (mostly financial) haven’t returned after giving birth to their babies. It makes me angry that the it’s basically the cost of fecking stationery that keeps young women from getting an education. Pencils, people. Pens. Exercise books and taxi money. That’s it. That’s all it will take to change their lives. I’d like to swear here but it’s probably not appropriate.
I sat down with each of the 4 moms and within seconds of meeting, the stories and the tears were flowing. It felt like nobody had ever asked them “what do you want?” and “who are YOU?” I know more about those few moms after a few minutes, than I know about most of my Facebook friends. So willing to open up, so desperate to be heard.
All of them spoke with enthusiasm about being at school and their favourite subjects (computers, accounting & maths)- all of them miss school and would like to return but don’t think it likely. Why? Money. If they hadn’t fallen pregnant, would they have dropped out anyway? Probably.
I asked each of them what they want for their lives – all had dreams that I don’t think had ever been voiced before. One girl said she doesn’t have anybody to speak to about her feelings. She said she sometimes writes it down. She cried, and I held her hand. She told me she felt better for speaking to me.
These moms in particular face challenges that no amount of money or magic fairy dust will fix. The first and biggest challenge is this: finding hope. The idea that THEY can have a different life. That their children CAN have a better life than they do (this is what each of them voiced as their biggest wish for their children). They arrived not believing it was possible, not believing they had any power whatsoever to make it better.
I can’t fix their poverty, their unhealthy family situations. All I can do is plant the tiny idea in their head that THEY are in fact in charge and that they do deserve good. The seed of hope. Does that sound horribly cheesy and unbearably airy-fairy Oprah-ish? It does. But it’s true, dammit. Without that spark of belief in themselves, nothing we give them will stick.
They have already done things to be proud of: they could have dumped or abandoned their babies – they didn’t. Their babies are healthy and growing well and their clinic visits were thoroughly discussed with me today. 🙂 Some of them were in bad relationships, which they have since ended because it wasn’t good for them. That’s something to be proud of. They have more reasons to hold their heads up high, than not.
They take their mothering seriously and have dreams for their children. Now we just need to get them dreaming for themselves.