It is with a heart of thanksgiving and joy that I have the opportunity to write this report about “Reaching for Change” which has been the main purpose of this South Africa tour. I feel honored to have shared my passion for making a difference in the world with these dedicated young ladies from MLC and to work alongside these African communities.

On Friday 8 April, I, along with another teacher and 8 excited young ladies from MLC school, Sydney, set off on our first tour to South Africa. During the course of the 17-day tour, the team took part in voluntary work with young orphaned children and teenagers within a variety of communities (Masoyi, Sipumandla and Syatituka) through Hands at Work.

I along with the team have been truly amazed and deeply touched by the hearts, the vision and compassion of the volunteers who offer their services each and every day, in so many ways. Their servanthood, their commitment and their desire to make a difference has provided relief to the sick and dying, food for a number of families, patients and orphans, effective support systems for caregivers, education for orphans and vulnerable children, income generating opportunities and skill development in a variety trades.

While we were in Mpumalanga, South Africa we were blessed with the opportunity to teach orphaned children in 2 pre-schools (Lula and K2). The MLC girls helped each orphan child make their own picture frame and added a photo of them, which we developed for them. The MLC girls also helped with providing lunch and fun activities throughout the morning. For some of these children it is a place where they are safe, nurtured and loved. Their beautiful smiling faces are stilled etched in our minds.

We taught primary aged children in two Primary Schools about Australia and spent the afternoon doing arts and craft activities relating to Australian native animals.

We taught 150 orphans about brushing their teeth followed by distributing 150 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste courtesy of the donation made by Mrs Tuckerman through Colgate.

We worked alongside 12 young ladies in a Life Skills Centre called K3 within Masoyi where our MLC girls were taught how to sew and make beaded bracelets. This was an eye opening experience as it empowered these young African ladies to teach their skill to others.

The program continued with teaching 50 young ladies, who are involved in a leadership program called GoLD, about ‘True Beauty”. The leadership program aims to educate, equip and support a number of youth so that they can educate their peers. These girls are currently being trained to become Peer Educators and have been selected from a range of High Schools from within the Masoyi community.

The MLC girls spent a morning experiencing High School within the Masoyi community. This was both a challenging and confronting experience for the girls, as the class sizes were very large, teachers failed to turn up to some classes and there was a lack of resources. The MLC girls came away feeling very thankful for their schooling experience at MLC School.

One of the many highlights of the program was meeting with a support group for “Young Mums”. It was during this time the young mums shared information about their lives and their struggles about being a young mum in South Africa. They offered the MLC girls advice and words of encouragement about the value of education. Yet another confronting but valuable experience for the MLC girls to gain an insight into a very different life to that of their own.

We had the opportunity to visit two communities (Sipumandla and Syatituka) in Clau Clau where we were involved in Home Based Care. The MLC girls visited sick people in their homes and offered support and encouragement in some trialing times. Yet another confronting but valuable experience where by our girls got to see how many people in these communities live with very little.

The MLC girls attended a community church called “God with Us”. We were welcomed with such warmth and generosity. During this time we learnt a great deal about faith, love and hope. It is quite confronting that even in the midst of such struggles and poverty this African community displayed an inner joy, zeal and passion for life beyond anything experienced in Australia. We shared in their fellowships and blessed the congregation with food as a sign our thanksgiving. A small gesture yet a valuable lesson about service and showing love to those in need.

The final part of our trip involved camping in Kruger Park and game drives where we delighted in seeing the Big 5. We walked with Rhinos, we patted lion cubs and went on a very welcomed walk with breathtaking views in Swaziland. Following the safari experience we had a tour of Soweto and learnt about the History of South Africa. We attended the Hector Peterson Memorial site, the Apartheid Museum and learnt about Nelson Mandela before he was imprisoned and became president of South Africa.

Although a very busy program it was enjoyed by all and will be treasured forever. Many lessons were learnt about the value of relationships, faith, hope, love, and the desire for “Reaching for Change”.

By Argy Asimakoula

Teacher from MLC School