In an unexpected turn of events, a local journalist provided a Cape Town family with a glimmer of hope, after sharing a video of their story. Photo journalist, Yazeed Kamaldien, uploaded a video titled ‘A Humble Krismis’ with the goal of shedding light on the grim lived experiences of countless Cape Town families during the festive season, a stark contrast to the consumer culture that floods the City’s malls during this period. The short video shows the story of Rowena Derby, a foster parent of six children living in the Cape Flats suburb of Athlone and shows how through her financial hardships, she is finally able to cook Christmas lunch for her children for the first time.
Kamaldien explains that while he knew Derby for some time, it was only on the day before Christmas that he realised the extent of the difficulties she faces, having to provide and care for her six nieces and nephews.
“I had my camera with me and I was talking to her about social grants. I wanted to know what she gets and I started recording with my camera.”
Having been inspired by Derby’s story, Kamaldien decided to edit his footage and published a short video about her story on his social media platforms.
To his surprise, the three-minute video soon attracted individuals who were equally touched by the family’s story, many offering words of support, as well as assistance.
“I mean someone contacted me from Australia saying they want to help [and] another person called me from Germany,” Kamaldien stated.
‘A Humble Krismis’ has since been met with messages of support and gracious offerings of assistance, having been viewed over 51 000 times and shared 816 times by Tuesday morning.
‘I made it my obligation to give them Christmas lunch’
Derby explains that enjoying Christmas for her and the children traditionally meant visiting family members who opened their homes, but after pleas from the children, she made it her obligation to ensure that the children enjoy a Christmas at home.
“We were so blessed on Christmas that I actually said go find someone else to have Christmas with us and someone came in and we gave him.”
The foster mom says that she was previously able to care for her homes when she housed her Niece Mikayla from the age of three months, the girl now a fully grown 16-year-old teen.
As the eldest of six children, five of whom are addicted to drugs, things took a turn for Derby when her sibling’s children needed a place to call home.
“Then my brother’s son – he was 15 – said he wants to stay with me, because ‘my mommy and my daddy’. Then I said no, ‘I can’t have you too’ and he showed me he will just stay.”
Her mother, who was caring for her five-year-old granddaughter, subsequently moved into Derby’s home along with the little, who is soon to enter high school.
Just over one year ago, social services removed her brother’s 5-year-old, 4-year-old and 12-year-old daughter, Rabia.
“I actually said no, I said I can’t do it. I said Rabia can stay, but [for] the two small ones I wasn’t ready. They went to Vision [Child and Youth Care Centre]…After three months, they called me and said ‘please take the children’, and I said okay.”
Soon after the three children were brought into Derby’s care, she was informed that their mother was once expecting a fourth child.
“Baraka was born and my mother said please you have to do something, because all kinds of funny things are happening and that is how I ended up with six.”
Despite the difficulties she and her children face, Derby says she wants the children to grow-up knowing that “this is not it – there is more to life.”
As a foster mother of six, she says she encourages her children to enter society with purpose, adding value to the lives of each individual they meet.
“I am not in this alone, there are millions of mothers who are going through the same thing…[But] you cant just want, you have to make a difference on your own.”
If you wish to assist Rowena Derby and her children, contact her on 073 478 7264.