Ethembeni Children’s home

A place of hope

by Donald Hostetler, Major –

Major Jennifer Wild and Captain Kyle Smith play with children at the Ethembeni Children’s Home.

My wife’s eyes filled with tears as she picked up an 11-day-old, wide-eyed baby boy. There were nine other infants in the room. In the crib behind her was a 2-month-old boy—the same age as our newest grandchild. Two young staff members tended to the needs of the 10 infants in the room. The only person crying was my wife—her emotions a mixture of sadness for the plight of these precious lives and joy for the loving care given by the Ethembeni staff.

Ethembeni is a Xhosa word meaning “Place of Hope.” The Salvation Army Ethembeni Children’s Home strives to provide a safe and loving home for HIV-positive and abandoned children.

Since its opening in November 1995, Ethembeni has been home to thousands of abandoned children. The home cares for newborn babies to children 3 years of age. Currently the home cares for 54 children and has a staff of up to 30.

Sadly, the children who come to Ethembeni have been found in garbage bags, trash cans, taxi stands, dumpsters and garbage dumps. So that every child receives equal love and care, staff members do not know the HIV status of the children and treat each as if he or she is positive.

In a room across the hall, Torrance band members were on the floor playing with toddlers and crawlers. Each of the children seemed to revel in the friendly contact of these strangely dressed folk. The atmosphere was filled with joy in the playground downstairs as musicians played, hugged and snapped photos with happy pre-school children.

No one wanted to leave these children behind. As we left, we found solace in the fact that 95 percent of the children will be adopted and have the opportunity to live in a loving home.

Major Donald Hostettler is currently the divisional commander of the Cascade Division. At the time of the writing of this article, he was serving as principal of the College for Officer’s Training.

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