Feature image: Water fun with Carmel
Carmel Lawry returned to Holy Family Care Centre (HFCC) at the end of 2020 to offer organisational and administrative support as well as mentoring for the Outreach Program. She has been connected with HFCC since 2011 in various roles. Carmel shares an update below.
After many years at Holy Family Care Centre, Palms’ vision and mission still guides my contribution to the development of the children and local staff. I have seen huge advances in staff taking ownership of their duties, which has given me a chance to train others. Building relationships and individual mentoring is still the most effective way to facilitate the exchange of skills.
My partner Harold is a teacher, but also mentors staff in maintenance and handyman skills. One local worker, Blondy is particularly receptive to learning new skills and he has acquired many new and safe ways to go about his work. Now that the South African Government has opened up the country “post-Covid” Harold has also returned to after school homework classes and is liaising again with the local primary and secondary schools.
Navigating Schooling Again
We have 43 children attending school for the first time in 2 years, so Lydia our administrative assistant is also very involved in this process. The two usually head off to the local schools to see the principal and teachers at least once a week.
Home-schooling was a challenge, but it kept the children safe and healthy during the worst of the pandemic. Adjusted quarantine rules mean people will continue to wear masks, sanitise, practice social distancing and limit the size of gatherings, so the children wear masks to school, but the overcrowded classrooms mean social distancing is not possible and they have begun to come home with the usual coughs and colds.
Many of our children are immunosuppressed and therefore at risk for all infectious diseases. Those 12 years and older have been COVID vaccinated except for two without national identification who are unable to have the vaccination. The system doesn’t allow undocumented people to receive protection. Nor is there any immediate plan to vaccinate children under 12 years at this stage.
We have two children living with HIV/Aids who are currently being tested for tuberculosis. One of the children a 5-year-old returned from a hospital appointment and has been diagnosed with bronchiectasis. HIV disease, with resultant acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), has been implicated in the development of bronchiectasis and demonstrates the accelerated bronchial damage that may occur from repeated infections in patients who are immunosuppressed. For one so young she will have many years ahead with issues requiring treatment for lung infections. We are still awaiting the results for the other child.
We also have two gorgeous babies / toddlers who are not developing through their growth milestones. One 2 ½ -year-old not walking or talking. She could not crawl when she first arrived – but we now have her crawling and tentatively standing – she has a long way to go. The paediatrician believes it is from malnourishment and neglect. The other little girl also 2 ½ years old is walking but her balance is not perfect so we hold her hand to guide her. Both are getting a quality nutritious diet, supplements and exercises to aid muscle development and lots of human touch which of course is so important.
We are expecting a seven-year-old boy today for admission. We often wait all day for a child to arrive as the social worker is arranging the court order for the child needing a place of safety. The process is long and the social worker must present a written report to the Magistrate for a decision to be made.
We continue to be very mindful of the safety and wellbeing of all the children and staff and we are hoping this year goes well. We are grateful for the support received from Palms that assists us to continue building the capacity that makes that more likely.