Mel's Story


My heart has been stirring for Africa for a few years now, so this year in September I decided to take the plunge, book a trip, and get over to South Africa on the ground to experience first hand the work that Hands at Work is doing.  Before I left I thought I had some idea of the situation in Africa and a grasp of the work Hands at Work was doing.  However until I saw, I really did not know.  However what I did see and experience...I was absolutely blown away. 

One of the most striking experiences for me was probably in what most would consider quite a mundane moment.  It was only my 2nd day in Africa.  We headed out to one of the Care Centres that Hands at Work runs to help out with the feeding point for the day.  At this particular location 50 of the most vulnerable children in this community come for one meal a day in the afternoon – most likely the only meal they receive for the day.  As the children came and collected their food, they sat around on the ground outside in little groups to eat.  I nestled in among a group of 4-5 girls.  Without a common language it can be a challenge to communicate, so I sat, smiled and took in the scene.  The children each had a cup of cordial type drink and a meal of maize and cabbage.  As one of the little girls was eating she accidently knocked over her cup, spilling her entire drink out over onto the ground.  She reset the cup and continued to eat.  In the next moment, each of the girls around her started to pour some of their own drink into her cup, each in turn, eventually ensuring her entire cup was refilled to the brim.  Reflecting on the selflessness of the example of these Children was outstanding to me.  They basically have nothing, yet out of what they do have they will give.  Powerful. 

As westerner’s travelling to third world countries I believe that we are often of the mentality that we can go and “fix” those countries that are not as developed as our own, or that we have so much to teach them about how they should live and do things “our way”.  What I learnt from my trip to Africa is that in some ways it is “us” (referring to myself and the developed world) that are the ones who need to do the learning.  The way the African people exemplify community and what it means to love and care for one another is outstanding and humbling, something that is so inbuilt into the very nature and being of everyone I had the privilege of meeting and walking alongside for that short period of time; a stark contrast to the Western mentality of self and looking after number one.  Their societies may not be materially wealthy, but from what I experienced they are significantly richer in more ways that actually matter.

It is easy to look at all the need in the world right now and get overwhelmed thinking “as one person, what impact can I actually have?”  I know I myself have been guilty of this at times.  However, if I can encourage you at all by what I saw as I sat in the dirt amongst these beautiful little African girls – we may not have much, but from what we do have we can give.  What is in your hand right now?  What can you do?  It will look different for each one of us.  But we can all do something.