While the place I thought I would intern didn't work out, luckily I was presented another opportunity to intern with social workers at a small place in the Upper Crossroads Township called Beautiful Gate. So I showed up for my first day with no idea what to expect and no idea about the place, but excited to find out. Upon my arrival, I learned all that I needed to know about the organization. Beautiful Gate is a Christian run organization and houses children that are all HIV positive. Right now there are sixteen children from ages one to thirteen that are housed here. Most of the kids arrive at Beautiful Gate after extended hospital stays due to their HIV status and their contraction of TB, which is a common illness here in South Africa, unlike the U.S. Beautiful Gate’s main goal is to try and reunify the children with their families through a gradual process. Unfortunately, most of the children at Beautiful Gate have lost their mothers and other close family members from the same illnesses that landed them at Beautiful Gate, so the next goal of the staff is to try and place the children in foster homes or with some other close family member if there are any willing to take the child. Technically Beautiful Gate is meant for children ten and younger, and they try to keep children no longer than six months to a year. But the sad reality is that most of the kids that are currently at Beautiful Gate have been here for years and are technically too old to be living here but have nowhere else to go until the program can find them alternative housing. It is a sad reality in South Africa and Beautiful Gate is only one of many programs that are trying to help children out in South Africa but have nowhere stable to place them.
I am working in the social work cottage at the facility and it is my job to run a group in the afternoons. I work with three older girls that are ages eleven to thirteen and there is a thirteen year old boy that occasionally joins our group. None of these children have mothers or any close family that is willing to take care of them or even visit them. It is my job to hold group sessions to counsel the children on their loss through subtle activities geared to help with emotion management, positive self-image, and life skills. Most of these children have been rejected by those closest to them their entire lives, and it is hard to get past all the anger and the walls that they have built up over the years.
I have a little over one week left here at Beautiful Gate. This entire experience has cemented my decision for my future career choice and I could not have asked for a better internship experience. Everyone at this facility has been generous to me in terms of sharing their career experience, helping me to understand the children that I am working with, and feeding me home cooked meals occasionally. When it comes time to leave Beautiful Gate, it will be like leaving a family; a family that has brought me many laughs, unconditional and blind love, and life skills that will forever stay with me.