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A Story from the Children’s Home

A Story from the Children’s Home

Over 2 decades ago, our founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Sayed Ally Chopdat and his late wife Apa Sabera (Rahim-u-allah) had a dream and a vision to open a children’s home and that was how Saberas Children’s Home was established.

Sabera’s Children’s Home, one of our many community outreach programmes, is a Child and Youth Care Centre registered with the Department of Social Development since 2001. Our aim is to provide a safe and nurturing home for destitute and helpless children who are in need of care and protection according to Section 150 of the Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005 (as amended).

Raising a vulnerable child requires more than providing them with food, clothing and shelter. It requires love, attention, discipline and commitment by seeing to their emotional, spiritual and mental needs. Our priority is to provide these children with a loving and stable home environment; thus giving them the opportunity to build healthy, warm and positive identities that will ensure they grow up to be valuable and capable citizens with a promising future. Our ultimate goal is to provide every child at our Home with tertiary education or skills training so that they become skilled, well-rounded and independent members of our society.

Although we offer residential care, our long term ambition with Statutory Social workers is to reunite the children with their biological parents, direct or extended families and where not possible, we support their foster care or adoption placements in stable, and caring homes. For many children, Sabera’s Children’s Home becomes their forever home where we shower them with a lifetime of love, support and a sense of belonging through the Family Home Care Model.

One such child is Sara Daniels and below is HER STORY…

“ I had it all;  a mum, a dad, a family, happiness and most importantly LOVE. It was  not just me. I have siblings too;  a big sister, a younger sister and a baby brother. Our lives were perfect. We went to bed with goodnight kisses and woke up to warm hugs filled with love. It was The Daniels world filled with euphoric moments where rainbows didn’t need rain to shine; where there were cotton candy skies, where mermaids existed, where animals could talk, where humans could fly, where the only pain we knew was to see my mum cry and my dad weak.

My family was as close as chained souls; it was really all we knew at that age.

 My mum never really had an easy life. She had an abusive mum and a no-show dad. She grew up in an orphanage with her 3 or 4 other siblings. She was the oldest and so she had to take care of them before she could take care of herself. It was not easy for her; she was a child but had to be a mom at such a young age. She ran away from the orphanage when she was sixteen hoping to make a better life for herself. That is when she met my Uncle’s wife. They eventually became good friends. My dad took one glance at her fragile soul and loved her with all her broken pieces. He understood her pain, he did not know it, but he understood, because he too did not have life served to him on a gold platter, but that is another story and  I do not want to get too deep into that.

They got married and had a beautiful baby girl, my older sister. It was not easy for them in the beginning. My dad and my two uncles were working at a supermarket with my mum and my Aunty. Four  years later my mum and dad had me. We then moved to another suburb where my dad and mum both worked in a bazaar opposite each other. My dad worked in a luggage shop and my mum in a clothing store. 3 years later I was blessed with a baby sister. Life was good but my mum and dad needed more financial help, and turned to selling Mandrax for extra income to support a young family of 5. When my mum’s two brothers got kicked out of the orphanage, they moved in with us and overnight our family became bigger. My parents had to now look after a family of 7 and to take care of my grandparents and my mother’s younger sister. With the pressure of having to financially support so many people; they soon started using their own supplies. Time went by as it always does, my mum left her job, and my dad started working with an import and export company that required him to travel all the time. We hardly saw my dad.  Soon after my family was blessed with my baby brother. That’s when the situation got worse. It felt like hell on earth.

From what I could recall as a child, everything that glittered was gold; I did not know what God had planned for my family and I. We were a typical family: there were the occasional fights in the house, we used to receive frequent visits from my mom’s and dad’s family, and everyone in our neighborhood adored my mum and dad, because my mum and dad would be there for them when no one else was. The harsh reality is that no matter how much good you can do for people; at the end of the day the real monsters are humans.

I got to an age where I could see behind all the fake smiles and words. It all went down hill when my dad got locked up. We lost it all. My dad was the glue that held my family together. We had no place to stay. Where was everyone when my mum needed them? It was not easy going from goodnight kisses to seeing my dad through a glass. Few people would ever understand how it feels to see your hero who personified the perfect blend of toughness and pain, shed a tear. It is a memory I am desperate to forget.

My tears  dried up making me feel somewhat courageous and I began to slowly  let go of a small fraction of pain in my dad’s absence. As the saying goes, time heals all wounds and so the fresh beginnings of our journey at a children’s home began. I remember my mum telling my siblings and I that we are going to be safe now from the cruelty of this world but as a child I was confused because I thought it was cruel that she dropped us off in a strange place.

