I find myself in the unique position of not only overseeing and ensuring the smooth running of all things pertaining to the Home and its special needs adults, but also in a parental role, as the home “Dad”, so to speak.
Having personally grown up in a family of eight children, the first ten years with a mostly absent and distant father, I think I learnt something of the significance, way back then, of the need for a solid, present and caring father figure.
My mother remarried when I was ten, and half of us, the not yet adult half, were taken in with open arms by my stepfather, my hero, my Dad. Before us, he’d only had one son, who by then was grown up. They had a daughter together and the family started all over again! All of us were given a loving, warm, welcoming place to call home, and despite the problems we sometimes gave him, he never stopped loving, supporting and deeply caring for us, until the day he died. He was the one who became our children’s grandfather. I learnt a lot about being a role model and father figure from him.
Later, I married and had three children of my own. They, all adults now, are my pride and joy. Yes, along with all the challenges and heartache that parenting can bring, there is also great joy. And I love them. With the arrival of a second and third child, one wonders if your heart has the capacity to love to the extent that you loved the first one. And then one’s heart just has that ability to expand and love another one. And then the first grandchild arrives, and it does it all over again.
Special needs adults can be childlike, but are not children
Whilst our residents are special needs adults and are not children per se, they are by and large childlike in their intellectual capacity. And they are in need of that “father” type figure to help, encourage, care for and support them. Discipline too, when necessary, would come into the equation.
With my combined retail and pastoral background, I never in my life would have imagined myself here. When a retrenchment led me to the UK, doing care work, at the same time as job hunting over there, no one was more surprised than me when I was offered a job back in Pietermaritzburg, managing an old age home.
Apparently, having my heart enlarge to the degree that I was able to care for an old man for nine months, together with my professional and pastoral experience, held me in good stead for that position. And so my heart enlarged further, to embrace all of those dear old folk.
Taking responsibility for special needs adults brings me newfound joy
Then Sunfield Home for intellectually impaired adults came across my radar, and to be brutally honest, once offered the position here, I was terrified! I was not sure how I would cope with both the management responsibilities as well as connecting relationally with the residents. It was simply a great unknown for me.
Well, as it turned out, they, the special needs adult residents, made it so, so easy! For the most part, it is really hard not to love them. They are simply the best! Their tenacity, their strength, their will to overcome, their work ethic, their joy in the simple pleasures of life, their laughter, their hugs, their humour, their vulnerability, their struggles, their weaknesses, for some, their loneliness … 100 plus of them captured my heart!
Working with special needs adults is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had
I can honestly say that even though I know I’m not irreplaceable, and they’ll soon forget me when it is my time to move on, being at Sunfield Home, for special needs adults, has vocationally been the most rewarding of job I’ve ever been blessed to hold. I have learnt so much. My heart has grown in ways previously unimaginable to me. What a wonderful journey it has been.
Can you help me bless the home a little more?
Many of our special needs adults have lost their parents and the home has to fundraise to support them. If you have a heart and are able to contribute to the care of orphan special needs adults, please donate here.