A little mat with a nicely folded blanket packed in a corner, a comb, a half bottle of cooking oil, a few old jugs of water and a small table are all you’ll find inside this one-room house that provides shelter for four people.
Last year things were difficult for Constance, age 10, and her sister Ilary, age 14. Facing the death of their parents at a young age left them with a hole which no one could fill. Their grandmother took them in but had no way to support the two girls, so they left Mozambique, their home, in order to seek the help of distant relatives in one of South Africa’s poorest villages, Welverdiend, in Bushbuckridge area.
They found shelter with an uncle who owned a one-room house with his young wife and small child, but this was not enough space to house six people. The uncle was often away looking for work, but when he was home, the two girls and their grandmother had to find shelter at a neighbor’s house. This left the kids extremely vulnerable.
Left with no hope, the girls lived in sorrow and fear. A lack of food often left them feeling weak and rejected.
Hands at Work has begun work in Constance and Ilary’s community, Welverdiend. Now, the girls receive weekly visits from local volunteers. The home-based care has provided school supplies and blankets for the girls. When the volunteers come, they help by cleaning the house and helping the girls deal with emotional issues like grief. Constance and Ilary are a part of the feeding program in which they receive a meal every day after school and occasionally they get to take vegetables home from the garden at the care center. The volunteers also have helped the girls with other practical needs, such as obtaining IDs for the girls to become legal citizens of South Africa in order to access the government support available to them.
The care center provides a rich social atmosphere where the girls play, sing and laugh with other children and also with the volunteers who love and care for them. Ilary has developed socially and emotionally. She is finally free to be a kid and she interacts well with her peers. Constance has become like a singing bird; always smiling, she enjoys the company of other children. Ilary now chases her dream to become a teacher. With so much history and so many hardships faced, the once hard faces are now faces full of joy.
As Ilary and Constance regain their hope, one can’t help but wonder just how many other lives, how many other children live in this world without hope, and who will care enough to provide a helping hand.