I awoke this morning so excited. Today is the day that I will sleep over at the Lithoteng Foster Home! We arrived at the home, two very happy dogs and our Social Worker, Samuel was there to greet us. All of the children but four were in school. Three wee ones- Bohlokoa (age 4), Karabelo (age 2), Tsireletso (9 months) and Ithumeleng (age 16).
I sat with Samuel for some time learning about the children in this Foster Home. There are eleven children in this home. The Foster Mother is 'Me Mansentle. Our children are Keneuoe 17, Ithumeleng 16, Khunong, who goes by "Tato" 15, Seboka 14, Litsiso 13, Ithabeleng 12, Bokang 12, Khotso 10, Bohlokoa 4, Karabelo 2 and Tsireletso 9 months.
The children are doing well in this Foster Home. They are learning and growing as siblings, and working as a family to ensure that everyone is happy and healthy. The five girls sleep in one bedroom, the three boys in another, and the three babies in a bedroom beside the girl's room.
I was quickly approached and pulled in by the little girl Karabelo. She is two years old, and arrived with her two siblings Bohlokoa and Tsireletso after he mother passed away. When she arrived at the Foster Home, she was unable to walk, had lost a lot of hair, was malnourished and did not speak. Because of the state that the three children arrived in, for the first few days of having them in the home, Samuel feared that each call he made or received to/from the home would bring news that this beautiful baby girl had been lost. Thankfully, because of the care, nutrition and love from her siblings and new family, she is now booting around the home, giggling, laughing and talking!
After some time, the kids started to arrive home from school. They were excited and full of energy. We had brought a brand new soccer ball that the kids were thrilled to have to play with. It was a huge hit. My hair was also a hit with the girls. They brushed it, braided it and played with different hair styles for about forty-five minutes.
Ithabeleng was the one who started- she began brushing and playing with my hair, saying it was "beautiful" and I should keep growing more and more and that she would love to have my hair (we pretended and put it on her head several times over the next two days).
We continued to play soccer, sing, dance, tell stories and play with the kids until it became dark and with no light in the kitchen, it was going to be difficult to cook dinner so we got to work. We purchased food for a special dinner for them. We made a tomato, avocado and cucumber salad, beef and rice, and we bought a chocolate cake for dessert! We had purchased chips as well but the kids had already had a snack, so those were saved for another day. The dinner was a huge hit! Bokang helped chop and prepare the salad with Brad and Ithabeleng helped me prepare the rice and beef.
Ithabeleng was my helper all day and night. She helped with dinner, she helped serve, she helped with dishes and when it was time for bed, she tucked in the three youngest.
It was wonderful to have a big hearty dinner together. After dinner, the family got together and sang in the kitchen. They sang slow songs and fun upbeat songs. They continue to praise God for all of the amazing gifts that have been brought to them. This is a house filled with grateful children. Each one of these kids loves their family and showed gratitude to even the smallest things. Even after such sad and horrible things having happened in their lives, they continue to thank for what they do have.
(Scroll to 1:06 for the upbeat melody)
It was time for bed so we all got ready and then the girls got out their homework. Ithabeleng was so proud to show me her marks and how she is doing so well in school. Keneuoe, Litsiso and Ithumeleng asked for help with their English so we sat together and went over several passages of reading, and then they had to write a short composition about a good day they had.
Part way through homework, Ithabeleng got up and took the babies to their bedroom, beside the girl's room. She got the three of them ready for bed with their water and formula, with diapers changed and laid down for bed time. The three youngest sleep in a bedroom beside the girl's room with 'Me.
As 17, 16, 13 and 12 year old girls, they do an amazing job of supporting one another. There is no bickering, there is laughter, dancing and help for homework before bed. As we were laying down, Keneuoe asked me if I knew Rihanna and Beyonce, which I of course said YES!! They then got up and started singing "Work, work, work, work, work" and danced together as they all laughed. They made me get up and dance as we all sang together. I told them they needed to teach me better rhythm and we all laughed together. They asked me to teach them the national anthem, so I sang it slowly to them in English and French as they tried to learn the words. We then all laid down in our beds, me on a mattress in between all of the beds, which they were very happy about. There are two sets of bunk beds and one day bed in the room. The girls have begun to call me "Sister Candice". I think it's my favourite name I've had so far.
Before we fell asleep, I asked the girls if they were going to set an alarm for school, and Ithabeleng pointed to her head and said "we don't use one", I wake up from this", tapping her head. I asked her, if that meant that she woke up naturally around 5am, and once again, she tapped her head and said yes. It will be interesting to see if we do wake up in time to get ready for school.
Ithumeleng asked if she could tell me a "sad story". I said yes. She told me that there is a girl in her class who comes to school with no shoes, torn clothing, no books and always hungry. She said, "we have so much here, and she has nothing." It took everything in me to hold back the tears. This 16 year old girl has THIS perspective. Ithumeleng has come from a very difficult past. She was abused physically and sexually when she was younger, she lives in a foster home with ten other children and she is epileptic. She feels so grateful for all that she has, and so sad for the girl who has nothing. I went to bed that night thinking of how incredible these young girls are.
The lights were left on all night, and they slept under the covers because Ithabeleng said they are "scared" without the lights on. We said our goodnights and I got to fall asleep in a room filled with five new sisters and a full heart. In the middle of the night, around 4am, I heard the baby crying, and looked up to see Ithabeleng walking back and forth in the hallway with her strapped to her back. She was cooing and rocking her back to sleep.
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have this special time with these children at Lithoteng, and for my five new sisters whose relationships and time I will treasure forever.
For more information about the children living at Lithoteng, visit our website at www.braceletofhope.ca or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org