20.02.17 | News, A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember...

Visiting Elim Home Christine Grötzinger, Head of Project Funding at EMS, made an unexpected discovery: The home of the Moravian Church of South Africa (MCSA) not only houses disabled children but also adults
Marco and his friend in Elim Home/South Africa

No fear of contact: Marco (left) with one of his mates. (Photo: EMS/Lohnes)

"Our biggest challenge are not the children," says Lesinda Cunningham, manager of Elim Home when I come to visit the institution together with a group of international delegates of the EMS General Meeting. "Our problems are the children who came here 20 years ago when we started this project. Most of them still live here because their parents do not want them back."

And when we enter the first fondly furnished living room we indeed meet a group of young men who all seem to have different signs of physical and mental disabilities. This was not what we expected. The group of eight welcomes us happily and loudly. I notice that some members of our group have difficulty to get in touch with these adults who diverge in their looks and behaviour that much from the norm.

But our opposite does not have any fears of contact and takes over control. One of the men, he must be in the middle of his twenties, links arms with me and shows me around in his little world: the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom of the group. Marco can mainly talk through gestures and sounds with me and we understand each other very well. After my little tour we come back into the living room and the picture I see is totally different: each of the residents has gotten in touch with one of the visitors. They are amazed by their skin colour or hair, show them self-painted pictures or the sun outside and talk to them in their very own ways. And the visitors, some excited, some shy and astonished, join in.

Later on, we talk once more with Lesinda Cunningham about the grown up disabled children. They were the first generation of children with disabilities who were not hidden and neglected by their families anymore. Instead they were admitted in institutions like Elim Home which took care of them. Once they grow up South Africa provides no opportunities for them where they can go and be looked after. Because Lesinda Cunningham and her team do not want to send them back to their families by force they initiated adult groups in their home. Of course, this is not a long-term solution. The visit at Elim Home was for me and my group an impressive experience and an impulse for the EMS Fellowship and the MCSA to discuss together how the church can organise the work of adults with disabilities in future.

Christine Grötzinger