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As a volunteer in the Makaphutu Children’s Village, I get a lot of the “cool aunt” type responsibilities with the children—playing games, taking walks, helping with homework, etc.
But the second a child throws a fit or has an accident, it’s time to call in the real muscle of this place: the house moms.
Between laundry, trips to the doctor, daily devotionals and cooking meals, these moms can be hard to track down for interviews unless you have the right bait. The best option to bring them running is a crying child…but I decided to go the more ethical route and bake them a chocolate cake instead.
It worked. For a brief, magical time, I had the Makaphutu house moms in one place, sharing what it means to nurture this community of children.
Each one of these daring women lives in a Makaphutu cottage with up to eight children, raising them to be responsible, kind and independent. Each mom spends up to nine days at Makaphutu before heading home to spend a few days off in her home community.
Volunteers and visitors, like me, may come in and out, offering what assistance we can, but the moms are here for the long haul. They tuck children in at night and teach them how to tie their shoes.
“It’s a big challenge for one mom to look after eight children,” admits Tembe, one of the new house moms or “aunties” as they’re called by the children.
Many of these children come from histories of abuse and neglect. House moms deal with a spectrum of issues that Dr. Phil himself would struggle with.
“You learn to be humble—not too much pride,” Doris shares with the group, speaking in a slow, assured tone that comes from 10 years on the job. “You must observe the child…so you as a mother can see when the child needs help.”
“How do you find the strength to deal with the challenges?” I ask them.
“God brought us here for a reason—to touch all these lives,” Tembe shares, as the others nod along. “We just pray, ‘God, please help us to deal with this situation.’”
But the challenges don’t hold a candle to the way the moms’ faces light up while talking about their joys.
“I love laughing with them,” says Auntie Lihle with a big smile, “spending time with my girls, I get to laugh my lungs out!”
“My joy is when I’m just sitting with them—we talk, we laugh, we share, we joke,” adds Tembe.
“They make me feel like a small kid,” Fisani says, making all the moms laugh (this comes as no surprise, since I often catch Fisani dancing around the grass with her little ones).
The moms share many fun, joyful times with their children throughout the day, but their work here fulfills and blesses some of them much more profoundly than just sharing laughs.
“It’s not that I didn’t have kids of my own. I had kids—two boys and one girl, but they passed on,” says Zandile, sharing for the first time. “So whenever I’m with these kids, it brings back the memory that I once had kids of my own…it gives me that joy that I get to be the mother of the kids of Makaphutu.”
We all sip our tea in silence for a moment, taking in Zandile’s words.
“I consider it a blessing from God, being here,” adds Doris after some time. The ladies nod in agreement.
Looking around the table, I realize nearly all of these women have or have had children of their own. Being able to “mother” isn’t often touted as a gift or skill—more as a natural part of life. But I believe these women are well practiced in the ways of motherhood for a reason.
They are called. Just because motherhood is a common calling doesn’t mean it lacks significance, complexity or intention.
These women are using their gifts to radically alter the lives of children here at Makaphutu and radically alter the status quo for orphans in Kwazulu Natal. Their “common” gifts of patience, discipline, nurture and teaching in a place of extreme hardship are doing something radical.
When God has anointed our hands, even wiping the peanut butter off someone’s little face sends powerful ripples of love and justice—we may never know how far they reach.
- What “common” gifts has God given you? How do you or can you use them to do something radical for God’s Kingdom?
- Pray for the house moms at Makaphutu—may they continue to provide the love and nurture the children need to grow up to their full potential.
- Interested in using your talents and abilities to make an impact on the AIDS/HIV pandemic in South Africa? Learn how you can take the next step in making a difference by talking with Nick Sefton.
About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.