Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Naledi and Lesego - adoption story

Naledi Thabane and her late husband adopted Lesego when she was 2 months old, 22 years ago in March 1997. Lesego brought light into our lives, home and gave us a purpose for living. Naledi says her building a family through adoption, with the help of Child Welfare Tshwane, was the best thing that happened. She says it was a true blessing to have a social worker from Child Welfare Tshwane to provide the support and encouragement that led them to their daughter. “Experiencing the joy of adoption is special and sharing it with the rest of the world is awesome” says Naledi.

She always had faith that she would be a mother one day and believes that everything happens for a reason. “My years of suffering were essential for me to understand what a gift it is to be a mother. I’m glad God chose this path for my life; his timing was perfect because my baby was meant for me and I was meant to be her mother” Naledi told us.

She highly appreciates motherhood no matter the way it came to her. She enjoyed experiencing all the developmental stages of her daughter from being a toddler, a teenager, and now a full-grown independent, responsible beautiful woman. She cannot stop thanking God for showering her with such blessings and considers her daughter a wonderful gift. “I feel like I won the lottery”, says Naledi.

She says her family embraced Lesego fully and continues to love and support her even after 22 years.

Lesego confirms that, at 2 months old,  a life-changing decision was made on her behalf which has eventually led her to be the daughter of Naledi and John Thabane.

“I was raised by two loving parents and the greatest support system - my family. My mother has been through all stages and provided support. She has taught me the importance of God but most importantly she has taught me independence and the power of giving, “ says Lesego. She added that her father was the type of man to brag to the whole world about his only daughter. “All my life I remember the molly cuddling from my family and my grandmother” she laughs. “All in all, I’m a child who has received an overflow of love and that’s why, when I was told I was adopted at 15 years old I struggled to comprehend the idea. As a young child I imagined my mother on a hospital bed and me in a bassinet next to her after birth!”, she says.

Lesego says she always connected the characteristics, whether physically or behavioural, with both my parents and I genuinely believed they are my biological parents. Even when people remarked that she did not look like her parents she could not understand why as she believed in her origin! As a 15-year-old she struggled to fathom the idea of adoption. “I stood in the mirror daily saying my full name and adoption in the same sentence just to try and bring the realness of my name and the unfathomable word adoption in line. The love I was surrounded with throughout my life made it hard to believe that I had once been the child of another woman,” says Lesego.

She took three years before starting a process to find her biological mother. Naledi encouraged her to do so because she wanted Lesego to find out if she has siblings and to have closure.
At the age of 18 years old, she finally decided to meet her biological mother with the help of my mum and Nina de Caires, Supervisor of the Adoption Unit at Child Welfare Tshwane. “After that day I continued and pondered on the idea of my biological father and till this day I think I did because I thought it would make up for losing my adoptive father at a young age”, says Lesego.

Naledi and Lesego agree that, as an adopted child, and adoptive mother, the advice they would give will be to show unconditional love and to leave no room for uncertainty. “Keeping a collection of the child’s educational progress and crafts is important as a mother because it was rewarding and fulfilling. We aren’t just mother and daughter but best friends by having open communication and honesty. Above all unconditional love is the greatest and most important of all, says Naledi.

My Adoption Story

Sarah decided to adopt because after trying everything, she discovered she could not have kids naturally. Her biggest fears were that she would not be approved because she is a single working woman and the fact that in her opinion certain communities are still not really open to adoption. She discussed the option with her family, who agreed and supported her through the whole process.

“The process is long and needs patience, but it’s worth it! The day I saw my boy Thando, I knew he was made especially for me. My child has brought so much joy in my life and it makes me happy to see that I could provide love, family, and a warm comfortable home for him” says Sarah. She added that she will forever be grateful for this opportunity and wants to encourage people to consider adoption. “If God has blessed you enough give a home to a child - you will not regret it as children are a blessing,” says Sarah.

She is hoping to adopt a second child soon and she is hoping for a little girl this time. “I have too much love to give,” says Sarah. She feels that adoption is worth it and hopes that all communities would open minds and hearts to adopting as there are many children who need love and homes.

