Life after living at a Durban Child and Youth Care Centre!
Before I speak about life after living at a child and youth care centre, it is imperative that I begin at what I call the genesis of my life: On the 9th of March 2000, my younger siblings and I were admitted into the care of the Durban Child and Youth Care Centre as our mother was unable to meet our physical needs.
Shortly thereafter, she passed away, suddenly 3 kids between the ages of 4 and 12 were not only left orphaned, but their childhood was shattered. My younger siblings were to grow up with no memory of their mother, and soon the little memories that I had of her were to fade into the abyss of hopelessness, to be replaced by feelings of grief, abandonment and a consuming sense of loss. What had been a mother’s tender love and care, soon dissipated into tragedy and pain. As a result I found reprieve in the company of my peers who shared similar experiences. I struggled to express my pain and all the hopes and dreams that I had had before began to slowly die as the grief consumed me from the inside out.
Voices began to echo in my head........telling me that I was nothing, and was never going to amount to anything. Soon enough I believed them, I believed that I was a “nobody”—I was just another orphan, a statistic of poverty. But through the love, patience and care I had received from the Durban Child and Youth Care Centre, I rose above my grief, and to a large extent I was saved from the despair I had come from, I was saved from self-destructing.
Those holiday trips to the San Lameer Resort, the Fedics sponsored Christmas parties, Aunt Grace’s brown chocolate birthday cakes, the summer buys and winter buys, pudding on Sundays, and the many second, third and fourth chances that I got gave me the gift of childhood, the gift of love and care and enabled me to focus on childhood things, to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in laughter and making mistakes…. be so little that elves could reach down to whisper into my ears…..pumpkins turned into coaches, and of mice turned into horses and little boys and girls who could fly and touch the stars. I was encouraged to believe in myself and the wealth of potential that oozed from within me.
In 2008 I completed my matric, something I had never thought possible. And as do all good things……my stay at the Durban Child and Youth Care Centre had to come to an end. I had to leave my Neverland, the nest I had called home for more than 8 years. I had to learn to fly on my own. It was one of the scariest moments of life, and life outside the Durban Child and Youth Care Centre was uncertain. No more Christmas parties, no more summer buy or winter buy, no more pocket money…..No more chore lists. Suddenly, everyday it was my turn to do the chores.
As do all young people transitioning out of care have experienced, I was significantly affected by the instability that comes with long periods of out of home placement, and the challenge of preserving relationships with my biological family. It was hard, and every day was a challenge, but because I was given an opportunity to be a child, I was able to put away childish things not only so that I could begin constructing my future, but to lead by example to many others that followed behind me.
So in 2009 I commenced my studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal towards a Bachelor of Laws Degree. In 2010 I was invited to serve on the Board of Management of the very centre that raised me, and with pride, honour and joy….I accepted. In 2014 I graduated from law school. In 2015 I was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of South Africa and conscripted as a member of the Society of Advocates of KwaZulu-Natal.
Once I was orphaned, and in despair….but today I stand before you not only as a proud former resident of the Durban Child and Youth Care Centre, but as a matriculant, a law graduate, a Vice President and a conqueror of the poverty that once threatened to take away my future….All because you believed in a little boy who didn’t believe in himself. I mention all this not to sound boastful of my achievements, but to honour all the staff of the Durban Child and Youth Care Centre who played a role in shaping my future, and moved mountains so that I could be the best version of myself.
What would children in care want you to know?
I sincerely believe that if every child in care, both former and present, were addressing you today, they would want you to know that the work that you do matters more than you will ever know….Your love, care, and words of encouragement are the winds that carry our wings as we soar to greatness.
We recognise the sacrifices that you make: And ask that you continue to teach us to love and care for ourselves through your own positive example and I promise you that we shall learn from all of your actions, and grow to have good self-care. To notice us often, and take joy in our very existence, and we shall grow up knowing that we are special, and help others to feel the same. To listen to us with empathy, and have an open and loving heart. And we shall know that we are seen and heard, and grow to be good listeners ourselves. To acknowledge us often, and tell us what you appreciate, and we shall know that we are worthy, and learn to acknowledge others.
To teach us to be disciplined and correct us with kindness, and we shall lead a life of dignity, with the pride of self-respect. To allow room for us to grow, to make mistakes & have opinions, and we shall learn to be independent, and trust in our own judgment when we are on our own.
To stay interested in learning, and following your dreams. We will pick up your enthusiasm, and be inspired to do the same. To be honest and authentic, and live your highest values. And we shall learn from your experiences, and grow to have integrity. To teach us to be of service, and honour the differences in others. And we shall learn generosity of spirit, and embrace all walks of life. To focus on what's going right, having faith in troubled times. And we shall learn to be optimistic, with gratitude for each new day. To love us without condition, throughout our ups and downs, and we shall know that we are cherished, and bring more love to the world.
Equip us with the roots to which we anchor ourselves, and wings with which we soar to our destiny….And always remember that you are our ultimate role models, your every word, movement and action has an effect on who we become.