Interview of Fr. Martin Trieb O.S.B. with Sr. Nokuthula M. Thabethe
Other projects came about like the feeding scheme that I run for the malnourished babies. You have just seen them and they also get help from the brotherhood.
These women are all poor?
Very poor! Iíve been to some of the houses, a few though, and itís a very sad situation.
How do you select? Could it be that somebody will come who is not poor?
Yes, because I have to ask questions. I do ask questions, lots of questions, you know, to ascertain whether itís just a social problem that can be attended to by social workers. In that case I refer them to the right channels, to the social workers, refer them to their priest, whosoever will be able to help, as long as it is not a feeding problem. If itís a feeding problem, even there I have to sit down and advice, hear what the problem is, because at times you find that the father of the baby has abandoned the mother but he is working, In that case you just ask the mother of the baby to go to the social workers, apply for what you call the child maintenance. If I am right now itís the government that offers them a sum of about 110 Rand and from that 110 Rand a month they are able to buy milk, they are able to buy soap to wash the clothes of the baby. The baby can survive. Yes, itís not enough, but we can do something. Itís unlike having nothing at all.
What about the husbands of these ladies?
Many of them are coming with the history "he has abandoned me" and many of them of course are unmarried mothers.
Sometimes does the husband run away?
He runs away when there is this responsibility, yes, sometimes you find itís not the only child, that this lady has, there is another one possibly by the same man and possibly by another man.
I hear very often Ąsocial workersď. Are they social workers of the town, of the government or from the churches?
No, no, no, it is the government social workers. We get them in hospital, we get them locally. They are very close to the clinic, so we work hand in hand really, because they also refer babies to us, if they come across any who do need our help and we do the same.
I am very happy about these social workers. Is it of the new government after the apartheid time or ...?
Oh no, it was before, they were there before, all the time. We refer them, but help does not come in very quickly. They help. Itís very delayed. It takes time, like this child grant - I was talking to you about - three months, but it can take more. It can take six. Meanwhile the baby has nothing. And another thing: Many of these women that come in with babies rely on their mothers, letís say, the grandparents of the child. If there is one alive, he gets pension and that pension helps to support this poor child and that is how many of them are surviving, because like you saw, many of them are brought in by their grannies. Their grannies end up looking after the babies and then the mothers go and look for work and most of the time they donít find work.
Back to the social workers. I see the government has a social conscience ...
Yes, it has. It has been going on for quite some time. I must be honest, with our population there are so many. They canít all be helped at once and help is delayed. It takes time.
But the church help is also needed ...
Yes it is! Our Malnutrition Clinic is a more specific tool to babies.We have dying mothers as well that we care for in the Care Centre at the hospice, so they also get help.
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