For more information about adoption, you can contact Nina de Caires on 082 824 9244 or send an email to  Sometimes a pregnancy is unplanned and we understand that it causes distress for pregnant women who have to find the best possible solution for herself and her baby.  Talk to Child Welfare Tshwane to get a clear picture of the options you have and should you decide to give the baby up for adoption, always remember that you are giving the baby the best possible chance to reach his or her full potential in a loving environment.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Let's Be Better Parents!


Recently an anonymous mother wrote a touching letter to all parents out there:

Dear parent (mom and dad),
I have been wanting to write you this letter for a long time.
We always hear that no baby comes into this world with a manual. Maybe this was true years ago, but not today.  Today we have many aids and sources of information available.  Some are in book form; others are just a click away – information to give you as parent help or advice on how to raise your child.

In these times, both parents work because it is inevitable or necessary.  Some parents work long hours, others shorter, but when they return home in the evening there are so many other responsibilities.  Our children’s days are just as full and busy with all their school and after school activities.

We feel that days are getting shorter because we have just so much to do!

Then, as the day draws to a close, we all start with our separate demanding responsibilities and tasks. Children are tired because it was a long day for them as well. And the parents are tired.  But it is during these times that your duty as parents become reality.  To spend time with your child and to see what they have learned at school must be your priority.  Because your child is only a child ONCE – you cannot give them attention tomorrow for what happened today. It will be yesterday, and we know that yesterday is in the past!

Look beyond your own tiredness, each day of learning is important in your child’s life and they need the assurance that their education also matters to you. Do not use the “I am too tired” excuse. Your child needs you every day.  Before you know it, their 12 years at school is done and then it is too late.
We can never turn back to the clock.

Praise your children, encourage them, urge them on, reward them when they have done their best. Remember: your best and their best could be different things!

Your child needs to hear the words “I am proud of you” and “I love you” daily.  They do grow up and they will spread their wings someday.

This touching letter appeared in an Afrikaans newspaper recently and we cannot agree more with the sentiments expressed by this lady.  And, whilst we are all confined to our homes during this time of lockdown, let us all review our relationships with our children.  We are so quick to say “keep quiet” or “go play in your room” – we forget that this is even more confusing for children and more difficult to understand.  So even if you are working from home during this time, book time in your day to spend with your child.  Change your daily routine for this time to include these important people in your life:  they will appreciate this, and you will feel good! 
If possible, involve your child in your day – maybe they can sort something for you, maybe they can help you with filing.  Maybe they are old enough to do some research for you. But, maybe you should just let them play near you – sometimes the smell and the sound of a parent is providing more comfort than we know! 

I know of grown-ups who visit their aging parents and then go lie on the bed to feel the comfort of that familiar smell.  A smell that represents safety and the assurance that everything will be alright.  I know of women going to perfume counters in stores to smell their mom’s perfume, even if she's no longer around.  Because, no matter how old we get, we all need to know that we are/were loved!

Perhaps we should look at this time of lockdown differently:  maybe we were blessed with “extra time” to restore our relationships with our children.  Children do not ask to come into this world and considering the joy they bring; we owe them our best.  We owe it to them to give them our time – not when we are irritated, stressed-out and tired, but when we are relaxed, in a good space, and tolerant!

Let us all try during this time to become better parents! 

We choose our Destinies

In her book, The house by the sea, Santa Montefiore writes the following: 

"I start from a belief in our ability to choose our destinies. We come down here to experience life and learn to be compassionate, loving human beings.  During our lifetime we have many choices which affect those around us as well as our own futures. ‘Imagine a pebble dropped into a pond.  You may think that the pebble simply sinks to the bottom, but you are wrong.  The pebble causes ripples that run to the edge, where they nudge a leaf onto the bank. A bumble bee is drowning in the water, but now he is able to climb onto the leaf and save himself. The bumble bee flies off and lands on the arm of a child, who watches in wonder and thus develops a love of nature. The child’s parents are fighting, but the mother sees the bee and panics that her child will be stung.  Both parents rush to help the child and forget their argument, united in their love for their child.  The bee flies off and……..”

