Editor’s Note: Shawnti Peachey of Corvallis, Ore., is working at the Children Care Centre in Durban, South Africa, during her 2011-2012 assignment with MCC’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program. Almost 98 percent of the center’s funding is provided by Mennonite Central Committee through its partner Union of Refugee Women.
DURBAN, South Africa – It is the beginning of September, a mid-Friday morning. The Children Care Centre is loud and alive with the voices of 130 children enjoying their morning porridge. A young mother comes in with a 3-month old baby and asks for the center’s assistance for a day to watch the baby while she goes out to find a job.
The proposal is accepted gladly. However, as the day continues and the children get picked up by their parents, this mother has not returned for her baby.
This beautiful baby boy is still in our midst. He has been in and out of the hospital, recovering from his premature birth and the first three months of life living on the wintry cold streets of Durban.
His young mother has also dropped into our center now and then to visit him. She shows much love for her child, but because she struggles with abuse of alcohol, she is still unable to take him back into her full care, find a consistent place to live or keep a job. Director Petronella Bahati Nziriere has discussed long-term options for Moses’ care with his mother, but no decision has been made.
In the meantime, this baby boy has become a part of our center’s family. His name is fitting – he is our little Moses. He is our community baby. Every staff member has gone an extra mile for Moses’ wellbeing. Nziriere takes him home nights and weekends. That is how the women of the center work and live, open to any child God brings.
Despite the lack of resources and already maxed out number of children in a small space, the women of the center do what they can to create a good environment for any and every child, many of whom come from very poor families that struggle to pay their bills.
Many immigrants have moved into Durban, seeking to escape conflicts, wars, collapsed economies and fear of persecution in their home countries. Without extended family to provide childcare, coupled with the need for parents to work any job they can for survival, families are often forced to leave their children alone for the day. The Children Care Centre is one of the few, affordable, quality childcare options – one that combines education with childcare.
South Africa has many tales of mothers and families who have difficulty caring for their children. In 2011, Child Welfare South Africa said that more than 2,000 children are abandoned each year in that country. There are complicated reasons for why this happens. Yet we admire Moses’ young mother for not doing what some mothers have done in dire circumstances – get a cheap abortion or leave their children on the street after birth.
Thankfully, most children at Children Care Centre are picked up every evening by their families. Moses is just an example of how the women who run the center, many of whom have their own difficult backgrounds, go the extra mile for others.
Moses’ presence and his smile are inspirational to everyone. Because of the open hearts of the workers at the Children Care Centre and the center’s supporters, including MCC, the center is able to serve one more child. For Moses, these women have become his other mothers and the center has become his home.