A letter from the Eastern Cape
March 6, 2010
We had some visitors in Isibindi Alice recently, and the question was put forward to the Child and Youth Care Workers (CYCW’s), “what are some of your highlights, sparkling moments?”
From some of the responses, the one I would like to share with you is the case of Pheliwe, CYCW. Last year, Pheliwe noticed 10 year old Thandi “walking funny” while playing, as well as appearing suddenly more withdrawn. Pheliwe decided to spend time with Thandi, and took a doll to play with her. During this play time, Thandi took the doll and placed her in a drawer, closing the doll inside, a very profound gesture not gone unnoticed. Pheliwe asked why she put the dolly in the drawer, and Thandi said that was where she would be safe. And there the door was opened and the conversation began. It was through this therapeutic play, professional observation, and trusting relationship that Thandi slowly revealed to Pheliwe her rape by 2 different men.
Why do I share this as a highlight? It’s because that’s how Pheliwe sees it. Pheliwe reported the case to supervisors, police, social services, and Thandi was soon placed in a caring foster home, where she remains to this day. Pheliwe accompanied Thandi to a week-long child protection camp where she received professional therapy with many other children sharing similar stories. She was no longer alone, burdened with this tragic secret, and could begin the long process of healing.
Pheliwe was able to use her knowledge and skills as a child and youth care worker to change the life for Thandi, and so many others like her. With her tools of the circle of courage, her keen eyes, trusting nature, open arms, and compassionate heart, Pheliwe turned tragedy into a sparkling moment. Now Thandi can begin to heal her wounds, and play, a little lighter from the heavy weight she was carrying, as Pheliwe and many others are there to share her load.
Another sparkling moment comes from Thulani from Ilinge, an 18 year old in grade 12 who boards in a school in the one-horse-town of Adelaide. Thulani had some business at the post office and when he returned to school, he realized he was given R100 too much in change. He immediately and without hesitation went back to the post office and returned the R100. When the post master found out what happened, he went straight to the school principal to tell him about this honest young man from his school. And the principal called us to say how proud they are to have such a fine young man in their school. Simply“thank you”, he said.
These stories don’t make the front page of newspapers. I’m sure Thulani is well versed in fraud and corruption from the daily news on the radio and in the newspapers. He even had his foster grant cut last year and has no income, so certainly the money could have been used. But he gave it back without hesitation, did the right and honest thing. And if you ask him, it was “no big deal” and is quite embarrassed by the fuss. It is a big deal, especially in such a culture of greed, corruption and entitlement. Well done, Thulani, for not taking the easy road, for choosing responsibly, and for being a role model to us all.
On a final note of highlights, Pumi ,CYCW and supervisor from Alice, shared with us that she will graduate from Fort Hare University 8 May with a BA in Social Sciences and Communication. She began this process in 1993, 17 long years ago, and with much self sacrifice, heart break, sweat, hard work, courage, and perserverance, she will receive her diploma and reach this goal she set for herself so many years ago. Pumi, you are an inspiration! Congratulations!
So, thank you Pheliwe for your courage to face the pain of senseless violence with a gentle, loving heart!
Thank you Thulani for your courage to live with honesty and integrity!
Thank you Pumi for your courage to perservere in hope!
And thank you all for accompanying these courageous women, children, and families during this time of Lent, in the way of the cross.
In the heart of God,
Heidi and Monica