The point is: nothing we do is in isolation. Our choices are important. From the outside, it often looks like people do not care about others and they appear to be selfish.  However, taking a closer look, you will see that everyone is affected by what other people think and do. Sometimes our choices are influenced by the choices that others make – for instance: people swear and use foul language when they are with certain of their friends because they do not want their friends to judge them. 

And as a result of social media and our connected state, we cannot hide some of our decisions and behaviour from our circle of friends. There will always be one who is filming your drunken state, who is recording your foul language or who will share the inappropriate picture!  To a certain degree it helps them feel better (because they can say “well, look at so-and-so misbehaving”) but it is also linked to their own need for “belongingness”.

Belongingness is in our genes – even in the pre-modern age, humans who didn’t belong to a group didn't survive. But we have to be careful when we select the group we want to belong to! Being part of a group gives you a false sense of power and status.

The main reason we want to belong is that we feel uncertain – our own set of rules seems inadequate and therefore we blindly adopt any belief system we run into.  Most people change their own beliefs to fit in!

We should have a personal mission.  The late Stephen Covey, author of the classic 7 Habits of highly effective people, explained it as follows:  A mission statement is not something you write overnight but fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the sold expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life”.  This means that we do not measure our life by other people’s standards, but by our own mission!
When we have a clear mission, values and vision for our lives, we understand how our choices shape our destiny.  When you know where you want to go (vision) and have a roadmap that brings you there (values), you are less susceptible to what others think and do!

Who cares if people don’t like how you raise your children, don’t approve your choice of school for your child or want to do things a certain way “because that is how we have always done it”?  Just because we don’t want to disappoint our parents, elders and inner circle we fall into the trap of conforming to the group norms.

Please stop!  You are the only person you don’t want to disappoint. Why don’t you focus on the belongingness you have with your family, parents, partner, and children?  Focus on what is truly important and what is busy shaping our futures – without us even being aware of it!

Make careful choices so that you will not regret this one day.  Be a good parent.  Be a good child.  Be a good friend.  And understand that everything you do and say will have an impact on and in your future!

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

7 things mindful families do differently

(adapted from an article by Elisha Goldstein and Stefanie Goldstein, January 27, 2020)

Families have never been as disconnected as in recent times.  This can be attributed to busy schedules, digital devices, and long commutes.  South Africa has joined the rest of the world in a state of lockdown and even if you need to work from home, you will have time to work on your relationships, increase your well-begin and bring the family back together!

We have all needed this “down time” – our generation was sensing that it needed a strength of presences and that is why more and more people are exploring ways to become grounded through yoga, mindfulness, and diet.  We are all looking for ways to slow down and bring more connection into our family life.

Here are 7 things you can try to do differently over the next weeks:

Embrace imperfection:

Accept the fact that you will never be a perfect parent – you will still overreact, get triggered, say and do things you wish you hadn’t.  You are going to make mistakes, you are going to hurt your child’s feelings and you are not always going to be what you wanted to be for your child - So we simply have to accept our imperfections as parents. However, if we practice loving, radical self-compassion and self-acceptance we are shaping the minds of our children and teaching them to do the same for themselves and others.  There is no greater gift!

Listen with curiosity:

We are all so busy juggling the balls in our lives that it is a rare experience to stop and truly listen to one another.  There are so many distractions and we try to do so many things at once.  This causes us to lose our cool with our kids and to create distance and misunderstandings with our partners. As we pause and listen to each other more, we can engage the experiences in our family with a growth mindset.  We can see struggles and triumphs as opportunities for learning and growth.  Instead of judging each other, we get a better understanding of where someone is coming from.  If we don’t understand, we can lean in and say “tell me more?”.  Listening attentively and with curiosity opens up more possibilities for fewer misunderstandings, more clarity, and greater connection!

