I often see a neatly dressed girl in her school uniform walking through town on my way home everyday. Today I walked just behind her. She turns into Ons Plek, a residential Children’s Home for Female Street Children.
Surely she has never lived on the streets? Probably a staff member’s child, I think to myself. But on subsequent days I see her again. Finally driven by curiosity I go in to Ons Plek. After several visits I apply to become a volunteer.
I learn that the neatly dressed schoolgirl lived happily with her father and stepmother until she turned 8. Her biological mother was unemployed for most of her life and so never cared for her although she visited sometimes. One day she took Noxolo away for a weekend and never returned. Noxolo couldn’t find her way back to her father and she stopped trying after her mother told her that the father had moved. For 2 years she lived unhappily with her mother doing the household cleaning, cooking and babysitting of her little brother. One day her mother moved taking her son with her but leaving Noxolo behind. After a few days of hunger Noxolo started begging on the streets where she was fortunately noticed by an ex-teacher of hers who brought her to Ons Plek. Ons Plek placed her back at school while they traced her mother. However the stories of neglect and the mother’s abandonment of Noxolo made staff very reluctant to place Noxolo back with her mother, despite the mother’s pleas.
One day Noxolo arrives home from school in a very excited mood. She had bumped into her stepbrother with whom she had grown up with in her father’s house.
Ons Plek’s social worker quickly telephones the number she now has. Within hours the stepmother and father arrives at Ons Plek hoping to take Noxolo back into their house. They and Noxolo weep in the childcare workers room at their first meeting in two and a half years. Noxolo learns that they have searched all over for her.
However, the Ons Plek team must first investigate their story. The relationship may have changed too much for Noxolo to simply move back to them. Noxolo visits the family several times over a few months. Discussions over any teething problems take place. Despite the mother contesting it, the father and stepmother finally successfully adopt Noxolo as their child and she leaves Ons Plek. Now, 4 years later, she is writing matric and happily still at home.