A surprise reunion: Five siblings find a home together in a new family
On a cold, winter day in Namibia, a 48-year-old mother carrying an infant visited the SOS Children’s Village in Tsumeb.
She looked confused, and had difficulty maintaining a coherent conversation. She spoke of witchcraft, of mistreating her older children, and about her 930-kilometre journey to the SOS Children’s Village.
She asked the Social Worker at the SOS Children’s Village if she could leave her baby for the day. Her request was gently denied and she was asked to seek help at the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.
A week later, the mother was found camping at the entrance of SOS village with her baby. “Unless you take this child I am not leaving this place, and if you do not take this child from me, I will leave her somewhere,” she yelled.
It was clear that the woman suffered from mental illness. The SOS Social Worker immediately contacted the Ministry of Gender and started the process of admitting baby Polina* into a family that would protect and take care of her – she was just two months old.
Polina was given to SOS Mother, Savelia Mwiiyale.
“I became an SOS Mother because I love children,” says Savelia, who has been a caregiver with SOS for 13 years. “At two months old, baby Polina was still breastfeeding so she used to cry a lot when she had to take the bottle. But I cuddled and encouraged her until she calmed down.”
Later it was discovered later that Polina had four siblings living in an orphanage. The children had been taken away from their biological mother for protection. SOS Children’s Village does not separate siblings and so 14-year-old, Emula*, 8-year-old, Ela*, and 5-year-old twins, Hela* and Peter*, all joined Savelia’s SOS family. There, the siblings met their baby sister Polina for the first time. It was a long overdue and heartwarming family reunion.
“I am very happy and excited to have all my siblings with me,” says Emula, the eldest of the five siblings. “I like the unconditional love and bond in my SOS family,” she says.
Emula is a compulsive caretaker; from her early childhood, she tended to her younger siblings needs because her mother could not due to mental illness. Even though she now has the opportunity to be a child again, Emula still feels like a parent to them.
“I worry about my siblings and biological mother,” she says. “Who will take care of my younger siblings when I am not around? I want to help my mother but I do not know how to help her.”
The SOS Children’s Village is working closely with Emula’s mother to trace her extended family, and to give her the support she needs to reintegrate the separated family.
Today, Polina is a healthy, 18-month-old baby; she has bonded with her elder siblings and together they have settled in well in their new home. A story that started with a mother threatening to harm her child has turned into a beautiful story of sibling’s joyful reunion.
SOS families ensure that children who have lost parental care grow up in a stable, secure and loving family that provides them with all the support they need to fulfil their potential. “I want to be a police officer or a doctor,” smiles Emula. “Well, I am still deciding.”
*Names changed to protect the privacy of the children.