Trauma turns into triumph

Shaun Gillham

WHEN MTR Smit Children’s Haven director Dr Crystal Watson lost both her parents at the age of nine, she believed her life had come to the “end of the road”.

But in a remarkable turnaround, Watson and her siblings, who were raised by their grandparents, have gone on to be become highly educated professionals and socially responsible parents and inspirations to orphaned children.

Watson’s story and those of adoptive parents in Nelson Mandela Bay have been told during national Child Protection Week.

“My parents died in a car accident in 1972, when I was nine. I was the only girl out of five children and I was devastated and thought that this was the end of the road.

“But then I had to make a decision – I could give up on everything, or I could see that the end of the road was actually a bend in the road and that life can go on and I could make the best of it.”

While one of her brothers is still studying, Watson, who has now gained 30 years’ experience in the welfare field, and her three other brothers went on to earn doctorates, build families and successful lives. “My message to children who find themselves in those very terrible circumstances is that they must make a decision to go on and make the best of their lives,” she said.

In another inspiration to orphaned or abandoned children, Sinethemba Soldati, 24, of Soweto-on-Sea in Port Elizabeth, lost both parents in quick succession at the age of 15.

Within the next year, he also lost his only brother.

His grandmother, Nomalizo Mabukane, 71, took him under her wing under extremely difficult financial circumstances.

Today, Soldati is completing his third year of studies in marketing management at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and he hopes to embark on a BTech course next year.

“It was very, very tough. Some of the effects of losing both my parents are only starting to emerge today.

“I was very fortunate to be assisted by the Ubuntu Education Fund and, of course, my grandmother, who gave me every psychological and emotional support,” he said.

Meanwhile, adoptive parent and Port Elizabeth “home-maker” Michelle Brown, who already had three of her own biological daughters, adopted two young girls around four years ago. They are now aged five and six.

Asked whether her adoptive children questioned their situation, Brown said: “I tell them my elder children are from my tummy and they are from my heart.”

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