By Sara Waldvogel
Sara spent three months volunteering with Hands at Work in South Africa and Zambia two years ago. Since her return home, she has been advocating for Hands and mobilizing her home church.
This day was the beginning of a dream come true for me. On June 3, 2013 a team of people from the Ridgewood Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn, NY would meet a team of care workers from Bambanani Home Based Care in Oshoek, South Africa. I had been telling the people at my home church in New York about the wonderful ladies in Oshoek for over a year. I wanted them to feel the same way about Oshoek that I did. Initially I sensed hesitation and nervousness among the team members when we first arrived and met the local care workers. However, after the first night’s stay with local care workers, it was as if an immediate friendship had formed! My team members had been supporting Oshoek financially for a year, but now they were visiting them. They knew their names. They were friends. We held hands with the care workers as we sang a song that repeated “we are family, we are one.”
At the end of the day, Ma Helen took me aside. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and repeatedly thanked me. I was speechless as I looked back at her and then looked around at the work she had started. I saw over 75 children eating a meal that they would not have had otherwise. I saw children in tattered clothes smiling as they played. I saw the beginnings of a structure that these ladies were building from their limited resources so that the children would have their own place to go. I know some of the hardships she has had to face. Why was she thanking me? I had done nothing.
You see, care workers in Oshoek face very unique challenges. Oshoek is almost 30 kilometers from end to end. The care workers don’t often have a chance to be together as a group.They each work in their own section. Most of the residents of Oshoek are Swazi immigrants, and are unable to receive government help. As I went on home visits, I kept thinking that there is no hope for these people. Their challenges are just too big. Looking back, I think that’s why Ma Helen kept thanking me. The team had brought her hope! Her children, her very vulnerable children, now had people in America who know their names, who want to know what happens to them, and want to be part of their future. I pray that the relationships that were started would continue to grow. I pray that more teams from my home church would have a chance to visit Oshoek. I pray for the ladies in Oshoek by name every day, as that’s all I can do from so far away. I believe that the work these women do every day is God’s work, and I am so thankful that I can be a part of it.