You won't understand unless you go...


I first heard about South Africa and specifically Hands at Work when my father and two sisters went over and did a short 10 day trip with my church. I remember them coming back and trying to explain the experience, however the one constant phrase I heard from them was ‘We can try to explain it to you, but you won’t understand unless you go yourself’. This really annoyed me. Couldn’t they just try to explain? What was so difficult about it? This frustrated me, but also stirred in me a desire to experience what my family got to experience, and to understand what they were talking about.

So 2 years later I failed a subject at university which meant that I had to defer for the rest of the year. This gave me a few choices of what to do with the remaining 6 months of my year. The previous year I had taken a gap year and worked the entire time, and so I did not want to work to just make a little bit of money. I wanted to do something that was worthwhile with my time. Along with failing a subject at university I was going through a few personal issues. My older sister gave me some incredible advice. When you’re feeling upset and sad, think and care about others and you will feel a lot better. As soon as she said that it felt as if the idea of South Africa just appeared in my head. I talked to my dad about the possibility of South Africa and he decided that he wanted to go over with me. Within 24 hours my dad had spoken to Carly (Hands Australia) and my grandparents (they were incredibly generous in their financial support of me) and it was decided that I would head over to South Africa at the beginning of September.

Heading over was a mixture of emotions, scared but also excited to see what the next 3 months would hold for me. The moment that I knew this was where I was meant to be was my first day in the community. It was a 40 degree day and in the communities males have to wear jeans. I was sitting in the sun playing with 2 little boys; I was covered in sweat and dirt. However, I remember thinking, “this is the happiest I have been in a long time”.

For me, South Africa had a lot of amazing moments and also some incredibly tough moments. However, if I was to write all of it down, this would be a short novel. There were a couple of moments that need sharing though. The first of which was when we went to a CBO feeding point. I was sitting down with a little boy who was about 5 years old and trying to have a limited conversation. Another boy came along and sat down on my other side. He looked at me and said “come share my food, we eat together”. There was a good chance this was the only meal that boy would get that day, and he wanted to share with me. That just broke my heart. These kids are so selfless when they literally have nothing.

The second moment was when we were at another CBO feeding point and the children were about to eat their lunch. Before they did, however, Ralph (a youth leader in that community) spoke to the kids about being grateful for the meal that they were about to have. He told them that there were others that were less fortunate and they should be very thankful for that meal. These children have nothing, and yet they were being told to be appreciative for that meal. Absolutely incredible. South Africa broke me completely but also placed in me a desire to do more, whatever that meant. So now when people ask me “how was it?” I have to say to them ‘I can try to explain it to you, but you won’t understand unless you go yourself’.