Exchange rate gains from 2015 projects enabled the efforts of our eleven Service Centres (SC) and two Regional Support Teams (RST) to expand support for Holy Home Visits, Relationship Groups, and Life Centres in the communities we are partnered with and to develop more African leaders within Hands.
At Hands at Work, we work to serve the most vulnerable people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa – deep rural areas and slums – places other non-profits avoid working. In these broken communities, structures of care, including families and churches, have been weakened and traumatised by pervasive poverty, conflict, and AIDS. In these ‘off the map’ communities, children require more than the basic necessities of food, health, and education. Children who are most vulnerable have been deeply traumatised and carry emotional and spiritual wounds. If we are to care effectively for children to see them grow into mature, healthy adults, we must address this unseen pain.
Care Workers (CWs), local women and men mobilised from the local churches, are the backbone in caring for the most vulnerable children in their communities. However, these Care Workers, along with the children and the children’s Primary Care Givers (PCGs), also have undealt with trauma and unseen pain.
This is what makes the role of Service Centres (SCs), our local offices directly connected to local communities, so important. SCs regularly visit Care Workers in the communities they serve to support, disciple, and mentor CWs in caring for vulnerable children and families. When the SCs visit a community, they focus on Holy Home Visits, Relationship Groups, and Life Centres. In these efforts, the SCs are themselves supported by their Regional Support Team (RST).
Holy Home Visits
Holy Home Visti's (HHV) are the core activity of Community Based Organisations, with all the other support and services built around this core. The word “Holy” was recently added to the terminology “Home Visits.” Holy was added to communicate the critical importance of how we do home visits. “Holy” in Biblical terminology means “to set apart.” The picture that this evokes is when we visit the children and their Primary Caregivers in their homes, it is indeed a “time set apart” specifically to build deeper and more meaningful relationships. Our commitment is, “every child will be known by name.” A HHV is not just a routine visit. The expectation is that we will engage at a level where not only will we encourage children and their PCGs, but we will be part of the healing process happening in that home.
As the SCs and RSTs visit the communities, HHVs is forming the core of what they do while there: modelling these visits as they walk with Care Workers. We call it the “Domino Effect”, that the actions of the RST and SC will become models of behaviour for the CWs, and ultimately the PCGs.
Given the trauma experienced by the Care Workers, Primary Care Givers, and children, it is important to develop a safe place for each of these three groups to gather with their peers to share their challenges and experiences in life, and to grow supportive relationships through this facilitated space. In 2015 we expanded ‘Relationship Groups’ in communities to support the Care Workers, children and the child’s Primary Caregiver on a weekly basis where Care Workers facilitate prayer, teaching, and peer-to-peer counselling,.
During the regular visits of the SC and RST they come alongside of Care Workers, modelling how to facilitate Relationship Groups.
When 3 Essential Services begins in a community, children gather daily at a Care Point to receive food and care. In 2015 we began the push to transform these Care Points into Life Centres. The very word Life Centre speaks of the purpose – to bring a taste of shalom, of life and care to this community and its orphaned and vulnerable children. We dream for our Life Centres to embrace a ‘culture of care’. In the below diagram, it’s possible to see how all the above elements, including the Life Centre, come together to form this culture of care that we want to surround our vulnerable children in. As SCs and RSTs regularly visit communities, they work alongside Care Workers to support them in developing this picture into a reality.
African Leadership Development
We firmly believe that it is essential to develop leaders from those who come up out of the context of the communities we serve, rather than parachuting people in from the outside to assist. This is a slow process of senior Hands leaders walking closely with prospective leaders to disciple to spiritual maturity and mentor into servant leadership. Leaders are developed through working alongside experienced leaders in the field, deepening their ability to support CWs in HHVs, Relationship Groups, and developing Life Centres and through building their technical skills, such as using computers, planning and organising, and reporting.