The decision to volunteer at the labour ward at Somerset hospital led retired nurse Marilyn May on a journey to starting a safe home for babies.
Ms May opened Atlantic Hope in Sea Point eight years ago, providing a temporary and immediate place of safety for babies, as well as seeing to their basic needs.
The home had a visit from Miss Deaf SA finalist and Gardens resident Marisa Smit, on Women’s Day, August 9.
Ms Smit wanted to teach volunteers about the journey of dealing with a deaf child and raise awareness about the options available for young girls when they are unable to raise their children.
“I want to teach young girls that their unplanned pregnancy was not the end of the road but it could be the beginning of someone else’s opened arms to educate a little baby, care for it and make its life complete,” she said.
Ms May believes she answered her calling when she found herself at a crossroads. She went to volunteer at the Somerset Hospital labour ward and a fellow colleague asked her to go help the moms with their breastfeeding. It was then that she saw an abandoned baby for the first time.
“One reads about such stories in the media but to actually see it with my own eyes was a life-changing moment for me,” she said.
Ms May wanted to raise the child as her own, so she went to the social worker to find out about the adoption process.
“There was this long passage to get to the social worker and maybe there, I can cite Mr Mandela on his long walk, and say it was my own long walk to finding the Atlantic Hope,” said Ms May.
The social worker told her she could not adopt the baby because there was a place where they would take the babies to and she explained the need for such spaces.
Ms May has since been looking after abandoned infants. The babies stay at the centre until they get adopted. She works with volunteers and more closely with Synthia Jacobs, who used to look after Ms May’s own children when she was still working as a nurse.
The home is legally approved to house up to six babies temporarily. Ms May said they would love to have a bigger space to accommodate more babies for longer stays and provide care while the legal decisions and proceedings determining the child’s future were being conducted.
Ms May said they were privileged and proud to have Ms Smit at the home.
“She has come so far in life as a young woman and having the mom that she has, Annemarie Smit, is a story on its own. Had I had a deaf child, I don’t know if I’d have achieved what she has achieved; she truly turned a hopeless situation into a hopeful one,” said Ms May.