My older sister who was 12 at the time had to take the role of a mother. She always tried to let us see the bright side of it all. It took a while but eventually a bright light of understanding and kindness unveiled itself in the children’s home. Under supervision, my siblings and I were allowed to visit my dad. My mum would visit us on weekends. At first I allowed my mind and pain to get the better of me. I became angry with myself, with my parents, with the whole world. I did not understand why Allah would put us through all of this! I was questioning a lot at that age. I was 8 years old and so much was happening and every time I would find that little hope and faith in life and in Allah, it would dissipate. But today, I can fully understand the quote, “Allah gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers”.

I was given unconditional love, understanding and kindness by Sheikh and Apa Zaytoon and I thank Allah for them everyday. They saw the pain and resentment in me and got me professional help from a psychologist who was a blessing from Allah. She helped me overcome a lot that was holding me back. I slowly let go of that which held me back and brought me pain and nightmares that would keep me up at night.

Today I am 22 years old, studying Design, and I thank every person that walked alongside me to help me become the person I am today. If there is something that I learnt and cherished ,it is that even the smallest of actions will have an impact on someone’s life. Sometimes all one needs is a smile or a hug to brighten one’s day in the moment of one’s darkest times. Always remember that it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows and if you are going through a storm now, it will not be raining forever. I am Sara Daniels, and this is my story.”

The Well-Being of Children

The Noble Quran Kareem informs readers of the Divine Love associated with the wellbeing of children, especially vulnerable and orphan children, “And worship Allah, and associate nothing with Him, and be good to parents, and to relations and orphans, and the needy, and the near neighbours, and the distant neighbours, and the companion of your side, and the wayfarer, and to your male and female servants. And surely, Allah loves not the arrogant, the boastful,” (S4 V36). According to the tafsir in Kanzul Imaan, ‘an orphan is referred to as a child whose father is deceased’. The tafsir uses the analogy of a pearl in an oyster to depict the status of an orphan child. The lonely pearl in the oyster demonstrates the condition of orphan children, and these lonely pearls in their oysters are considered priceless and valuable pearls, and so is the orphaned human child as mentioned in the Noble Quran Kareem.

The Beloved Messenger of Divine Love, Nabi Muhammad SAW’s father Hazrat Abdullah left the world prior to the birth of his son, and mother Hazrat Bibi Amina (AS) left the world when her son was at a tender age of four or six years. At the age of eight, Nabi SAW’s grandfather Hazrat Abdul Muttallib also passed on. The beloved uncle, Hazrat Abu Talib of Nabi SAW then rendered exemplary care of his nephew. The blessed verse, “Did he not find you O Muhammad SAW an orphan, so he gave you shelter” (S96 V6), indicates as noted by the tafsir, that Nabi SAW, a matchless pearl, totally unparalleled and unique, was taken care of and granted special proximity and closeness to Allah Almighty. The wellbeing of vulnerable and orphan children is further accentuated by Nabi Muhammad SAW. In compensating for the loss of parental care, the guardians and sponsors of vulnerable and orphan children are promised a great reward. A reward of the pleasure of the company of Nabi SAW himself in Paradise, (Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d in Jami’at – Tirmidhi).

Secular scholars on the concept of childhood wellbeing propose that “Child wellbeing and deprivation represent different sides of the same coin. From a child rights perspective, wellbeing can be defined as the realisation of children’s rights and the fulfilment of the opportunity for every child to be all she or he can be. The wellbeing of children has evolved as an overarching concept which generally refers to the quality of their lives. There is consensus in literature that childhood wellbeing is multi-dimensional. The wellbeing of children should be contextualised; and should be considered in a holistic way, taking account of both changes at different stages of a child’s life and young people’s development and transitions in other aspects of their lives. The wellbeing of children comprises two measures. The objective measures consist of the household income, educational resources, and health status while the subjective measures are indicators of the fulfilment of spiritual, personal, and social goals. Promoting wellbeing of children involves understanding and addressing child, youth, and caregiver functioning in the educational, cognitive, physical, behavioural, social, psychological, and emotional areas. These factors should be central to the different children’s wellbeing policy and programme initiatives.

