A Real Hope - Blessed Gérard's Children's Home - August 2009

The atmosphere in both parts of the children's home is friendly and familiar.Today I report on life in the residential group: The twelve to sixteen year old girls and boys live together with their educator, the Benedictine Sister Edith, in a flat on the upper floor of the Care Centre. Two young people each share a bright, friendly room and each has their own personal desk. House and service rules, as well as a meal plan written together, remind the children of the services they have to perform themselves. In this way, the young people learn to manage the household on a daily basis. Cleaning, washing, cooking, washing up and all the hundred little things that a complete household entails. After school, they come home between 2 pm and 4 pm, do their homework and then like to go outside to play. Thanks to the fact that the children's home was given an old piano, some of the children receive piano lessons. One day I live with the youngsters and experience a real family that is cheerful. While performing their services, they make jokes and talk about their experiences at school. For dinner, the two girls who are on duty today cook a very tasty dinner. The children eat it with perfect table manners. I am always amazed at this family atmosphere, where everyone is considerate of the others. In the evening, I go back to my room full of impressions.

The Blessed Gérard's Care Centre in Mandini is a place of practised charity. This is noticeable in the whole house. Whether in the hospice areas or in the two parts of the children's home, where 41 children currently live.Today I take you to the area of the children's home where newborn to eleven-year-old children live. I am greeted at the door by a friendly educator. There is colourful furniture in the wide corridor. A team meeting is taking place there. The children's rooms are occupied by two to five children, depending on their size. The rooms are bright and friendly, the colourful bed covers are fun and the children have a view of the greenery. The children like to play gossip and rhyming games with each other and they are very happy doing so.

Here is the room of four toddlers, it is bedtime. The day begins at 6:00 am. The children are bathed, the older ones shower. After breakfast and brushing their teeth, the school children are taken to the different schools in the organisation's own minibuses. They have to be there at 7:30 am, school starts at 8:00 am. The children who are still too young for kindergarten stay at home and play. One boy and one girl receive special therapy. All the carers work hand in hand and the children are encouraged physically and mentally. An educational specialist looks after the school children in the afternoon in a homework room. The toddlers play in the playroom of the children's home. Then comes the big moment. They are allowed to go out to the playground. An adventure playground with various climbing equipment offers plenty of opportunity for romping. The children also enjoy playing ball, circle and dance games. Everyone laughs and is exuberant. It is noticeable that each of the children follows their word and observes fixed rules. The disabled children are in the middle of it all. When the rhythm of the traditional Zulu dance is drummed on a barrel, everyone sings along and I can't be stopped either. In the dance, one has to throw one's legs upwards as high as possible after a certain sequence of steps. Everyone has great fun doing it, especially because I dance along.

After the hilarious game, the hands are washed and soon dinner is served. While the older children cook for themselves under supervision, the smaller children are fed from the central kitchen. The varied food, rich in vitamins and proteins, is not only healthy but also tastes extremely good. Some of the children had been abandoned, others abused and many have had unspeakably difficult fates. In the children's home of Blessed Gérard's Care Centre they find protection and security, encouragement and education, a home and above all love. All children with AIDS among them are treated with antiretroviral drugs. They can increase life expectancy by up to 25 years and those treated soon feel completely healthy and lively again. This is real hope in the fight against AIDS.                    

Mechthilde Lagleder