This team, who recently travelled to South Africa, was made up of extended family members from VIC and NSW. Keen to impact their entire family, the team was made up of adults and children alike. Their aim: To be changed, and to understand more about the work of Hands at Work in Africa…
On the 26th June 2012 our team of 17 headed off to South Africa via Perth. After 16 hours of flying and almost 5 hours of driving we arrived safely at the ‘Hands’ village in White River. Once orientation was over we headed straight to the Clau Clau Service Centre where we had lunch and then went straight into the community. In typical African style we were welcomed through singing and dancing, quickly understanding that our talents are very limited in comparison to theirs. Part of our team joined with the Care Workers to visit the homes of widows and orphans (of whom most suffered with HIV). The younger members of the team played an assortment of games with the children at the care centre. It was crazy at the time to think that within a couple of days of leaving Australia we were standing in the heart of ‘Hands at Work’, being blessed by each child that gave us a high-five, sat in our lap, took a photograph or stole our sun glasses.
The next day was a prayer event in Bushbuckridge (BBR) about a 2-hour drive away and we were given the opportunity to pray with the Care Workers of that community. Something you quickly realise is that Hands at Work is all about relationships. The Care Workers in these communities don’t need us to dish out the children’s food or build them a well or school building. Through the partnership with Hands at Work, they can do these things themselves. The Care Workers sacrifice their time and energy everyday to care for the vulnerable and orphans in their communities. Our role was to motivate them to continue this amazing sacrifice. We helped them to understand the importance of their work, to ask their name when nobody else does, and to show them the love of God through our actions just as they show us His love through theirs.
Throughout our time, we visited two communities, one in Bushbuckridge (Pfunani community) about 2 ½ hours away and the second in Senzikuthle in Clau Clau about 1 hour away. We were given the opportunity to do home visits and to feed and play with the children at the care centre. Each night we would debrief about our day. Some days some of us would have plenty to share and then other days there was not as much. But after every story I heard I was reminded of suffering so apparent throughout Africa. Children who were not even 10 years old were more mature than an Australian in their 20s, and, most of them have seen or experienced more horrific situations in their short time on this earth than I ever will in my lifetime. These children are forced to grow up so young, they are forced to father or mother their siblings in the absence of their parents, the girls are defenseless against any man who knows their vulnerability, and the saddest part of it all is that they most likely won’t ever know life can be any different.
What I love so much about Hands at Work is that they seek to find the most vulnerable and then advocates every single day for their survival. You see in the West we assume that food and a lack of parents are Africa’s biggest problems. To an extent this is very true. However, there are so many more issues that can as easily take a child’s life. That is why Hands at Work advocates for the vulnerable as well as the orphans and widows.
I have been back in Australia for almost a week now and settling back in has been a challenge. Before leaving South Africa we were warned of the cultural disorientation that would surmount. Well they were right. It has been incredibly hard to slip back into the life I left behind. You see Africa changes us whether we think it does or not, but the world we leave behind doesn’t change. Our lives stay relatively the same and no matter how hard we try to tell our friends and family about Africa words do not give it justice. I thank the Lord every day for the change that I have experienced because my life and what is important to me needed to be challenged. Whether God wants us to work overseas or to work in our own communities here we need to understand how blessed we are. I did not choose to be born here it was through God’s grace that I have a family and food and a home to live in. When we were over there George (founder of ‘Hands at Work’ in Africa) told us not to feel guilty for what we have but to feel blessed. Well I now know that I am incredibly blessed.