I grew up in Cape Town, where kids did not have to wear shoes, the entertainment was mainly going to the beaches and the lifestyle was so chilled everyday was a holiday.
The outdoor lifestyle lasts for about 9 months of the year and it was a joy to be with my family in February, witnessing the next generation living the dream. I was in awe of my sister in law, walking the dog and looking for shells on the beach with her baby, in-between lifting the other 3 kids to after-school clubs, having completed a morning at work. In comparison, my day in London would only allow for going to work and returning from work! I loved going with my brother to his son’s karate lesson on the beach. I wonder if the kids and adults truly know how lucky they are that everything appears to be on their doorstep and how extraordinary this is?
The physical beauty of Cape Town is overwhelming and the majestic mountains and wild oceans stirs the soul but for me it’s the people that affect my inner core. I return to the Cape quite often to see my family and each time I visit I make it my mission to find new places to visit and different things to experience, of course photographing along the way.
Outside of 2 fantastic family celebrations, my one niece’s engagement and my other niece’s batmitsvah, this visit held a particularly special experience for me. I visited Atlantic Hope who provide safe and emergency care for vulnerable babies. This non profit organisation is run simply on donations from the public and volunteers are welcome to come and help out with feeding or simply cuddling these very young children who have either been abandoned or who are awaiting fostering/adoption. An angel opened her home 7 years ago and since then has had a full house!
I would like to share some details regarding the infants at Atlantic Hope. They may be a few weeks up to a few months old. The medical history of these children are often not known and these children may or may not be going through substance withdrawal, such as alcohol or drugs and may or may not have other underlying infections passed on from their mother in utero. I arrived with nappies donated by my sister in law and I took baby oil and baby shampoo. I spent 4 hours volunteering and felt it incredibly difficult to leave, knowing that these 4 children needed full time care and ideally one on one care. I was exhausted after my brief visit. I fed 3 babies, changed 1 and had an incredibly tough time settling 3 of the babies even with my experience of over 30 years in the field. And all I could think about was Mxxxx, and her beautiful staff who do it day in and day out. I left with tears in my eyes for the deep gratitude of the staff at Atlantic Hope but also for the deep pain and compassion I felt for the children, as well as their mothers and families. This is the only shelter available to all children living on the Atlantic Seaboard. (As a place of safety names are omitted, please see their website.)
Child protection and safeguarding is one area which has notoriously been weak or totally absent in the South African health care system. If it were not for the generosity of the people of Cape Town, places like Atlantic Hope, who provide a safe caring temporary home for vulnerable children, would not exist.
I did my nursing and midwifery training in Cape Town in the 80s and worked for a year at Groote Schuur Maternity Unit before leaving for the UK. I continued midwifery for about a decade in the UK and I am currently working within the health care services in the UK. My midwifery years were during the apartheid “unrest”. I recall going into the townships as a student midwife. My colleagues and I had to be escorted by the army in an anti-riot vehicle called a casper, to the MOU (Maternity Obstetric Unit) in Hanover Park. The pregnant women would walk for miles in labour, give birth, have a depo injection to prevent further pregnancies for 3 months, and then walk home with their child in their arms never to be seen again. It was a huge shock when I found out that this was not “normal” practice in first world countries and that women in the UK received postnatal care up to 28 days post delivery in the comfort of their own homes and thereafter received support from the health visitors for up to 5 years. The women in the UK, back in 1988, were given free bottle milk, sanitary towels and other freebies. In contrast, the women in Cape Town were given nothing.
What I find extremely difficult to digest is that safeguarding concerns, if anything, have become worse in the Cape, as the influx of people continue to pour in from all over Africa. Squatter camps have grown disproportionately over the last few years. I was shocked to see the Imizamo Yethu Squatter camp in Hout Bay, which in the last couple of years sticks out like a cancerous growth on the mountain side. I am not about to get into any political debates here, but rather stress the point that extreme poverty and child raising cannot be ignored. These families need help. All families in extreme poverty need help! There are serious safeguarding concerns, which ultimately is the responsibility of the government to provide some type of assistance and stop turning a blind eye!
Cape Town with all it’s beauty has a very deep crack within her society. It is so easy to live the joyful lifestyle of the privileged few and inhale the beauty of her nature. But there is a social responsibility which we cannot ignore. There are some wonderful people out there doing fantastic work On Facebook there is a group dedicated to helping those South African’s in need –The Angel Network – Helping where help is needed
I have not been approached by Atlantic Hope and find their humility in their approach rather charming but I am aware that they need our help. I am appealing to your hearts to find a way to help Atlantic Hope grow so that they can accept more children and not have to turn any children away.
If we could take some of the outside beauty of the Cape and turn it within, we could together make a difference and make the world a better place.
Please help to spread the word for Atlantic Hope and any of you working in big organisations, if you have a few millions lying around….. proudly Cape Townian!
Links: Atlantic Hope, The Angel Network – helping where help is needed, Table Mountain Cable Car, Robben Island, Cape Point, Penguin Sanctuary Boulders Beach, Langebaan, Cape Winelands, Beaches, Bicycle Hire, gallery
- Cape Town 2017