Cape Town - She flew nearly 10 000km to get to Cape Town.
Once in Cape Town, Jolanda Kromhout from the Netherlands, walked the length of the Sea Point Promenade, St George’s Mall and the walkways at the V&A Waterfront.
But Kromhout was not here to take in the sights and sounds of the Mother City.
She was searching for the homeless woman she had met on an earlier visit in January.
Kromhout was walking through Thibault Square on the last night of her stay when Lori “Jade” Freeman, 28 and six months pregnant, approached her, asking her why she was walking alone through the city at night.
“I could see in her eyes that she was genuinely concerned, that she was different from any other homeless person I had met in the past,” Kromhout said.
After chatting briefly, Kromhout found Jade a place to sleep, bought her clothing and fed her a meal before boarding a flight home the next day.
“I just could not get her out of my mind. I lay awake at night thinking that given the opportunity, Jade would be capable of bettering her life. There was a sparkle in her eyes and I knew she did not belong on the street,” she said.
Kromhout decided to return to find Freeman. “I had no idea where she might be. I walked through the streets of Cape Town, alone - working with nothing more than a mental image from nearly (eight) months ago. I stopped hundreds of people to ask whether they knew of her.”
Kromhout wrote a letter to the Cape Times, which published it with the headline: “Jade, where are you?”
Geraldine Kilian, a field worker with the City of Cape Town’s department of social development, read the letter and began to look for Jade.
She found several homeless women named Jade, but none matched the profile. “On Monday, we finally found her. I e-mailed Jolanda a picture of Jade and she confirmed it was her.”
On Wednesday, Kilian arranged to meet Freeman at a coffee shop in Buitenkant Street.
Freeman had no idea Kromhout was waiting for her.
“Everyone had been telling me that (the department) and a lady were looking for me. I had no idea who,” she said.
She recalls clearly the night she met Kromhout. “I was having a horrible, horrible day. I hadn’t eaten since morning and people were being especially rude. I saw a kind lady walking in the dark. I asked her what she was doing there.”
The two were finally reconnected in an emotional reunion. “I wrapped my arms so tightly around her and told her I was here for her,” Kromhout said.
Kromhout is liaising with the department for help to be given to reintegrate Freeman into society.
Kilian said the department was trying to trace her family. It had arranged for her to stay at a shelter for three months.
“When Kromhout took me into her arms, I could feel it was God’s embrace,” she said.
“I was reminded once again that He lives.”
Freeman said she had lost her baby.