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I had just read the report of two horrendous stories about children now under the care of The Salvation Army and was feeling shattered.
I switched to the news and was further chilled to hear that South Africa heads the list of criminals responsible for children suffering throughout the world − rape, physical abuse, trafficking and worse. Numb with revulsion, I wondered how children so abused, so without the love that heals, can actually survive.
Noleen’s* hell started on the eve of her 17th birthday. This beautiful grade 11 pupil and her younger brother were left alone in an ‘aunty’s’ house where they were then living, supposedly in her care while mum was on night shift. Very late, a door opening woke Noleen who assumed it was the ‘aunty’ returning. But when she saw an ‘uncle’ at her bed her blood froze. With her little brother lying in a bed next to hers, terrified as he pretended to sleep, this monster brutally raped this innocent young girl, then stabbed her in the arm and the head. Then, his atrocities not over, he sliced open her stomach, slit her throat and threw her on the floor where he left her, intestines protruding and bleeding profusely. He grabbed her bag, broke a window and disappeared. Noleen remembers crawling to the door, closing it, − and trying to calm her brother’s uncontrollable weeping before passing out.
Found the next morning by her devastated mother, Noleen was rushed to a hospital where she was virtually ignored for four hours. Thankfully God’s grace intervened as an older doctor spied her, realised the urgency and had Noleen taken to another hospital. There the doctors worked for hours to save her life. Noleen was in a coma for four months before there was hope she’d live. However, it will take a lifetime for her to come to terms with an experience of this trauma. Placed with a ‘safe’ foster family, Noleen was then subjected to an attack by the family’s seven-year-old son who hit her with a wooden toy, which burst her stomach stitches. When the foster parents took her to a clinic to be freshly stitched, the social worker there realized this poor child was still not safe and mercifully placed her in a Salvation Army children’s home.
Although Noleen has suffered unimaginably, she remains positive. With a smile she says, “I’m very happy here. This is the best home I’ve ever had. The ‘aunties’ really look after us and I’ve made some good friends. I’m not close to my mother − she’s never been there for me, but I really miss my little brother. Sometimes I wish I could change everything for everyone. My dream is to be an occupational therapist, to help people, to bring them hope and happiness.”
The trauma of unloved kids
Michelle* (18) is another beautiful teenager, an aspirant ballet dancer, also traumatised by her childhood. Luckily not nearly as dramatic as Noleen’s life, her experiences have still left her terrified to leave the sanctuary of The Salvation Army children’s home where she has been since 18 months old. Four months after a difficult home birth she and her mum went to The Ark, a Cape Town refuge for the homeless and unemployed. Just 14 months later she was separated from her mum and taken to The Salvation Army home.
Although separated from her mum, Michelle always adored her. But the family dynamics were difficult. When she was three, her father, a Scot with no family here, was imprisoned for fi ve years and they lost contact completely. While her mother was unable to support her, Michelle could not stay with her maternal grandmother, a Muslim who disliked her own daughter for being Christian − the daughter she’d given up for adoption.
The security Michelle knew at The Salvation Army was broken two years ago when she was reunited with her mother who, shortly before she died, placed her daughter with a childless couple. The husband molested Michelle while making serious sexual advances. The girl managed to get away and contact our social worker so we were able to rescue her.
She should never have been placed in that household since the man has a history of sexual molestation of minors, but has not been charged as yet. Several times he’s attempted to entice Michelle out of school. These walls of The Salvation Army home are her safety zone. She is terrified this man will ‘kidnap’ her again – as she views her earlier stay in his home.
What chance do our trafficked kids have? Our baby who was found in a linen cupboard? The dozens of kids who’ve never known natural parental love? Who’ve never had someone to “kiss it better”? It’s proven that children who’ve known strong, nurturing love, can cope with most of life’s challenges. We can give them the security and strength of our love and care and, most importantly, the power of God’s love. Please continue to help us do so − with God’s blessings.
PS: After these chilling stories, the idea of something hot and cheering will undoubtedly be welcome so I’m enclosing a complimentary ‘coffee coaster” to protect your special surfaces. Hopefully it will also be a constant reminder of the fantastic work you’re doing with The Salvation Army.
* Names have been changed to protect identities