LOVE, PATIENCE AND UBUNTU

At the age of 13, Gogo Santi was advised by social workers to tell him that she is not his biological mother. “He thought I was joking and just laughed. It took a while to sink in and he started becoming distant. Little did he know that the following year, I would have to reveal why he had been taking medication. I did not know how to explain to a child what antiretrovirals are,” she expressed.
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  • Elegant and Resilient: Gogo Nomvula Santi, a 72-year-old foster mother from Dobsonville, exudes elegance and determination. Clad in a stylish dusty orange jacket, she attended the International Day of Families commemoration in Orlando, Soweto, showcasing her commitment to family and community.
  • Challenges and Triumphs: Despite facing significant challenges, including caring for an HIV-positive child found abandoned in a bin, Gogo Santi’s unwavering love and dedication shine through. Her journey, marked by traumatic experiences and emotional struggles, highlights her resilience and the transformative power of foster care.
  • Advocacy and Support: Gogo Santi’s story underscores the importance of social support and advocacy. With the help of social workers, she navigates complex issues, striving to provide a stable and loving home. Her ongoing efforts to support her foster son’s education and mental health reflect her commitment to ensuring a brighter future for her children.

By Nomfundo Xulu-Lentsoane

Clad in a stylish dusty orange jacket, a grey top and skirt suit and kitten heels, Gogo Nomvula Santi exudes elegance. The 72-year-old attended the International Day of Families commemoration which took place in Orlando – Soweto on Friday, 24 May.

“I am about to order my uber. I am going to a church community outreach in my area. I live in Dobsonville which is not that far from here,” said the well-spoken mother of eight.

None of the children are biologically hers. She is a foster care mother. “I have five girls and three girls who all reside in my home. The oldest is 20 and the youngest is 3 years of age,” she explained.

The journey for Gogo Santi has not been smooth sailing, in fact, she has faced some of the most traumatic challenges. She relates a story of one of her children, who was found in a bin in the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD) 19 years ago.

“My boy was one day old when he found. Because I have always worked with Childline, the child was brought to me by them and the police because Ilitha, a registered Non-Profit Organisation, is a safe haven for children,” she says.

When the young man was six months of age, it was discovered during a general health checkup that he is HIV positive. This devastated Gogo Santi but did not dampen her spirits. “Social workers advised that I send him to Cotlands because of the diagnosis but I refused. He was my baby and still is,” she said.

At the age of 13, Gogo Santi was advised by social workers to tell him that she is not his biological mother. “He thought I was joking and just laughed. It took a while to sink in and he started becoming distant. Little did he know that the following year, I would have to reveal why he had been taking medication. I did not know how to explain to a child what antiretrovirals are,” she expressed.

It took assistance from social workers for her to be able to sit her son down. “He asked where he got HIV from and where his parents are. This broke my heart,” the former old-age-home caregiver conveyed.

In 2023, this youth stopped taking his medication and his health started deteriorating. Gogo Santi said she could not understand why he had done so as he seemed to have accepted his condition. “He was suicidal. He used to say that he is a reject and that no one wants him, so nothing matters anymore. This was after he had passed his matric with good results but could not get enrolled into an institution. His dream is to be a lawyer. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NFSAS) had approved him. He is still sitting at home to date and wants to go work. I am stressing that he focusses on school in order for his dream to become a reality,” she emphasised.

When the young man was diagnosed with Tuberculosis earlier in the year, he began taking his life more seriously and is committed to his medical treatment. “It took a lot of work with social workers and eventually a psychologist to get him to be a positive child again. His future is bright. We just need to have hope and never forget the spirit of ubuntu. My children are my family and although some have been adopted over the years, I take pride in knowing that I played my part and that the eight who are with me will also flourish,” she concluded.

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