Three years ago, Barbara and Thinus Campher opened up their hearts and home to provide a safe place for babies and children.
The couple, who worked in the corporate sector at the time, wanted to do something in the community. They were going to do it for three months, but they’ve been at it ever since after seeing the pressure social workers are under and how few places of safety there are.
Two weeks after Barbara signed up to be a kangaroo mom, she received her first baby — a premature infant weighting only 1.25kg. Just one week later, Barbara got a phone call asking if she was willing to take another baby.
“I didn’t realise the need was so big. My second baby was only three days old. I had her for two weeks. Then her mother claimed her back. A bittersweet reconciliation,” she said.
Not long after that there was another baby: a feisty, strong little boy who had been abandoned twice.
Since 2014, the couple have looked after 65 babies and children. Letting go was harder than they had anticipated, but it’s something they have had to learn over the years.
One incident involved a little girl they received on August 6 2014. Barbara said she had immediately bonded with the family and crept into their hearts.
“We loved her, nourished her and enjoyed her for 14 days. Then the phone rang and her mother wanted her back. Even though that was my prayer from the beginning, I suddenly realised that I don’t know how to let go,” she said.
“I know this is victory, to re-unite mother and child, but, oh my hat, I had a constant battle in my mind.”
She spent the weekend crying and praying and rebelling.
“This is it, I will never do this again”, she thought to herself.
“I was ready to give up and call it quits, give away all the baby clothes and even the other little baby because I just can’t do this. Then I prayed and asked one thing, Lord, please let there be an instant connection between her and her mom.”
So the day came for the Camphers to part with the child. It was an emotional day for the family but once they saw the connection between the baby girl and her mother, they had peace in their hearts.
The couple, who have four children of their own, now care for six babies.
It’s been a big change for them: they both walked away from well-paying jobs to rely on grants and donors to stay afloat. The grants are not enough to cover the babies’ basic needs, and so the couple now sell second-hand items and run an online health company to raise money.
“We wanted to be a self-sustaining NPO. We don’t want to always have to ask for donations or sponsors,” said Thinus.
However, water restrictions have hit the family of 12 hard and, despite recycling shower water for washing and the toilet, they are battling to bring down a monthly water bill of about R3 000.
They buy 60 litres of bottled water a week to keep up with the needs of the home. The Camphers are now trying to raise money to buy water tanks and pumps to aid their recycling efforts. They also need milk, nappies and volunteers.
They will hold a high tea fund-raiser at the house on Friday November 24.
Tickets are R150 each. Call Barbara at 079 085 2295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.