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My first bad day

Everyone that knows me, knows that South-Africa is my home, Sunshine Educare is my home. It was love at first sight when I came here for the first time in 2014. When I went home after 5 months, I had that feeling that something was missing. Like that feeling you have when your significant other walks out the door and after 2 seconds you already miss them. Everyone told me it was a phase, and I would find my way back home in the Netherlands. That feeling never went away and 3 weeks ago I finally came home to Cape Town and Sunshine, back to the place that stole my heart. My home, the place where I belong, the only place in the world that makes sense and where all the pieces of the puzzle come together. A place filled with mixed feelings: the love and the passion that I have for Sunshine, but the heartache and the feeling of injustice that come with seeing the living conditions of the community in Wolwerivier.

Every day I wake up smiling because I can go to work and do the thing I love most, work that doesn’t even feel like work – and who doesn’t want that in life? I mean, isn’t the best way to start your day by being greeted in the morning by 80 kids who all run to you, hug you and shout “teacher teacher teacher!”. Today, my day started exactly like that, but ended with a broken heart, and the feeling that the world doesn’t make sense anymore. Today was the day that I always knew that would come, one that I’ve been dreading and one that I know will happen again. It hurts every fiber in my body and goes against everything I am, I know and I stand for. Today I had to deal with a sexual abuse case of a child that is 1 years and 8 months old. No matter how hard I try, I cannot wrap my mind around it that someone would do that to such a vulnerable and innocent tiny human being.

I’ve seen abuse in different forms, been in those situations and dealt with it. A specific boy I met in 2014 who was a victim of abuse, is THE main reason I am here in Cape Town now. I will move heaven and earth for him. I’ve seen what abuse does to a child, believe me it hit home for me more than you can ever imagine. So much that I packed up my life in the Netherlands, left everything behind and moved to the other side of the world. To give my life to Sunshine so that those kids have a safe haven, to stop people from hurting children and to give them all the love that they deserve, to give them a chance in life and to prepare them for the world.

The only thing that will help me process today is by writing it down, it’s my therapy and a way to keep me from losing my marbles. All the yoga and mindfulness in the world isn’t going to help me. The world doesn’t make sense anymore, I don’t feel like eating, when someone asks me something I can only respond in Dutch which is my mother tongue and even that is not working. There are no words to exactly describe how I feel.. the only words that come to mind are sad, heartbroken and hurt, furious, injustice, unfair, vulnerable, more furious, helpless, restless, exhausted and emotionally drained.

Not only is writing my therapy, I want, I need the world to know that my job at Sunshine Educare and the passion I have is not only wipe snotty noses of children, playing with them and teaching what the colour red and the amount of 5 is. We are a safe haven for the children and we will always fight for their wellbeing and safety. Whether it is preparing them for primary school and life in general, feeding them, making them feel loved, keep them from wandering the streets of Wolwerivier or providing them with a safe space in their life. Umta welanga is the Xhosa name for our school for a reason: a ray of sunshine in a place of darkness. I flat out refuse to let these abuse cases – violence, sexual, drugs and alcohol, it doesn’t matter – take over, and I will always fight to stop injustice and protect those in need.

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