One memorable Saturday I went with 6 orphans from Dawn’s orphanage on a walk through the magnificent Ubombo mountains. The children were delightful, disciplined and full of fun. They laughed at my ability to butcher the Zulu language and tried their best to speak English.
We walked from the orphanage to a high lookout point over the Mkuze river and many mountains and valleys below. We passed small houses made of sticks and stones, locals walking to fetch water and of course cows.
As we neared a large herd of cows in long green grass, I was suprised when a girl shepherding them walked towards us while texting on her cell phone.
One boy in our group loved to jump towards goats and scare them laughing while they bleated and skipped away. The children went hunting for guavas on trees in the long grass and some picked chillis off the wild bushes. We ate a few half ripe guavas, shared sweets and got very hot and tired. The children soon realised they could catch grasshoppers and scare me.
My favourite boy (he was just so cool) pointed out the trees, told the other children their names and spotted great photos opportunities of bugs and butterflies for me. He was a natural leader and very aware of his surroundings.
This lovely open faced boy was handed to the orphanage by his mom who knew she was dying a few years ago. She never made a will to ensure the education insurance and life insurance would go to him although she asked someone to make sure it did. In the end the thousands of rand were taken by his criminal brother in his twenties after the mother had died.
I wonder without the orphanage where the sparkling clearly intelligent 10 year old would be now?
The six happy children that I walked with in the heat and the other 14 left behind ( too small to walk so far) at the orphanage are happy. But there are hundreds of thousands more in South Africa that are forgotton, abandoned and without hope- if not millions.
It made me sad cause these children showed me the beauty of the alternative- well run orphanages with good results: stable happy children despite nightmarish pasts.
It also made me wonder why woman with HIV who know it choose to have children.