Communicate courageously:

We often avoid conversations with each other because it makes us feel vulnerable.  Sometimes we leave somethings unspoken and unresolved, but this can be a slow poison. It builds resentments, distrust, harmful behaviour, and disconnection.   We should rather be clear and honest about what we think and feel.  This way we create a safe space where everyone is comfortable sharing how they feel and what they need. If you have something on your mind, take a few moments and explore why you have been avoiding the topic. Then approach the family member and state your feeling, your need, and how you would like to handle similar situations in the future.  But also refer to paragraph 2 when engaging in conversation.

Practice appreciation and gratitude:

Being a parent is one of the most thankless jobs around and it is not uncommon to feel that you are being taken for granted.  From endless diapers and feeding when they are infants to the never-ending meals, laundry, and taxi driving as they get older, a parent may feel lost and unloved. While words of affirmation may or may not be your primary love language, we all want to be acknowledged and appreciated.  There is a surprisingly simple way of doing this that can have huge benefits: be intentional when practicing appreciation and expressing gratitude.  Appreciate when the children help with the dishes or compliment your partner for being ready on time. It may seem silly or even annoying but this may just be the acknowledgment and encouragement someone needed to change his or her habits. 

Forgive ourselves and each other:

Lily Tomlin once said: “Forgiveness means letting go of any hope for a better past”.  Every family goes through tough times. We all experience times when we don’t feel listened to, appreciated, or seen and thee are times when people are cranky and say things they don’t mean or wish they could take back!  The simple phrase of “forgive, investigate and invite” can be helpful in times like these. 
If you have transgressed, forgive yourself, understanding that you cannot change the past, remembering that you aren’t perfect and realising that mistakes are often made out of ignorance and confusion.  Then investigate where you went off track and what impact it made and how we would respond differently next time.  Then invite yourself to make the repair!

Practice support and generosity:

One of the core values of mindfulness is generosity.  The spirit of generosity means giving and sharing things of value that can be reflected in money, time, love or possessions.  Our children look at our behaviour to see how to behave in the world – therefore our generosity not only has a positive impact in our immediate environment but also has a ripple effect for generations to come. How do you show generosity?  It can be by donating money to a cause you support, bringing a meal to a sick person, or sharing a smile with someone who needs it. Our children model our behaviour and therefore we should include them in these acts as often as possible.  You can perhaps reward your children’s good behaviour with money into a kindness jar, and then use that money to support a charitable organisation.

Don’t forget to play and have fun!

We get so stuck in the moment-to-moment grind and stressors that we actually forget to have fun!  We easily forget each other and how to have fun!  Raising children is probably the most important job you will ever get tasked with and the pressure of raising good humans can be weighty.  So much so that we fall into a pattern of taking things too seriously and being overly focused on tasks like chores, homework, activities, etc.) – we lose the enjoyment of being together. With the exception of planned trips, we often don’t intentionally plan fun in our day – but why not? We plan everything else, so why not be more purposeful when planning out the week to make sure to include experiences of play?

Friday, 3 April 2020

Lebogang's adoption - adding to our family - what joy!

Many people wonder if they will ever be blessed with children – hearing the laughter of children in their home becomes the one thing they dream about all the time.  For these people, adoption offers a wonderful opportunity to become parents and it gives a baby a loving home.  Mr. and Mrs. Kganyago shared their story with us. (To protect the identities of the family, names have been changed and a stock photo image have been used).

“My wife and I thought Lebogang Mtemba was our grandson, but the paternity test revealed that he was not related to us in any way”, says Mr. Kganyago.  The couple had already developed a bond with Lebogang whose mother was not interested to take care of him. “We decided to get more information about adoption,” says Mr. Kganyago.  This was in their opinion the best way to keep him.

When Mr. and Mrs. Kganyago began with their adoption journey, they were filled with so many different emotions. Mrs. Kganyago searched online for adoption agencies around Pretoria and decided to contact Child Welfare Tshwane.  “We were so nervous and had no idea what to expect. We heard about the adoption process and how long it takes and that scared us a lot. But we were willing to go through this journey in order to get our child”, says Mrs. Kganyago.

