Family photographs, more than a visualisation of love and memories

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Black and white photographs of my father when he was 10 years old.
Black and white photographs of my father when he was 10 years old.

Tanya Townshend is a fundraiser at Home from Home. Here she shares her memories of her father, and how they relate to South Africa's 2.7 million orphans.


I was recently going through a large, messy box of family photographs, nothing was catalogued or placed in an album, it was just a large pile of images over many decades.

Some of them were fuzzy and arbitrary, but others stopped me in my tracks.

Black and white photographs of my parents when young, when dating, on their wedding day, when my brother and I were young and more.

Precious images that I loved revisiting. I felt so grateful and emotional.

A reflection of days gone by and of wonderful family memories. There was a picture of my father at around age 10, I had never seen it before. I could not stop staring at it.

At that moment, I so badly wanted the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about his childhood.

I can't. He died of cancer in January this year.

Read: Are you normal new-parent tired, or suffering from 'parental burnout'?

No memories of family 

The void his passing has left behind remains huge.

It made me think about how important photographs of our loved ones are and how they seem to gain deeper meaning and significance as time passes.

Imagine being an orphaned or abandoned child and not being able to remember one or both of your parents.

Imagine having no photographs of them or yourself with them. No memories or stories about your family.

The sense of loss, lack of belonging and of confused identity must be enormous.

2.7 million orphans 

In South Africa, with a population of 57 million people, almost 20 million citizens are children under the age of 18.

According to the University of Cape Town's Children's Institute, there are a staggering 2.7 million orphans in South Africa. A large number of these children live in poorer communities and do not reside in the same household as their biological parents.

This parental absence is due to various factors like the death of a parent, poverty, a substance abuse issue, or labour migration.

It is common for relatives, especially grandmothers, to play a substantial role in child-rearing.

Family and care arrangements are often fluid which disrupts education and health.

A functioning, secure 

This harsh South African context made me think about the rewarding and vital work that we carry out at Home from Home, a Non-Profit Organization in the Western Cape.

We provide a second chance for vulnerable children. Our loving family homes, with up to six children per house, are community-based and run by our dedicated foster mothers who epitomise the essential human virtues of Ubuntu: compassion and humanity.

They, in turn, are supported by experienced social workers, tutors and therapists.

Our (almost) 200 children are experiencing what if feels like to belong to a functioning, secure family.

Consider sponsoring a child: www.homefromhome.org.za

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