The Last Stop
Our good friend Sr. Sally Duigan invited us to visit and help out a little at Holy Family Care Center in Ofcalaco, South Africa. It’s a facility run by Our Lady of the Sacred Heart sisters and was opened more than 25 years ago as a home for mothers and children who were dying of AIDS. It was a last stop refuge where the sick were cared for in a loving environment and allowed to die a peaceful death knowing that their children would also receive comfort and care. We first visited the center in 2004 where we met the most beautiful little girl and witnessed the wonderful care that she received and mourned her death a few weeks later.
Over the years, the center has transitioned into a home for children who have been orphaned and have no one to care for them. Many have HIV/AIDS, are on a daily regimen of medication and are often hospitalized. It is also the place where local authorities bring children who have been found living alone, living in abusive homes, or living with people who have been incarcerated. Some stay here for a short time but many live here until they are adults.
The latest resident of the facility is a fifteen-year-old youth brought by the police last Friday evening. He is one of the 2-3 million people who have fled Zimbabwe because of the unbearable living conditions in that country. He was abandoned as a child and is now an illegal immigrant with no papers. He cannot speak the local language and cannot attend school. The adult who accompanied him into the country has been arrested. This teenager will eventually be deported, but in the interim he has been welcomed by all into Holy Family Care Center. He has been given shoes to wear, clean clothes, food and a bed in which to sleep. He is smiling and happy for this little bit of comfort. He is very grateful for the kindness shown to him on his last stop in South Africa.