Meet Petrus Smit, a 36 year old resident living with Down Syndrome at Sunfield Home.
Petrus is the third child of pastor Piet and Susan Smit. Although his birth was easier than that of his first two sisters, his mother who has a background in nursing, suspected that he was different but couldn’t exactly point out why. He was diagnosed with Down Syndrome in 1985.
Petrus has loved animals since he was a little boy and enjoys playing with his plastic animals to this day. Wherever his parents were driving or went, he would always point out the animals to them and named them in his own way. He was a child who mostly spent time on his own, but he also loves his three sisters and when praying, he would pray for them by saying their names.
His development as baby and toddler was slow and his youngest sister, born a year and five months after him, overtook him in reaching milestones. He only learned to walk when he was two and he was wearing diapers for longer.
As a small child he suffered from lung problems, which he outgrew later, but his parents treated him like any other child. The Cheré Botha Centre gave his parents good guidance regarding his development and future. Although it was difficult at the time, they decided to send him to Alta du Toit, which meant he had to live in a residence at the age of four. This would however be in his interest as he would receive structured guidance and intervention for his special needs.
The extended family and others learned to gradually accept him. When people in public would stare at him, his mother would simply ignore it and move on. Petrus is however very fond of greeting everyone he sees no matter who they are!
As he got older, he also learned to groom himself and could bathe and get dressed by himself, as well as keep himself busy.
Since they lived in Vredendal at the time, Susan didn’t want Petrus to remain in Cape Town after he completed his schooling and Alta du Toit recommended Sunfield Home.
Mr. Dawie de Villiers, the manager at the time, explained everything very well and showed the family what they do here. The beautiful farm scenery and homely atmosphere reassured his parents and Petrus moved into Sunfield Home during 2002. Mr. De Villiers told his parents that Petrus would now be a permanent resident at Sunfield Home and would be a visitor when he goes to visit his parents.
Susan shares that they are so thankful for all the positive changes that have taken place at Sunfield Home over the years, due to the contributions of donors. “It is so precious that they go to so much trouble for these special children and it is not even their own children. They give their everything for OUR children. They are treated like adults and with so much respect. The staff always has time to listen to the stories of the residents.”
Petrus is a very loving person and enjoys visiting his parents, he adores his three sisters and his brothers in law. His mother enjoys having him at home but if he stays too long she says he starts scratching in her stuff! He loves books and papers and tearing them out! He also enjoys to colour in, even though it is only in one colour. He would start by drawing lines and then colouring them in. He loves music and watching videos or stories. His favourite programme is Heidi and he usually joins in the dialogue. He also enjoys listening to the radio in his room. His beautiful smile is his best attribute and when he finishes his meal he takes his crockery to the kitchen and even puts away the condiments, small gestures which makes him so unique.
“We will never understand what is really going on in his mind since he is non-verbal. Our biggest wish is that he could have some speech so we could understand him better, but we accept him the way God has given him to us and never question why he is disabled. One is never prepared for this kind of diagnosis but we believe God only gives these children to special parents. All we have to do is to love them very much and take care of them to the best of our abilities.”
There are many challenges, but through the grace of God his parents handle each challenge as it comes They believe nothing is too big to overcome, no matter how difficult it may be. Philippians 4:13.