When we talk with people, we find that they often assume Acres of Love is an orphanage. While we are a registered Child and Youth Care Centre and NPO in South Africa, “orphanage” is not a term that best describes our model of care. While institutions offer survival, we seek to rescue children and create families where children have everything needed to thrive. We thought it might be helpful to invite our global friends on a photographic journey of a typical day in the life of our Forever Families.
When a child arrives to Acres of Love, they join a long-term Forever Family where they are able to form important relationships with both their caregivers and new siblings.
Our Forever Family Homes are single-family houses, located in suburban neighborhoods throughout Johannesburg and Cape Town. Our homes are strategically purchased in cluster regions, with three to four homes located in close proximity.
Some of our homes are literally next door to each other, but most are sprinkled throughout a neighborhood. This allows our families to truly function as extended family to each other, sharing social workers and other important resources like carpool. Our children in each region gain de-facto siblings, cousins, and protective aunties.
This allows for weekend braais, shared experiences, and important layers of support. Our House Mamas love to work together… when one child needs cupcakes for school, a mama next door might come over to help bake! There is a very rich sense of camaraderie and community among our Forever Families.
Regardless of what the typical day brings, our House Mamas are up bright and early in our homes! Along with their House Parent Assistant, they are waking the children, getting everyone dressed for the day, and getting breakfast to the table. We are very focused on ensuring healthy diets for each of our families which allows our moms to create meal plans and grocery shop every week for fresh produce and ingredients.
After breakfast, our older children help pack lunches and prepare for the school day. Our transport team of dedicated “uncles” drives to each home to collect our students and transport them all to their various schools. With 29 Forever Family Homes, over 30 schools, and multiple children in wheelchairs, this is quite the feat!
After the students are off to a day of learning, our littlest ones settle into their daily routines. Our team creates a monthly plan for our little ones, filled with daily diets of developmental play. We explore nature, textures, and sounds.
Our Forever Homes have been gifted with amazing play sets where our children can expend a lot of their extra energy! Our children love to swing, climb, and imagine together in our peaceful gardens.
For the colder months, our garages have been outfitted as recreational rooms filled with craft tables and toys to keep our little ones busy and engaged.
After our uncles complete school drop offs, they often drive back to our homes to shuttle moms and young ones to medical or therapy appointments.
We work with amazing occupational and physical therapists who provide our youngest children with important early intervention therapies to combat severe malnutrition or address the affects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, or other developmental delays.
These appointments take a lot of energy, and it’s back home for a healthy lunch and rest time. Our younger children settle in with books or take afternoon naps, and this routine helps them unwind from the morning and have a quiet space of their own in the midst of a home filled with siblings!
Each child has his or her own bed in a shared room and we work diligently to create spaces that are well kept, colorful, and inviting.
Our House Mamas and Assistants take this chance to catch up on laundry and begin dinner preparations.
If you visited, you’d see that our homes are filled with clean and comfortable furnishings, and our volunteers have done an incredible job of making each house feel like a family home. Family photos and crafts fill the walls, along with local art that celebrates South African culture.
After school, our students arrive back home ready for a large snack and homework help. Some of our children have sports, art, or music lessons after school, and our transport team works to get everyone home in time for family dinner together. Family dinners happen each night, and our children sit around the table with their House Parents, enjoying healthy meals made from scratch.
Some of our older children enjoy helping to prepare the meals, and we even have multiple young adults who are now pursuing culinary professions!
Bedtime is a sacred space in our Forever Family Homes, marked with traditions and routines that help even our most traumatized children feel safe and secure. Giving baths, brushing teeth, reading bedtime stories, and saying prayers all happen with a gentle and loving approach as we usher our children to sleep.
Knowing that many of our children were severely neglected and/or abandoned, nighttime can be especially hard. We work to help our children know that we are present and available, even throughout the night.
Our goal is to provide routine, structure, dignity, and unconditional love every day to our children…these are the simple but important pieces of HOME. As you can see, Acres of Love is so much more than an institution. Every choice we make is anchored in the belief that our children deserve the highest level of medical, educational, and emotional care. Thank you for partnering with us to rescue children and create families!