Globally there are many situations where children’s optimal development, learning and wellbeing is compromised when the above-mentioned factors are deprived. UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) in a comparative study of child wellbeing, included children living in homes below the poverty line, children in homes where there was no employed adult, and children in homes where there were few education resources, as indicators of low wellbeing within the domain of ‘material wellbeing’. Children are especially in need of care and protection when faced with difficult circumstances such as trauma, vulnerability, deprivation, abandonment or being orphaned.

UNICEF is of the opinion that the true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children, their health and safety, their material security, their education, socialisation, their sense of being loved, valued and included in the families and societies into which they are born. The focus on child wellbeing is encouraged to be an important and integral dimension of all aspects of child welfare services. The Sultan Bahu Centre is one such welfare organisation that provides for the wellbeing of vulnerable and orphan children. This journey of promoting the wellbeing of vulnerable and orphan children comes with many painful and challenging ramifications, as well as with many beautiful and precious encounters and moments for the Sultan Bahu Centre, as those who earn the closeness to Nabi SAW strive to fulfil their Islamic roles and responsibilities.

The Noble Quran Kareem emphasizes the wellbeing of orphan children. The blessed verse, “Indeed, you do not honour the orphan,” (S89 V17) indicated by the tafsir in Kanzul Imaan infers that the upbringing of orphans, giving them good education and correct training is the highest form of worship and a religious and social obligation. According to the tafsir in Kanzul Imaan, when wealthy people would be on their deathbed in the holy city of Makkah, Abu Jahl and others would request that the dying person leave their children and wealth in their custody. The dying person would concede and after the death, these people would take full control of the deceased’s wealth. In the process they would abandon or neglect the orphaned children. One such oppressed orphan complained about this mistreatment to Nabi SAW and together they approached these people and Nabi SAW said: “Do you not fear Allah and the Last Day?” 3 These people began to make fun of the Day of Judgement. Nabi SAW came back dejected and in response to these actions, Allah Almighty revealed the first part of Surah Al-Ma’oon, “Well, have you seen him who belies the Religion? That is, he who drives away the orphan, and does not urge the feeding of the needy……” (S 107 V1-3).

Wellbeing is thus a conscious active process through which individuals become aware of and make choices towards a more successful and fulfilling existence for themselves, their families, and children.

Some of the dimensions of wellbeing that can be nurtured are:

  • Spiritual Dimensions – knowing that life is meaningful, purposeful and that our goal is to worship and please Allah Almighty.
  • Psychological Dimensions – being in touch with one’s own emotional presence, having the emotional skills to express thoughts and feelings and to cope with the projections of the feelings and thoughts of others, and self-motivation.
  • Intellectual – being able to engage and connect with others in the world, continued learning, problem-solving, processing and creativity.
  • Physical – maintaining sound physical health through regular exercise, proper  nutrition, sleep, and good habits.
  • Environmental – healthy work ethic and discipline, respecting nature, and your surroundings.
  • Social – social wellbeing refers to relating, interacting, and communicating well with others.

The Islamic tradition of child wellbeing sponsorship or guardianship of unparented, vulnerable or orphaned children is a long-standing child-care practice throughout Islamic countries and societies and is consistent with Divine Law. A guardian in an arrangement is a means to provide for the vulnerable and/or orphaned child their basic wellbeing and needs. Being a guardian of a child or children, including fostering a child, is considered a virtuous act in Islam, as Nabi SAW too was cared for in this manner. “They ask you (O Muhammad SAW) as to what should they spend, please declare (O Muhammad SAW): “Whatever you spend of good in charity. The most deserving are your parents and near relatives and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarers” and whatever good you do, surely, Allah is fully aware of it,” (S2 V215).

Children who enter institutional care in a group home environment such as the Sultan Bahu Centre typically live there until the age of maturity. Many of these children cared for by the Sultan Bahu Centre, regardless of the child’s background, are considered either deprived, vulnerable or orphaned children. The most agreed upon human rights instrument in the world, which is grounded on the principle of the, ‘best interests of the child’ states, the best interests of children must be the primary concern when making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.

The wellbeing of these children equated to lonely pearls in a shell beneath the deepest of oceans is an obligation conferred by the Divine. Guardians, professional health care providers, sponsors, and community workers should provide what parents are usually expected to provide for their children as a means to reach the Divine through the promise of the company of Nabi Muhammad SAW himself in paradise. May the Sultan Bahu Centre for vulnerable and orphan children continue to grow in Divine Love, Mercy, Gratitude and Splendour.

_ References Quran (Kanzul Imaan), Hadith (Jami Al Tirmidhi), UNICEF Articles, Psychology Articles

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