The history of Barnswallows goes back to nearly 11 years ago, when René Testa opened her home to abandoned babies with the help of her daughter, Monique. A pair of malnourished and alcohol damaged twins were put into our care. The one twin sadly passed away after 2 months in hospital, but the road to recovery started with the little boy, weighing a mere 1.9 Kg at the age of 5 1/2 months. He was diagnosed with many delays and ailments, among other things with fetal alcohol syndrome and cerebral palsy. We landed up with specialists and therapists who assisted us in healing this boy, who today is a healthy gymnast, leading the way for Barnswallows to help many more children with neurological and physical delays.
Barnswallows provided an emotionally and intellectually enriching environment for abandoned, neglected, abused and special needs babies for 7 years, after which we were instrumental in opening a second Home based on the same ‘green’ principles. Through our policy on nutritional excellence, and by following the principles for healthy, toxin free living, we not only provided shelter for more than 40 babies who were safely adopted into forever families, but made it our aim to ensure that the less fortunate ones with special needs would overcome there developmental delays. Healthy babies were adopted nationally, as well as internationally, while forever families were also found for special needs babies.
Our model: Orphans (mostly premature, HIV+, alcohol infected, malnourished) were given an opportunity to bond emotionally with a primary caregiver (not less than 1 caregiver per 2 babies); we intervened cognitively/intellectually in the crucial phase of age 0-7 so that they could become contributing members of the community, combating crime/psychopathic behavior in later life; we established excellent eating habits with good nutrition, enhancing effectiveness of medical treatment, boosting the immune system; made use of alternative healing methods combined with medical expertise to keep our babies healthy. The focus was on prevention and treatment to reduce/eradicate as much as possible without drugs. Experts in the medical/therapeutic field of play, music and art therapy became involved and an early reading/maths program based on the program by Glenn Doman was utilized. This focus on an enriching environment is what made Barnswallows seriously unique compared to other Babies’ Homes. As a consultant for The Natural Way, René regularly provides training on healthy living and good eating habits at the JUST Health presentations, where we give adoptive parents, health workers, caregivers and house parents as well as the general public the opportunity to change to a healthy lifestyle. We have seen excellent results with children on the special needs spectrum, and also want to encourage you to attend our monthly meetings on healthy living.
Changing the landscape for the vulnerable in South Africa
In 2009 Barnswallows welcomed its first babies, a set of abandoned and FAS damaged twins with significant developmental challenges, in the suburban home of director René Testa. René’s background is in early childcare education and development, helpfully coupled with qualifications in psychology, counseling and nutrition. Since then, the home has had 40 babies come through its doors, where they have received love and affection, as well as exceptional professional care from different health care experts. The home focuses on special needs babies, and while in many state institutions these babies are neglected and functionally left for dead due to their greater neediness, René and her team do their utmost to reverse dire prognoses and place babies in loving families, with outstanding results.
Barnswallows is setting a new standard for the care of abandoned and vulnerable children. Barnswallows is unique in its vision and method, and its results demonstrate the shelter’s great value to the nation of South Africa and its orphans.