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JOHANNESBURG — The Inspiration series is opening the eyes of many to a world of people otherwise not seen. And too many, ones mother is a superhero regardless of what else they do. But to the Bassin family, mother Marilyn takes the notion of superhero to another level with the work she does for people in need. Here’s why Marilyn is Carli, Gina and Shane Bassin’s inspiration. If you have an inspirational figure in your life, please send your story to [email protected]. – Stuart Lowman
By Carli, Gina and Shane Bassin
If you told us superheroes don’t exist on earth, we’d say you clearly haven’t met our mother.
Marilyn Bassin is a physiotherapist who has volunteered with dying indigent children for almost 30 years. She has dedicated her life to helping and bettering the lives, and dignifying the deaths, of children whose names she can’t even pronounce. No squatter camp is too dangerous, no life is less important than another. From years of giving hope and assistance to children in a huge state hospital who had been burnt, maimed, abused, raped, abandoned and tortured; to rescuing unloved, suffering and starving chained dogs. From shack dwelling children who head up a household, to children who have resorted to selling their bodies to survive. These are the stories our mother chases and does everything she can to improve the outcome. She has a lifetime worth of stories, each one more horrific than the next. Like this story from last year: she discovered and rescued an 8-year-old shack-dwelling brain damaged child whose grandmother was slowly starving him to death in mid-winter. He weighed 13kg, was full of old scars and new lesions, and was covered in his own faeces. He was naked, barring an old dirty towel covering his shoulders. Rats had eaten off the tips of some of his toes. Our mom carried him out of there, and not only got him into an appropriate institution where he is thriving, but she also managed to secure placement for his siblings in a fantastic children’s home. This all, despite his grandmother threatening to have her killed for exposing the situation to the neighbours.
She is a fighter who does not take no for an answer when she sees an injustice. She is not scared to be the voice for the voiceless and the invisible. No high-powered individual/ institution that has forgotten about those whom they are meant to serve, is spared her scathing criticism. She founded and almost single handily runs her NGO (Boikanyo, The Dion Herson Foundation), which focuses on giving a hand up rather than a handout to the desperate children growing up in the squatter camps of Soweto.
Her strength and compassion not only lies on a professional level but extends to her personal life too, giving a true example of bravery and strength. In 2013, our father committed suicide, leaving behind four broken hearts and upside-down worlds. Our mother became our rock. Not only did she lift us up during the very worst time of our lives, but she ensured her Soweto children were never forgotten. One of the first phone calls after the paramedics took his body away, was to ensure the food handout planned for that day would still proceed as planned. When something so sudden and traumatic occurs in your life, it’s difficult to find the strength to get through each day. We got strength from our mother while she got her strength in knowing she was fulfilling her purpose in life.
Our mother is not just a wonder woman in the sense that she does whatever she can to ensure children’s rights are being upheld; she puts herself in areas and places many are afraid to go. After the Life Esidimeni enquiry, she went on a mission to find all the psychotic mothers living in dire poverty in the area and had them admitted for treatment and put on medication. She braved a service delivery protest – burning tyres and all – because she promised to meet and take one of these psychotic mothers to social workers for an appointment as her 3 children were not being cared for adequately. She discovered 5-year-old profoundly disabled twins living in a shack, the result of their mother’s 3 day labour before their birth. They had been discharged without treatment from the same hospital. Our mom arranged specialised wheelchairs, much more too, including a lawyer. They have a future now.
Marilyn Bassin has seldom been recognised for all the good she puts into the world. She does not do her work for any reward nor recognition. Her philosophy is if she does not help these desperate children, who so don’t deserve the lives they were born into, who will. She has taught us the meaning of humility and modesty but her story deserves to be shared. She is the bravest woman we know and the person we hope we emulate. She is our inspiration and the inspiration of so many children and families in the forgotten areas of our country. She is a human rights activist, a humanitarian, a hero, and most importantly, she is a mom to the proudest children alive.