When they made the decision to go ahead with the adoption, they called a family meeting and informed their family about their decision. The family was excited and could not wait for little Lebogang to legally become part of their family. “Our family supported us all the way,” says the couple. 

Mr. and Mrs. Kganyago was so relieved that they are now Lebogang’s legal parents and could not wait to change his surname. Though they knew Lebogang was part of the family, they were scared that Lebogang’s biological mother might come back and claim him. Until the adoption process was finalised, they wouldn't be able to stop her!

“The adoption process took longer than expected and we were already frustrated when the Social worker called us”, says Mr. Kganyago. They even lost hope and thought the adoption will never be finalised. However, Mrs. Kganyago remained hopeful that the adoption will be finalised and that they would be able to call Lebogang their son.  They were elated when the process was concluded and are now one happy family!

The couple told the social worker that they would go through the process again if given the opportunity. They felt like the whole process is worth it and wouldn’t change a thing!  “Adoption gives pregnant women an option when they did not plan the pregnancy, it gives the baby an opportunity to become part of a loving family, and it gives couples the opportunity to bring a child into their homes where they can provide and care for that child”, says Nina de Caires, Supervisor for the Adoption Unit at Child Welfare Tshwane.

Heart of House 2 all fixed up!

The adage that the kitchen is the heart of the home, is very true and the boys living in House 2 of Bramley Children’s Home in Groenkloof, experienced a broken heart!  Due to aging buildings Bramley’s houses are all in desperate need of some love and repair – but especially the kitchen in House 2 was in urgent need of renovation.

It goes without saying that a kitchen renovation (or any other renovation, for that matter) does not form part of our annual budget. The value of volunteers can never be underestimated – Celest van Niekerk, vice Chairperson of Child Welfare Tshwane’s Board of Management, mobilised her large network.  They responded and some good Samaritans teamed-up and transformed the once sad kitchen into a happy place!

First we received a donation of kitchen cupboards from Lize van Rensburg but then we needed someone to install.  Verner Schultz and JP Hugo were on site to help us with another project and said they will install the cupboards!  As with all renovations, once you start on one end, you must replace other items as well to complete the picture.

Hans & Riana Karemaker donated some paint to Bramley for another house and fortunately we had enough to even cover the kitchen.  Charlie Martins, from Ceregran Tiles, donated some tiles and then with his friend, Ian Scott, jumped in to do the tiling as well!  The cupboards were painted by Bianca and Odette, a fresh new look! Our lovely cupboards needed new tops, and these were donated by Ceregran as well.

We were so blessed that we could get this all done by the weekend before the President announced the national lockdown.  House 2 was buzzing with activity as all the volunteers were rushing to get everything done and we finished just in time! 

An unintended, but greatly appreciated, consequence of the project was that the boys in House 2 all helped! It is the house for the older boys, and they all offered to do something -  and in doing so they learned some handy life skills like using tools properly, finishing a task and working in a team with volunteers.  

Not only do these boys now take ownership of their kitchen and want to keep it looking good – they will also enjoy the food that is prepared for them in this space even more!  The renovation helped our therapy process in that something new and neat helps build a person’s self-esteem and gives them pride!

We give a big shout out to all the volunteers who so kindly donated, participated and shared in our joy!  We have now embarked on a process of upgrading and renovating our Children’s Home. There is an enormous amount of maintenance and improvements that need to be done at Bramley.  All these improvements and renovations will have a positive impact on the children’s emotional status as well - you want to help us,  please contact Caren Malherbe on 082 836 5583.

We need your skills and your time! Donate your redundant furniture, fridges, deep freezers, bedding, mattresses and curtains to us once we can move around again!  If you are a keen gardener, plumber or electrician with some spare capacity and a caring heart we ask that you please sign up for this project. 

Let us make Bramley beautiful!  Help us to make a difference and change lives!