In 2009 there was a spate of murders in Pietermaritzburg, Kwa Zulu Natal in which mothers killed their unwanted babies. Some of the babies were as old as 3 months when they were murdered and some gruesome methods — such as screwdriver through the head — were used to kill them.
One baby survived an attempt to kill her and a safe home is now named after her. Thandi House was opened by a young Maritzburg couple, Mark and Rene Morcom in 2009 in response to the obvious need, starting a journey that continues to this day. Currently the Morcoms have embarked by faith on a new building project to meet further pressing needs of their expanding ministry of compassion, trusting that other caring people will help to meet the costs.
Back in 2009, before she was rescued and adopted by the Morcoms, baby Thandi’s mother put her out with the rubbish in a black bag and left her to die. A man noticed the bag moving and thought it was a dog. He walked on but was prompted to turn back, where he discovered the baby in the bag. She was the only infant to survive the spate of grisly murders.
At the time the couple adopted Thandi, whose name, very appropriately, means love, the Morcoms only had one biological child of 3 years old. They were provided with a run-down home within a nature reserve in a wealthy area in order to establish a baby safe where desperate mothers could safely abandon their babies, knowing that they would be retrieved by caring people. They have a long term municipal lease on the property, paying a low rental and doing all their own maintenance. The baby safe project grew into the present safe house which has been home to as many as 26 children at once. Currently there are 16 children in Thandi House.
Thandi House started as a part of a faith-based pro-life project aimed at helping with crisis pregnancies. Because the project was grounded in God with the intent of giving each mother and child the love and care they deserve, the Morcoms felt that it was not enough to just counsel expectant moms but that there needed to be a home for the baby if the mom chose to not keep her baby. Babies are accommodated in Thandi House during the cooling off period before adoption takes place. The Morcoms work alongside local social workers who facilitate the legal side of adoption. If a mom decides to keep her baby, they make sure she has a year’s supply of nappies, formula, clothing and other necessities.
The couple have tried to create as normal a family life as they can at Thandi House by taking the children for rides to the shops when thereʼs shopping to be done — this kind of thing does not normally take place in bigger institutional places. They did not want the children to feel that they were there just because the Government had placed them there, but because they were loved and wanted. All the children are home schooled by Rene. She also loves the fact that the children get to experience a faithful God and see miracles of provision on an ongoing basis.
The Morcoms have found that the more they deal with social issues, the more they feel a need to do more. At the moment they deal with abandoned and abused babies and toddlers, with potential abortion strongly in the mix. They have one helper who comes in from Monday to Friday and Mark does all the night duty at present. They have a friend who comes to help from time to time to give them a break. Their busy lives do not stop there as they are also involved in other community work like handing out food parcels and Bibles and they have a ministry to prostitutes on Saturday nights where they form relationships and give gifts of shampoo and lipstick. They also have a vision to set up a womenʼs shelter for victims of domestic violence and pregnant moms. They certainly have a lot of love to give.
A lot of the children at Thandi House do not get adopted due to disability and AIDS and this has prompted the couple to start building another house on the property, especially for those who will stay long-term. They feel they cannot put these children out on the street once they reach 18, but should offer them a home for as long as they need it. Their vision is for the new house to be a proper long term facility and for the current home to become a crisis centre for children coming in for the first time.
The Morcoms deal with a lot of rape victims and they would like to separate those who are further along in their healing from those who are highly traumatised, as those who have been there longer tend to relive the event all over again.
The building of the new house is underway and so far Mark and Rene have raised about 80% of the costs, leaving them with a shortfall of about R40 000. The new building is a log cabin style home. The children moving across already know which room belongs to who. The Morcoms hope to duplicate this style of home again in the future, but for now are really trusting that donations will come in and it can be completed within the next few months. Mr Price Home has donated many of the kitchen items needed, they have had curtains donated and a local hardware has funded the septic tank. They receive no funding through Government or Welfare and so rely on the generosity of the local community and churches.
There are quite a few special needs babies and children which is obviously a long term concern. At the end of last year the couple had a little girl adopted by an American family, and they have recently connected with a strong advocate in America who has been
instrumental in many special needs babies and children finding forever families.
Rene says she finds it so important that they function within the home as a couple as the children have a godly male influence in their lives. They have had many little girls come in from sexual abuse cases and at first they donʼt want to go anywhere near Mark. However, as time goes on he is the perfect person for them to rebuild their trust in men, as they experience a fatherʼs love and can interact with a man without sex being involved.
The Morcom family sacrificed jobs, medical aid and so-called normal family living when they started Thandi House, but they say that although many people say our reward is in heaven, they feel they are being rewarded here on earth every time they see the process of a battered child receiving love and becoming whole again. If you would like more information, or would like to donate to this cause, please make contact via www.assist.za.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.