100 years of caring for children

The Children’s Memorial Institute, Johannesburg’s first hospital dedicated to children, was a fitting location for the launch of child protection week on 27 May. Compassionate Friends (TCF) joined a number of organisations, including Women and Men Against Child Abuse, Courage Child Protection, Lefika la Phodiso, The Shaken and Abused Baby Initiative and Community Hours, to remember all children who have died over the past 100 years in Johannesburg.

Although no longer a hospital, the Children’s Memorial Institute is now home to over 30 child protection organisations and care facilities. It is the heartbeat of central Johannesburg’s community and continues to serve 100 years after its creation, as a living memorial to the children of Johannesburg who died in the Great War.

The day started with the creation of a living memorial in the Ruth Drubin Memorial Garden at the Children’s Memorial Institute. Candles were lit, incense was burned, children and adults attached loving notes to children who have died on the wall amongst the exquisite TCF butterflies that our members had spent the previous few weeks creating.

After a time of contemplation in the garden, we moved to the memorial hall where Luke Lamprecht, the event organiser, recited the lines of a Leonard Cohen Poem…

Compassionate Friends represented by Isobel Ferreira, Cordelia Job (#notinourcommunity) and Kate Shand all spoke and remembered children lost to drugs, violence, suicide and illness.

As part of the day’s events, there was an exhibition of portraits and plaques honouring, and giving a face to the children and babies who have died with no champion to remember them.

It was a heart-wrenching day of grief and pain and loss – a shared cry from the hearts of parents who loved and lost their children, and from the children who died at the hands of their caregivers through neglect and/or violence. We hope this will become an annual event that TCF and our butterflies in the memorial garden will multiply and delight those who visit.

For the launch of Child Protection Week, Lefika, along with various other organisations, partook in the CMI Buildings Remembrance Day event. Under the banner of #BabiesMatter, the different organisations got together to create a living memorial as a way of remembering children that are no longer with us. As one of the many organisations working with children in the CMI Building, Lefika was more than honoured to be a part of this event. As part of our contribution to the living memorial, the children from Lefika were invited to create hand print flowers on board canvas for children that had passed on. These artworks were then mounted on the wall of the living garden space. The concept revolved around ideas of growth, possibility, unity and being witnessed. It also touched on leaving our mark behind and represented reaching out and acknowledging those children that are no longer alive because they were not protected.

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