One of the biggest and ongoing challenges for the social workers and staff in Bulembu is the transitioning of a child from a destitute and neglected life to one of care and hope. The first place every arriving child sees is the Welcome Centre where that transition begins to take place.
|Vernon & social worker on their way to a homestead to fetch a child in need.|
The children come literally from all over Swaziland and are initially referred to Swaziland Social Welfare either by hospitals, police, child protection, struggling family members or neighbors, community workers and pastors. After tracking and investigating family members who might be alive and, if no one is alive and/or willing to take the child, death certificates are obtained and affidavits are completed by Swaziland Social Welfare. Then the children are prepared for a new home and a new life.
|Child at one of the homesteads checking out the situation.|
Newcomers are provided a bath, food and sleep, precious comforts the rest of us take for granted but might be completely foreign to these little ones. At the start of a new day, they are examined at the medical clinic. Staff at the Bulembu Clinic check weight and height, look for bruises and sends them for x-rays if necessary, provides HIV testing, and conduct other necessary medical treatments before they receive new clothing, shoes, and an opportunity to do what kids do best: play!
|Vernon speaking to one of the children who will be joining the Bulembu program.|
Ruth Boys, the Homes Manager, is actively involved in this process along with the two social workers in Bulembu, both of whom are native Swazi’s. Ruth says that up to 70% of the children who come through the Welcome Centre have faced some type of abuse, regardless of their age. Tending to hurts and hearts is a main focus in caring for the newest and most vulnerable residents. And before the children are placed in a permanent orphan home with their new “siblings” and a dedicated and devoted “auntie”, the children’s every need is met for the first four to eight weeks of their stay at the Welcome Centre.
|A great grandmother saying goodbye to children whom she is unable to look after anymore.|
Since the middle of March, five more children have become part of the Bulembu family; five babies under the age of two and one five year old. In addition, two more orphan homes have opened in Dvudvusi, one for boys and one for girls. New stairs have also been installed between the homes in Dvudvusi in order to provide a safer walk for the children. Small strides in the long journey to providing the children in the program with the love and resources they need to thrive.
|Children arrive at the Welcome Center.|
For the newest additions, welcome home, for in Bulembu all of the children are indeed home.
By: Theresia Whitfield
By: Theresia Whitfield