We enjoyed a last breakfast at the Mount Nelson ("the Nellie") and bade farewell to Cape Town shortly after.
First stop - a grocery store where we all bought bags of food - milk, bread, apples, juice, baby formula, cereal and so on. Frank had suggested an outreach project to us and we were eager to get onto it - Rosie's Place - an Orphanage.
Mansur drove us to and around the area of Cape Flats known as Khayelitsha. Frank explained that this is one of the many areas where shantytowns sprang up in the wake of the lifting of the apartheid laws. Thousands of people have been living in corrigated iron shacks for as much as 20 years.
Recently, a program has been put in place to build nice, snug,attractive houses on the same space so people have decent housing and stay in their established neighbourhoods.
We drove through several streets and children waved and ran beside us -- with no expectation that we would toss them money or candy, simply for the fun of it.
We were concerned that we'd be seen as interlopers or gawkers, but Frank assured us that was not the case and everyone seemed friendly. It was clearly a lively, well-functioning community, with markets, schools, clinics and so on. But poor, very poor, In the midst of all this was our goal - Rosie's Place.
Rosie told us the story of how 9 years ago, as an unemployed single mom she came home one day to find a baby abandoned on her door step. She tried to find its family without success, and planned to hand it over to social services. Before she could do so, another child was dropped to her. She drove to the town where she could leave them but was stopped by a clear voice saying "TAKE CARE OF THESE CHILDREN". Her response was "Lord you'll have to provide because I don't have the means to feed my own child".
Soon, in her small home she was caring for more than 60 children. Now she runs an orphanage for up to 200 kids.
They even have a drop-off place for babies, because so many were victims of murder or attempted murder. ( some arrive damaged for that reason ). Many are AIDS orphans and some HIV-positive.
When we carried in our groceries, Rosie said "This is wonderful - I didn't have enough bread today for the children and didn't know how I would feed them.
The kids seemed pretty ordinary - they were playing the usual kinds of games.
It was lunch time and in one area about 20 or 25 babies under 3 were eating sitting on the floor. ( see photos ). They all watched us, some warily and some with broad smiles. I asked if I could pick one up, and it was clear she wasn't used to being held - so many children, too few arms to hug them. But she seemed OK with me, so I cuddled her until we had to go.
When I put her down she cried and it nearly broke my heart.
Rosie also has a hospice for TB and AIDS patients, and also a soup kitchen.
At the end of our visit, we sang our traditional "Go Now in Peace" and a group of the kids sang the South African national anthem and a hymn for us. Many of us had tears. We do hope we can help Rosie continue her important mission. She has started an expansion to house more children, and needs about another $100,000 Canadian to complete it. We would love to help her reach that goal.
========== Transcript of ' Dear Child' in photos =====
!! DEAR CHILD !!
As long as you live in this house you will follow the rules. When you have your own house you can make you own rules. In this house we do not have a democracy. I did not campaign to be your parent. You did not vote for me. We are parent and child by the grace of God, and I accept that privilege and awesome responsibility. In accepting it I have an obligation to perform the role of a parent. I am not your pal. Our ages are too different. We can share many things but we are not pals. I am your parent. This is 100 times more than what a pal is. I am also your friend, but we are on entirely different levels. You will do, in this house what I say, and while you may ask questions, you may not question my authority!!! Please Remember!! that whatever I ask you to do is motivated by love. This will be hard for you to understand until you have a child of you own. Until then, Trust Me.
We drove on to Stellenbosch, and the Lanzerac Winery, where we are staying. We had a brief wine tasting. The generous buffet lunch made us feel quite guilty about Rosie's situation. After a late lunch we relaxed and walked around the grounds until time for a hall party and the bus ride to another winery for dinner. It was fun, with samples of beer and wine. Unfortunately when we boarded the bus to go back, it was mired in the mud. After more than an hour of attempts to unstick it, we were shuttled home by the folks from the restaurant/winery, in their own cars. Just to add to the evening's complexity, there was a police roadblock. Our driver told them to expect to see here a few more times as she planned to bring more loads of stranded Canadian tourists. She said these are license checks, as so many unlicensed drivers are on the roads, driving hazardously. Meanwhile, several of us had seen Mansur in conversation with a woman who seemed to be touching him and pawing at him Turned out she was a drunken German tourist. When he held her off and tried to leave, she bit his arm! We all felt terrible not to have somehow interevened. Poor guy! What a way to spend Eid!
Photo highlights of the day, click for larger view: