Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bouncy balls and skipping ropes

Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Part Two: Mohalalitoe

From the Lithoteng Foster Home, we drove through Maseru, to the mall. On our way we discussed a few things about the kids, how our stay was. We had brought brand new mattresses, clean bedding and blankets from home, however we later found that I received about a dozen bed bug bites, which was NOTHING compared to my travel partner's bites. Sadly, they covered his back, his arms, neck, and ankles, and throughout our trip they continued to surface. We also encountered a very large rat while cooking dinner the night before that had the kids moving furniture and running around to try to catch and dispose of it (which we were not successful at).  These are small issues in the grand scheme of things, but coming from the homes we do and the privilege we have, it is hard to know that these kids fight with bed bugs and a time or two have to deal with a rat. What gives me great relief though is knowing how much love is in each of these homes, and that our children are under a safe roof, with food in their bellies, medication for their ailments and a family to support them.

While at the Maseru mall, we had a very Western lunch at a restaurant called 'Spur'. It was a somewhat offensively marketing Native American chain that had a massive menu. We all had wings, nice cold Coca Cola and headed off to Mohalalitoe. 

When we arrived at the home, Samuel was there but most of the kids were still in school. There are eight children in this home: Tsoanelo 22, Tsepo 18, Moshoeshoe 17, Ralineo 15, Nthabiseng 10, Mpho 9, Retabile 5 (sibling of Mpho) and Relebohile 5. 

The first little person we met was Relebohile. She is an absolutely beautiful little girl with giant eyes and long eyelashes. Samuel introduced us and then told us about her. Relebohile was placed with her aunt after her single mother passed away. Her aunt worked nights and was believed to be a sex worker. She would leave Relebohile at home for very long periods of time, and then return angry to abuse the little girl. Because of this, Samuel told us that she can be very withdrawn and takes a long time to warm up to others. She did however enjoy the company of Samuel, and played cards with him as we waited for her siblings to come home. My goal that day was to get one smile, one reaction or, biggest hope, to play a game with her. 


When the kids came home, they all sat down and ate some samp and beans for an after school snack. After the snack, Mpho and Nthabiseng coloured while we talked- they were creating drawings for their "new friend", Brad's daughter, for him to bring back to Canada for her. Once they were finished, we went outside with a bouncy ball and skipping rope. We did tricks with coins and our hands, played with the bouncy ball and catch. While everyone was playing together, Relebohile would continue to go off on her own. She was very quiet. She'd watch us laugh and play games from the side but very cautiously. Throughout the day I continued to try to connect with her, but I knew it may take more than a day to earn the trust of this little girl.

 



The girls skipped, played ball and showed me their cut out paper house game they played. The girls cut out magazines with women, food and living room furniture. They cut slices in the furniture and slid the characters and food into the spaces to make scenes. It is their version of paper dolls.




At Mohalalitoe they have baby rabbits. The goal of the rabbits is to raise them, allow them to breed and sell the full grown rabbits or use them for food. While the young ones played, the older boys deconstructed the old rabbit cage, and began building a brand new one. They worked from the time they got home from school and continued as we left for the day.



As we played and talked, Relebohile began to get closer and closer while watching us do tricks and play with the bouncy ball. Brad taught Retabile how to bounce a ball and catch it in his shirt, and it was the winning trick. He was so proud when he caught the ball in his shirt, and continued to do so.


She eventually joined in with the other kids to make silly faces and learn how to do some tricks. 



Every child has reacted in their own way to us visiting them. Some are thrilled, some are silly, others are uninterested and some simply enjoy having someone who is giving them full attention to PLAY. Relebohile took much longer than any of the other children to warm up to me. I tried helping her adjust her skipping rope, bouncing the ball to her, making silly faces, but the true way to engage her was to give her the time to realize we were there to play and just enjoy the time with her. She is a remarkable little girl, as are each and every one of the children I have met so far. They each have a story that breaks your heart into a million pieces, and yet they each are full of so much joy and wonder. Like all other children, they enjoy time to play, time to giggle and be silly, and time with their friends and siblings. 

As I continued to take photos, she began to realize I was taking them, and pulled out her big eyelashed, doughy eyes for the camera.




I was so happy in the final photo with Relebohile, and all of the younger kids, as she is smiling as we all laughed and said (excuse the spelling) "Lee-shee, Lee-shee Lee", which is like saying "Cheeese" for a photo in Canada.


It was a great day to have time with the kids to meet them, play with them and have a short time to bond. Each child has a different story, a different journey and a different path they are on. These children are each remarkable and it was a true honour to be able to be part of their lives,
even just for one day. 

We left the home on our way back to the Nun's convent with full hearts. I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and roller coaster ride of emotion. I fell asleep that night thinking of how much healthier little Karabelo is now, how brave Ithumeleng and Ithabeleng are, and how the support of Samuel, the Foster Mother and siblings have given Relebohile the opportunity to be a little girl again, to trust and let go of fear of adults, since coming to the Foster Homes. 



The homes may not be perfect. There may be bed bugs at times. Their electricity may not work everyday. However, it's not about the building or the age of paint on the walls,
it's about what is inside those walls. 
Safety. 
Family. 
Love.
What every kid deserves.



Until tomorrow...goodnight.


For more information about our Foster Children and Foster Homes, please visit our website. Want to have me speak at your school, office or church? Contact me at ccoghlan@braceletofhope.ca.

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