Goodbyes at TTL are bittersweet. Mamello left the safe-home yesterday, which is really a cause for celebration – it is always great to see kids going back home, healthy and usually a bit chubby, to their families. It is a victory for TTL and the accomplishment of our mission. It is a little selfish of me then, to be disappointed when they go, knowing that I will no longer see their smiling faces pressed up against the playroom window when I walk down to the office and will receive no more of their high fives or hugs. But I admit, every time a child leaves from the safe-home I get a little sad.
Mamello was in the safe-home for about 2 months. She had been malnourished and suffering from symptoms of HIV a few months ago, but by the time she arrived at TTL she was well on her way to becoming healthy, already on ARVs and responding well to them. She came to TTL because her mother had just passed away and was living with her aunt and uncle who were expecting a new baby of their own and didn’t know if they could care for her adequately with a newborn baby (Mamello’s ARVs must be given on a strict schedule). So we were graced with her presence and from the beginning she was goofy, smiley, and energetic. You couldn’t go in the safe-home without her handing you a series of random toys – she didn’t expect them back, she just likes to share.
But alas, the temporary safe-home is indeed only temporary, and yesterday it was time for her to go home. It has been raining a lot recently and we weren’t sure if the roads to her village would be washed out so we arranged with her uncle to meet us at Malefiloane Health Center, about an hour away from TTL. We arrived at one o’clock and her uncle and his horse were there waiting for us, ready to bring Mamello back home. In the past I have only experienced taking kids directly back to their home, so I found it rather interesting/amusing, watching Mamello’s uncle stuff TTL’s food rations (powdered milk, lentils, canned fish and vegetables) and all of Mamello’s acquired possessions (clothes, lotion, soap) into his relatively small saddle bag. When he got it all packed in tight he strapped Mamello to his back with a couple of blankets, hopped on his horse and they rode off into the distance as we shouted our goodbyes. She handled the reunification pretty well – the hand over from us to her uncle – until the horse started actually moving and her cries became audible as they galloped away from us. She seems to be in good hands though and I’m sure will readjust to her new surroundings in no time. It seems that by the time Outreach visits our reunified safe-home kids a week after they leave us they are clinging to their caregivers. A few weeks later they have forgotten us completely. This is how it should be I guess.
Mamello will be missed and the playroom will be calmer with only one kid able to walk by himself and only one toddler who needs fed but we are ready to help the next baby who needs the constant care and support of the safe-home.