With Spur’s Help I Am the Mother of Many!
August 5, 2014
Solomon’s Haven was founded in 1992, when Maria Solomons and her family opened their hearts and doors to vulnerable children in the area, creating a place of safety and equipping them with the necessary education and skills and to prepare them for their future, and developing them intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually.
Maria explains that, in her area, so many women are caught up in a vicious cycle of abuse and neglect that they struggle to look after themselves, let alone their children. “When deciding to leave her abuser, she is usually faced with either living on the streets ór going to a shelter, where she and her children can stay for three to six months… and then? Sometimes they are faced with being thrown out on the streets or going back to the origin of the abuse,” Maria says concerned.
It is with one such incident that Solomon’s Haven was founded. When her late son, Nadeem, was in Grade 5 he started bringing a 7–year old friend home every day. Maria spoke to the boy and he eventually disclosed that his father was very abusive towards him, his siblings (aged 4 and 9) and his mother. Maria eventually invited the boy’s mother for dinner and after a long talk she told Maria that she is faced with a huge problem: her husband is molesting her two daughters!
Maria decided there and then to provide shelter to the women while she took steps against her husband, with Maria’s support. Maria took care of them, reminded of her own background of abuse.
“I did not really have role models, growing up under difficult circumstances, with an abusive father. We were five to six children sleeping on a bed, without blankets – we had to use carpets and our clothes to keep warm. This gradually formed me to become strong, which helped me to survive and definitely helps me to assist the children of Solomon’s Haven today,” she adds proudly.
Maria is, however, very happy that times have changed and that women are better protected through improved legislation. “When I grew up, men in our community beat some women to a pulp, women felt powerless to take any action and as a result nothing was ever done about it. Now it is a whole new picture. When you lift your hands for a woman (or man!) you will, in most cases, go to jail,” she adds.
“I have a compassion for children, especially those growing up under difficult circumstances, and I am a mother, with a huge heart for children. I do not want to see my children getting hurt… I do not want any child getting hurt, for that matter. Nelson Mandela once said something along the line of: ‘If you have a head and a heart, you see everything differently’ and I feel that is very applicable to me. It does not matter what is ‘wrong’ with the child or what his or her condition or problem is – I just love them.” You can see the kids that arrive here are broken, but I give every child as many hugs and love as possible. The kid realises that you care for them as soon as you give them hugs. It sometimes takes two weeks or more for them to start trusting me, but eventually I do manage to break through their ‘walls’ with love,” Maria says.
Some of the children have grown up with one, but in some instances even two abusive parents. Maria is concerned that in the latter case, the children are left without any caregiver and nobody to protect them. Without a mother a family literally falls apart. Maria adds that in such cases, there usually is no bread in the house and the children have to ask neighbours for a piece of food… or hope somebody will help them.
“Kids like these do not know the security of a family and that is what we are trying to reinstate in their lives. A family sticks together, no matter what happens, like me and my family. We carry each other through difficult times. We want the kids to experience the same and a feeling of home and somebody being there for them after school. Do you know how gratifying it is when they arrive home after school and ask, “Where’s Mommy?’”
“With the help of generous organisations like Spur Foundation, I can be their mommy and provide them with a family. We never eat separately, but together as a family – an aspect that truly resonates with Spur’s focus on the family. In the evenings when we sit in front of the TV, they massage and wash my feet. That is how they give back. They cry when I take my feet back, as it signifies rejection to them. Pampering me is a thank you from their side,” she says with a smile.
Maria stresses that it is not an easy job – both financially and emotionally. “On the financial side I have to provide food for all of them. Organisations like Spur Foundation contribute regularly and it helps, but it does not cover all our needs. As an example, the 17 kids currently in my care eat at least ten loaves of bread per day!” she adds.
“On the emotional side I also have to be the strong woman for them. I can only cry or show emotions when I am alone in my room, as I become such a part of these children’s daily struggles. Spur Foundation’s support has shown me that they believe in what I do and that that they believe these children need help. It lessens the burden on me, as I know there is somebody that cares. Spur Foundation recently donated new bed linen to all the children on Mandela Day (18 July) – it was probably the first time in their lives that they slept under new duvet covers! ” she adds.
Since its inception between 400 and 500 children have been helped at Solomon’s Haven, with Maria assisting some of them to train as boilermakers, policemen, social workers and more. For this remarkable work Maria was nominated as a finalist in the Cape Times Woman of Worth 2003 Competition and in 2004 she won the award.
“For the next year my big wish would be bigger premises, so that everybody has their own space and can feel special,” she adds. “Feeling special is something they have not experienced a lot in their lives, but the love and support for the children make them look past the fact that there might not be another tomorrow,” Maria concludes.
Spur salutes this great mother of so many of the neglected and destitute children in her area.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
NAME: Ronel van Dijk, Chairperson of the Spur Foundation and Chief Financial Officer of Spur Corporation Limited
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