Bobbi Bear Rescue Centre South Africa. HIVAIDS Protection and Prevention

The Bobbi Bear Story | Part One

I was born in 1952 in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. My mother and father were born in Yorkshire and were part of the “colonize the colonies campaign” by the British Government after the Second World War. They were extremely proud of having paid for their own passage. They were both extremely good looking, adventurous and fascinating people. My father arrived in Bulawayo first, with nothing. My mother followed, at eight and a half months pregnant with me. Hence I always stated I was imported into Africa. I am African, I love Africa.

My Mum and Dad had three more children, all boys. There is something to be said for being the older sister to three boys. We lived in a very poor and rough area but despite this, my parents instilled in us a sense of beauty, poetry and responsibility. Both my parents were activists for change in their own way. However, when I was 10 years old, my father died of a gastric ulcer, leaving my mother – a 36-year-old widow who didn’t have a job or professional experience – with no insurance, nothing in the bank and four small children. The welfare system in colonial Africa was nothing like the British or European Systems. She was therefore forced to work for a minimum wage day and night, leaving me at 10 years old in charge of my brothers at night time. I am very proud of her. She always said, “if you have two pennies in your pocket, jangle them like they are two half-crowns”. One of her other sayings was “always use what you have and if you can’t help anybody don’t hurt them”. My brothers and I had a very difficult childhood. The week my father died, one of his friends came to comfort us as a family and that’s where my life of being sexually abused as a child started. I never told my mother although she read about my abuse in a newspaper article when she was 70 years old.

Unfortunately, my mum had to move to another town for work. I left school at 14 years old and because of the abuse, I became very rebellious as I saw no reason for an education since I believed I had no value to society. At 17 years of age, my Mum went to work in Salisbury and I was left to look after my brothers. It was a privilege that I will always be grateful for. I then met the most important person in my life, a young cadet policeman, who married me and my three “children”. We had our first son, who is now an attorney in London, a fact which leaves immensely proud. We then had a girl, who was born while I was six months pregnant. In third world Africa, her chances of survival were pretty grim. This wonderful strong young woman is now 32 years old and is now presenting us with our third grandchild. We then left Zimbabwe to replicate my parents’ journey, arriving in South Africa with nothing other than a suitcase each.

The next seven years were amongst the worst of my life, but the silver lining of those years was my youngest son. I always refer to him as my interesting child. This kid is far too much like his mother for his own good.

I love South Africa because South Africa gave us our fourth child and second daughter. Her story is a book in itself. We adopted her when she was a month old and this beautiful, intelligent fourteen-year-old is spoilt rotten by her sister and brothers, claiming however she is not a brat.

In Zimbabwe, we had apartheid, which I could never understand, so I was never popular being white and poor and always hanging around with the only people who cared for me, who were black.

My husband and I had, in the early days, a very challenging and interesting marriage. There he was, following in his ancestors’ footsteps in the legal system – his father and grandfathers were all military and police. My background was one of adventurous activism which quite often put him the compromising position of having to deal with his superiors because his wife was in the black areas, long blond hair, no shoes and a banner. In South Africa, the writing on the benches and buildings “for whites only” and “for blacks only” offended the very essence of my being. Let us remember that the only people who fed me and my brothers when we were hungry and kept me safe from the human predators, were black people.