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Baby savers for Macassar, Grabouw

HELDERBERG – A safer option to discard an unwanted baby will now be available to pregnant women in crisis with the launch of baby savers in two more communities.

In addition and similar in concept to the successful Helderberg Baby Saver, a safe shielded from the elements and electronically rigged to trigger an emergency response should a baby be placed in it has been relaunched in Grabouw and will be operational in Macassar by the end of the month.

The Grabouw Baby Saver, situated at Lighthouse Mission Educare, is a project of the NPO Isaiah’s Call, and is operated by a temporary safe care mother, Angela Burgess. It was initially launched in August 2018 after one of the babies in Burgess’ care was found abandoned in a field in Strand. It inspired her to look into the prevention of child abandonment.

But the saver was forced to close last December. Valued assistance and knowledge garnered from Sandy Immelman, founder of the Helderberg Baby Saver, played an instrumental role in the reopening of the Grabouw addition two weeks ago.

“If only one baby is ever placed in our saver, then it’s worth all the labour, but a baby saver in our area will likely draw mothers and guardians to come to us openly to learn their options,” said Burgess.

Its location in a predominantly lower-income area, at the Christian organisation’s back wall in Seder Street, was decided on after Burgess approached local NPOs that she felt would share her sentiments about such a facility and provide the correct location in a “very segregated” Grabouw. “We are looking into putting another saver further up in the informal settlement.”

The establishment of the Macassar Baby Saver was inspired by Aoife Kelly de Klerk, a former occupational therapist and devoted Christian committed to community work.

“I remember when I first met my husband in 2007,” she said. “At the time I was an occupational therapist from Ireland, living and working in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch. He is a civil engineer, and he told me then that during his training his team had visited water purification works and reported that some of the greatest drain blockages were caused by dead foetuses. [I was] horrified.

“We moved to South Africa two years later and were committed to community work through the church, particularly in the Macassar community, whom I’ve always found warm and welcoming.

“However, two babies were found abandoned in Macassar a few weeks apart two years ago. And that’s when I felt the Lord’s prompting to help where I could.” De Klerk reached out to Immelman, who offered a wealth of knowledge, direction, passion and care, and obtained great support from the Helderberg community by fundraising through a Gofundme page.

A couple of weeks from now, Macassar will boast a baby saver – a free-standing solar powered unit by Kwikspace Modular Buildings fitted with the actual safe sourced from Babysafe International, centrally located at 5 Musica Avenue. “The location is private but safe and well-known in the area, as it is a soup kitchen, close by public transport, which is very important, and the property owner, Beverly Adriaanse, is already known within the child welfare system.”

Both savers act as a last port of call for help or hope, enabling safe abandonment of an unwanted baby. When a baby is placed in the safe, an alarm is triggered and appointed respondents including security and emergency personnel collect the infant.

The response is linked with child protection organisations such as Wandisa, which sees to all the statutory processes, including placing the baby into temporary safe care, working with the courts, placing advertisements to try to connect with mother to facilitate support, reintegration, or adoption if no one comes forward after a 90 day period.

Mothers are guaranteed of a safe, anonymous alternative to discarding their baby. No questions asked. No cameras on site.

“Baby abandonment is a real problem in South Africa,” De Klerk says. The law needs to be changed to introduce a safe haven, or a Moses law, that would allow the safe abandoning of a baby in a place of safety.

“To date, I haven’t found any group working on this. Further, we cannot judge a parent. We’ve never walked in her shoes, we do not know how she has faced with the choice of leaving her child, for better or worse. Our job is to love, bring Father God’s light into the darkness, and hope where there is no hope.”

The Heldeberg Baby Saver was initiated six years ago after two incidents of babies found abandoned in Somerset West. Four babies were given a chance at life thanks to the saver, located at the Choices Crisis Pregnancy Centre in Schapenberg Road, Somerset West.

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