#241 ~ Ithemba Projects: Day 8

I asked God to break my heart for people who are suffering. Today he made it bleed. It hasn’t stopped.

Zanini Bantwana (Come Children) is a charity which does outreach in three government hospitals in Maritzburg; Edendale, Northdale and Greys. Run by Alan Gaston and his wife Sheila, the charity has been providing much needed childcare and attention in the impoverished children’s wards of these ‘black’, therefore poor, hospitals.

Private Medical Care in South Africa is at an excellent standard. Most people who belong to a middle to upper class have Private Medical Care. That means, considering the incomprehensible gap between the poor and the rich, Government Hospitals are the domain of the poor black population.

At a Government Hospital, located in a former ‘white area’ therefore perhaps a better standard than some Hospitals, there is a little girl on the children’s ward. Her name is ‘M’. She was abandoned at birth. Just over a year old she has HIV, TB and severe social problems. Her eyes are unfocused like Girl’s in the Drop in Centre Creche. She doesn’t form relationships with the staff. She refuses to recognise anyone. Why? The knowledge that she is unloved, worthless and unwanted has already been imprinted onto her fragile infant brain. She could be my daughter.

When I was three weeks old, I came down with a cold. My gums turned blue, my mouth sealed shut, I could barely breathe. My nose was filled with mucus, yet my nostrils were so small my Mum had to suck the mucus out because she couldn’t grip my nose with tissue. I was rushed to hospital, because at three weeks old, I was dying. My mum was by my side every day. My twin sister didn’t sleep. The doctors did everything they could to save my life.

I’m alive today because I was wanted. Yes, I’m asthmatic, but I row. Yes, I have a poor immune system, but I can afford drugs.

‘M’ is the same complexion as myself. She has the same droopy cheeks I have in my baby photos. She has similar almond shaped eyes. Her nose was caked in mucus. A tube ran out of it, probably similar to the tube that ran out of mine when I was three weeks old.

A nurse thought she was my daughter.

She could be my daughter.

At best, she’ll die before she reaches 11. At worst she’ll die within a year. If she lived in Hilton, and had parents that could care for her, TB wouldn’t kill her. There’s medication for those who can afford it.

Her name is ‘M’. She is an abandoned black child who comes from a township. She has no one to buy her those drugs. No one to care for her.

And my heart is screaming, and I have not cried so hard today as I have in years, as I prayed to God. How can I go to church with fellow Christians who believe we are all made in God’s image, yet don’t consider adopting a reflection of God? How can I live within a faith where we preach loving the unloved, and yet we are so blind, blinded by an irrational and an inhumane fear, that we never set foot in a hospital five minutes from our homes? And yes, I am painfully angry at South African society right now, but also British. How often, do we step into a hospital to visit a sick relative, and ignore the patient on the bed next door who is in distress, because we don’t know them?

When will the Church rise up, not out sentiment, but out of duty. Because our theology compels us to love and to nurture and to comfort those even when it harms our idyllic lifestyle, our hopes and dreams our finances. Paul does not preach the Gospel because he wants to, but because the Spirit of God compelled him to, and he had no choice!

And I see ‘M’, who could be my daughter, whose name means flower, and I am angry. I am angry at a world where people can spend up to R180,000 (about £18,000) a year on a child’s education (Hilton College, the most expensive school in Africa), and can’t even give enough spare cash to their community neighbors to have a basic education, diet, medicine. I look at the UK, and how, though in Zulu culture people are loath to adopt incase they inherit the Ancestral spirits of the adopted child, how we are loath to adopt because we place our genetic children as a greater priority. I need to take care of my own. Charity begins at home.

I am torn with a frustrated, righteous anger. And though I yearned to capture every moment I experienced today in words, I have failed. Because I don’t think I can make you see. I don’t think I can make you look into the vacant eyes of ‘M’, who was disposed of after birth. I don’t think I can tell you what it feels like to hold a child who cannot afford the right medication to fight TB, something i‘ll never have to worry about. To know she may be dead in three years time due to HIV. And that no-one cares. Because there are millions like her.

And her name means flower.

And I cry. I am so angry. I weep. I groan. My chest is torn. For a few hours today I could love her as she deserved to be loved. Yet there are a million like her. And her name means flower. She could have been my daughter.

She could have been my daughter.

Prayer for Day 8: That people would love like Christ commands us. That we would be compelled to create a home for the homeless in whatever capacity we can. That our eyes would be opened to the M’s in our own communities, and we would make a poignant decision to love them, to give them hope and a future. That we would be compelled to act justly, love with a God like mercy, and be figures of hope. That we would become parents in whatever capacity we can, to whoever we can.

Please read this next post in order to transform the potential pain of this experience into one of hope. Thank you

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5 thoughts on “#241 ~ Ithemba Projects: Day 8

  1. Rachel says:

    We need to live Cambridge differently. xxxxxx

  2. T says:

    as you said there are millions like her, however you don’t know those millions, you only know her. So do something. Even if it’s asking to visit her everyday, twice a week, once a week. even if it’s raising money to buy her TB drugs. something, anything.
    Yes, there are millions like her, but if you don’t start with the only one you know, you’d be a hypocrite and who else will help? God broke your heart for her for a reason. Pray and move into action.

    • Kéhindè says:

      She was supposed to be transferred to her local hospital which is a good few hours away yesterday, but the guys who run Zanini Bantwana are considering some other possibilities. So praying for those possibilities is the best call for action, whilst also ensuring the I take that heart to the children i’ll be seeing on a regular weekly basis. I acted for the few hours I was with her yesterday, it wasn’t a lot, but I know that move has set off a chain reaction.

  3. Katy says:

    You broke my heart just reading the blog. Sorry for your pain, but as T says – you are there, do something for the one. And you are already doing it, so God will multiply your efforts, and in time…who knows. Keep thanking those who have the job of caring for these abandoned children – they also need encouragement to know that what they are doing is adding to the slow but hopeful change. Thank you for your honesty!

  4. […] at some point to life. Working with Ithemba Projects (and Zanini Bantwana), has at times been a harrowing experience, challenging, joyful and draining. To say it pushed me to my limits would be a lie. […]

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