Amahle and Siyanda, like many children, find great joy in the simplest things. For Amahle, a 12-year-old girl, it’s playing netball with her team at school. For 8-year-old Siyanda, it’s riding his scooter through their neighborhood.
And no matter what they’re doing, Amahle and Siyanda find their greatest joy in being together. Amahle looks after Siyanda, and Siyanda looks up to Amahle. They are each other’s family.
Their relationship—and the simple moments they spend together—are what make childhood special.
But in many ways, Amahle and Siyanda are not like other children. Their chance at a happy and safe childhood is at risk. In April of this year, the siblings became orphans when their mom died of cancer.
Now, they’re vulnerable to the many challenges orphans face worldwide. We know that the childhood years are some of the most formative of a person’s life—and Amahle and Siyanda are right in the middle of those years. The decisions they make (and the ones made for them) will shape their personalities, wellbeing, and future permanently.
When the siblings’ mother passed away, her dying wish was for her children to be placed in an orphanage. For a mother in her situation, it seemed like the only option. But if Amahle and Siyanda had been placed in an orphanage as their mother had requested, there was not promise they could stay together.
Beyond the risk of separation, orphanages in South Africa don’t always provide the best care for children, according to Siphesihle Khumalo, Program Director and Social Worker with CERI South Africa. Institutional care can’t always meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of children in the same way a parent or a family does.
When CERI began working with Amahle and Siyanda, we were dedicated to giving them the best childhood possible. In this case, that meant finding a family for them to live with. After working closely with child protective services as well as a local community worker, we discovered that Amahle and Siyanda had a living aunt who could take them in. Together, Amahle and Siyanda’s care team decided the best situation would be to place the kids in foster care with their aunt and only living family member.
It wasn’t a perfect solution. Often in cases of orphanhood, the solutions are imperfect. But Amahle and Siyanda now have a chance to grow up with a loving caregiver within their own family—and they get to stay together.
We believe every childhood is valuable, and a child’s future should never be taken lightly. The story of Amahle and Siyanda is an example of how we can rally together and protect the joy and safety of childhood.
For now, Amahle and Siyanda live in a loving home together with their aunt, with whom they have a wonderful relationship. Amahle and Siyanda were given a second chance at childhood and the gift of being together—but there are millions of other children who are waiting for that same opportunity.