There is no denying that Katy’s greatest joy is derived from seeing kids happy. With two biological children, Jasmine (11) and Benjamin (one year and eight months) and four adopted ones, Yolande (20), and siblings Anastasia (23), Rafi (26) and Silvestre (29), Katy could have adopted schools more had she been given the chance.
“As a child I watched the TV programme The Waltons and they had a big family. I always knew that was what I wanted and dreamt of having at least 10 kids of my own when I was grown up,” she laughs.
The plight of children has been near to Katy’s heart from a young age, as she spent her school holidays helping out at a playgroup her mother ran for handicapped kids.
Answering a call to service, Katy studied to be a nurse, specialising in special needs children.
“While I was studying I saw the news about the Romanian war and all the children who had ended up in orphanages – mostly handicapped.
“The government was supposed to look after them, but they didn’t and the children were in a terrible state. People were flocking there to help and I went as well.
“The orphanage I worked in in Romania was horrific. The plight of the lost and forgotten children really moved me and that’s when I realised that adoption was the way to go.
“That country made me realise how fortunate I had been growing up and how much need there was out there to give back and give children a good home who didn’t have one. It really cemented the idea that adoption can help those in need.”
From Romania Katy moved on to Brazil and worked with street kids to try and rehabilitate them. While she was there, she read about the floods in Mozambique and the dire state in which the children in the orphanages were.
“I sobbed my eyes out and just knew I had to go and help. So I ended up at an orphanage with around 500 children, with no baby house so all the children were just wandering around.
“I was only supposed to be there for six weeks to help out, but as it turned out, I met my children and ended up staying 17 years,” Katy states with a smile.
She relates how one little girl stole her heart. “Anastasia was three years old and she had the most beautiful big eyes. Visitors to the orphanage would come and go, pick her up for a while and then put her down and she would be left wandering around looking rather bereft.
“So I decided to take her in and start caring for her and just love her like a mum would.
“About a week later another little girl appeared at my door looking for her sister. That was Rafi and I took her in as well. Then a month later they told me they had a brother, Silvestre!
“I just shook my head because I had already fallen in love with the two little girls and now there was a brother too. So in he came as well and we were like a family.”
Katy soon met the children’s dad, who regularly came to visit them at the orphanage. Their mom had died of malaria and their father was too old to care for them, and so he took them to the orphanage.
He and Katy became good friends, and when the time came, he gave her his blessing to adopt the three siblings.
“Not long after, a man showed up on my doorstep saying that he heard I took in children. He then asked me to take care of his granddaughter, Yolande, as her parents had died. She was such a darling I couldn’t help but love her instantly.”
At that stage Katy was still single, and with four kids in tow, she took another courageous step to leave the orphanage where she had been working and set up another in Matola where there was a need for one.
“I left with all four the children, which was a miracle in itself because it was unheard of for a missionary to leave with any children.
“But it was just the way God’s plan worked and I was soon able to complete the adoption process for all of them.”
Shortly after Katy met her soon-to-be husband, Emile, at church. “I told him I come as a package with four children and he said no problem. I said, you must be joking – you don’t know what that really means! But he was adamant and it wasn’t long before we got married.
“We were then blessed with a child of our own, Jasmine. Unfortunately she has learning difficulties so we had to move to South Africa to get her into a better school where she could be taught in English.
“We settled down outside White River three years ago. I then had Benjamin, bringing our family to eight.”
Katy muses about her “rainbow” family, with her being British, her husband South African, four of the children Mozambican and the other two something in-between.
But through the joy there are also challenges, not the least being the transracial nature of their family.
“When you walk through the mall with all the children in tow, you attract a lot of stares. Everyone wants to know who the kids are and why you have them.
“Sometimes you get a good reaction, sometimes not. But I see more and more transracial families and it has become increasingly normal, which helps.”
She notes that as an adoptive parent, it can be an emotional journey as you often wonder if your children are reacting a certain way because of how you brought them up or whether it is part of their DNA and has nothing to do with you.
“You wonder when they act out if it is because they don’t love you as much because you are not their biological mother or because they are being normal, difficult teenagers.
“But ultimately whether they are your adopted kids or biological, you have challenges to face and so do they. You go through ups and downs just as you would with your biological children. That’s life.
“But I always tell them that while they weren’t born in my tummy, they were born in my heart. Adoption is all about saying ‘I want you, I love you, I choose you’.
“It is just as profound as spending nine months in the womb. And my dream for them is to see them do well in life and have the same opportunities as anyone else.”