Although she laughs often and has a smile that brightens up the darkest of days, life has not been easy for 8-year-old Blessing Bogatsu.
Born into poverty, severely epileptic and confined to a wheelchair, Blessing has already endured more than most.
Struck by Blessing’s plight, the Mogoditshane-based Cheshire Foundation have offered her a place at their school.
However, there is a problem.
The youngster’s mother, 32-year-old Joyce Bogatsu cannot afford the basic items Blessing needs for everyday life at the boarding facility.
Desperate and unsure where else to turn, Joyce has made an impassioned plea to members of the public to help her buy a suitcase, clothes and toiletry for her child so that she can finally go to school.
“I need a bag, clothes (9-10 years size), a towel, sleepwear and toiletry before I can take her there. I was given a list of items to bring when I take her to the centre. But as you can see, I am a needy person, I have no income and I struggle to even buy sanitaries for my child,” explains the unemployed mum, speaking to The Voice from her humble home in Maun as her two daughters – Blessing and her five-year-old sister – look on quietly.
Joyce’s boyfriend – the children’s father – is also unemployed, further compounding the family’s economic woes.
“He is struggling to make ends meet. He is trying to keep bread on the table and gets up early every day to look for temporary jobs. If he is lucky he gets something, but most days are tough. So the little he gets we keep for rent and food. We cannot afford to buy any other thing besides the very basics such as disposable nappies and others.”
Joyce says she receives no help from the rest of her family, who she claims have effectively abandoned her and her children.
“Caring for a child with epilepsy is not easy and you can imagine how it feels when you have no money to buy basics and there is no family to support you. When you have a child with a disability, your relatives sort of distance themselves from you. It is like it is an abomination, as though it is your fault. I am very much alone!”
According to Joyce, her daughter was born fit and healthy. She suspects it was witchcraft from a relative that cursed her firstborn’s wellbeing.
“At two weeks old, a relative who volunteered to help me in the house during my early days as a new mother, burnt some herbs inside the room where the baby was sleeping. I was shocked and asked her if she was not aware that the smoke may harm the baby. But she said the herbs were harmless as they were meant to protect the child from ailment,” narrates Joyce, becoming increasingly emotional.
The following day, Blessing refused to breastfeed and her fontanelle (space between the bones of the skull in an infant or fetus) had sunken.
“I rushed the baby to the hospital where she later underwent surgery on her head. The woman relative called me when I was in hospital and told me that there is no way the baby will survive.”
Determined to channel all her energies into helping her child recover, Joyce did not report the matter to the police.
“At the time, I had no idea that she may never really recover from this. But I have learnt to accept and live with it,” she says, her eyes glistening with tears as she explains all she wants now is for her daughter to go to school so that she can start looking for a job and help her boyfriend raise the children in a financially stable home.
“My wish is to start a small business, that is if I can manage a start up fund. Right now my other daughter goes to Adam and Eve Daycare Centre. They have been good to me and taken my child in without any school fees. Above that, they help transport Blessing to Tshidilong Centre for physical therapy.”
Adam and Eve Daycare is run by a local non government organisation, Shelter Botswana, a charity centre that caters for orphans and vulnerable children.
“We admit children from vulnerable backgrounds including orphans and children raised by needy single parents. We also assist people living with HIV/AIDS and occasionally do random home visits. We also help those in need like Blessing’s mother to get her child to Tshidilong. We do not have much, otherwise we could help more, but we also depend on donors and goodwill of the community,” stated the Shelter’s director and founder, George Zulu.
Just this past Saturday, a local private school, Matshwane Primary School, spent time with these vulnerable children and gave them gifts.
“To some, it may look like a small gesture, but to me and my children, it is a big blessing. My girls will have a change of clothes, they get to taste chocolate after a long time!” says Joyce when we meet again at the centre, both her daughters smiling happily as they munch away on their sugary treats seemingly without a care in the world.
What causes Epilepsy or seizures in babies?
There are many causes of seizures in babies. In around 8 out of 10 babies with seizures, a cause will be found. These are the most common:
• Being born very early, and having bleeding inside the brain. This is called intracranial haemorrhage
• Being born on time but having a lack of oxygen to the brain. This is called perinatal hypoxia and can cause an injury to the brain called ‘hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy’
• Having low levels of glucose, calcium or sodium in the blood
• Having an infection such as meningitis or encephalitis
• Being born with some damage to their brain. This is called cerebral dysplasia or dysgenesis. Cerebral means relating to the brain. Dysplasia or dysgenesis means unusual development
Source: Epilepsy action, Uk.