Thursday, June 10, 2010
Bulembu gets ABC-ed!
In August 1992 an abandoned, malnourished and neglected 4-month-old baby found his way into Robyn and Gerry Richter’s home in Simunye, Swaziland. They took him in, nursed him back to health and eventually made the decision to adopt him as their own. A year and a half later a second baby, this time a year old, arrived on their doorstep in much the same state as the first. After nursing him back to health and realizing that there was nowhere else for this child to go they adopted him as well.
“It was due to this lack [of foster support for abandoned children] that we looked into the matter more and found that very little help was being given to the abandoned or unwanted baby,” the Richters’ mission statement reads. “In Swaziland, there is no Children’s Act to protect the child. They are not top of the priority list and so very little was being done, in the country, to accommodate these children. They live and die and no one knows of their existence…We made a decision to help these children wherever we could and whenever we came into contact with babies or children in this situation. It was out of this lack and in this need here in Swaziland that ABC Ministry (Abandoned Babies for Christ) was born.”
And so, for the past 14 years, ABC has taken in abandoned and unwanted babies that have often been close to death, have nursed them back to health and have cared for them as their substitute parents.
In 2004 ABC moved from Big Bend to Bulembu with the vision of opening a main home and managing satellite homes. With a seemingly daunting task ahead of them, Robyn and Gerry took it one day at a time and slowly their ministry began to grow.
But near the end of 2009 it became clear that the ministry was stretched beyond what they could handle. “The home was just getting too big for us to manage,” Robyn explains. “We had such an increase in abandoned babies coming into our home that we needed to expand and we needed help. It was time to grow bigger but we knew that to do so we would need assistance and we would need to restructure.”
Enter Bulembu Ministries Swaziland.
“In early 2010 we began a conversation with ABC Ministries to see if we couldn’t integrate their ministry with ours,” explains Vernon Puttkammer, Bulembu Ministries Swaziland’s Director of Orphan Care. “They had grown quickly and were restricted with how much more they could grow due to a lack of resources. BMS has the resources to support ABC but was also needing a baby home to make our program complete as up until the integration we only had the programs to care for children over the age of four. Integration was the logical next step for both of us.”
The integration was made official on May 1, 2010 and has been smooth. Under the new name of Bulembu Baby Home the program will be managed by Robyn and Gerry still under the banner of ABC Ministries. Major points of policy include BMS taking legal guardianship of all the babies and children that are brought to the Bulembu Baby Home and the continued placement of children for National adoptions to Swazi families through the Swaziland Department of Social Welfare and Judicial system.
Other details of the integration include:
- When Bulembu Baby Home children turn four they will move from Bulembu Baby Home into the BMS Orphan Care homes.
- BMS will provide additional funding and support for Bulembu Baby Home’s daily operational expenses.
- BMS will actively recruit long-term volunteer workers acceptable to Bulembu Baby Home for additional staffing depth and stability.
- BMS will provide personnel to assist with daily administrative functions of the infant care program.
One of the most important points that this integration addresses is a plan of succession. As a result, currently plans are being made to set up a structure and protocol that would allow for the management of Bulembu Baby Home to be transferred from one manager to another easily. “Jerry and I are getting older and we didn’t want out hard work in getting this home established to fade away if something happens to us,” Robyn explains. “The integration gives us the assurance that this ministry will continue under BMS.”
While a positive change, the transition has not been easy personally for Robyn and Gerry. “We had older foster children living with us and have chosen to transfer them into the BMS Orphan Care Homes as well as the Jacaranda Home for Girls which was incredibly hard,” Robyn says. “Gerry and I are also moving out of the baby home and into an adjacent home to have some personal space. This move in itself has been hard because I’ve always lived in the baby home and been hands on. My role is now changing and I am managing the home rather than working directly in it and the release of the daily operations over to my workers has been difficult. They are incredibly capable though and I believe they will rise up and fulfill the roles they have been trained for.”
Future plans for Bulembu Baby Home include opening up a new home for children ages 18 months to 2 years as well as a third toddler home.
“ABC has done a phenomenal job with what they had. With increased pressure in orphan care due to Swaziland’s situation as well as our need for a more complete orphan care program, we are privileged to have Robyn and Gerry with all of their expertise managing this program for us,” Vernon says. “We are excited about growing this program and taking care of the pressing needs of abandoned babies in Swaziland.”