'Turning lemons into lemonade': Mom with troubled childhood opens an NPO to help pregnant teens finish school

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"Mom with troubled childhood opened an NPO to help pregnant teens finish school." Photo: Getty Images
"Mom with troubled childhood opened an NPO to help pregnant teens finish school." Photo: Getty Images

Salome Vonita Tadford's story is not for the fainthearted. The story of her childhood details one horror after another, but she did not let this stop her.

Now Tadford runs an organisation that helps other's who might find themselves in such trouble to fight back and overcome to still be able to become successful adults. 

At just eight years old she was sexually groomed and molested by an adult male in a daycare facility while her mom was at work.

When she was 12 years old in Grade 5 she fell pregnant with a baby girl, after a male friend of her parents visited her in her bedroom while her dad was asleep.

When she turned 13, her parents got divorced, and one day Child Welfare came and took young Tadford's daughter away.

A year later, in 1981, her half-brother sexually assaulted her and she fell pregnant. After her son was born, he was also taken from her, and Tadford never saw him again.

Tadford could not finish high school, due to the trauma she experienced at the time.

How the NPO started

Nonetheless, having such troubled childhood did not make Tadford sit back and pity herself, she moved forward and started her non-profit organisation Kids in Distress South Africa with her two daughters.

Tadford tells us that she was inspired to start the group when, towards the end of 2019, a pregnant 15-year-old knocked on her door asking for food.

She assisted the girl and started developing a relationship with her, when learned that this teen was no longer attending school.

"My husband and I started researching how we could assist her to continuing with her basic school education. Regrettably, this was a slow process of communication between learnership centres and us," Tadford told us.

"With much disappointment, due to the lockdown announced in March 2020, we lost all contact with this young girl and all attempts to trace her have failed," she says.

But Tadford and her husband decided to continue to find ways to help other girls out there who are just like this child.

Also read: 'Their hope to escape poverty is through education': How a local NPO tutored over 240 students using Whatsapp

What the NPO delivers

"Kids in Distress South Africa renders support to pregnant teenagers and their newborn babies with the vision to ensure the soon-to-be new mothers complete their basic education to Grade 12," Tadford explains.

The group is in talks with several institutions offering online education from Grade 7 to 12, and will now be able to offer underage pregnant school-going children an opportunity to continue with their education from Grade 4 to Grade 12.

"Wherever possible, we would like to offer underage pregnant girls the opportunity of inclusion in one of the available 'Online Learnership' programs to help her complete Grade 12," Tadford says.

By so doing, the pregnant learner will not be subjected to the stigma-induced attitudes around teenage pregnancy, and she will also have time to care for her newborn baby.

Must read: Author and HIV activist writes children's book to 'continue destigmatising HIV'

A shelter to offer full tuition

Kids in Distress South Africa is looking into purchasing a free-standing secured house in the Krugersdorp West region, to offer full-time tuition for ten candidates and include on-site facilities for baby care.

Qualified social workers will assess the expectant teenage moms to see their willingness and desire to join the candidates that will complete their schooling on this programme.

Pregnancy life skills training, antenatal visits and transport will be arranged. "Nutritional needs will be supplied to ensure the mother-to-be receives adequate nutrition in care for herself and the unborn baby," she adds.

Once the mother gives birth, the baby will be cared for in their on-site baby facility until they are four months old, and once the teenage mother finishes her Grade 12, she will be assisted by Kids in Distress South Africa to obtain employment.

To learn more about this initiative, visit Kids in Distress South Africa.  

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