The simple things in life that we in the West take for granted are so precious to those we serve in the communities in Africa. The smallest things we do can mean so much to children and families. Just a hug or a smile is sometimes all that’s needed, just being there to show we care. …
The July 2013 short-term trip to South Africa consisted of five Canadians, one from the UK and myself (Daphne) from Australia - all females of varying ages. We spent two weeks at the Hands at Work village near Nelspruit, leaving from there daily to visit several villages where the feeding program was in action. We tried to assist the local care workers but generally we just observed.
I met Simon again, and made a new friend, Peter, who is eleven years old. Simon was a young 19-year-old when I first met him on my first visit in the year 2000 at Masoyi Home-based Care , and I met Peter at Siyathuthuka Home Based Care, a care point (a centre for orphan care). Peter and I both needed a friend and we found each other. Simon showed me a letter I’d written to him 13 years ago. The smallest thing we do sometimes means so much. A hug, a smile, a letter of encouragement. They are simple signs of care that make a huge difference in young, vulnerable lives.
After the shared meals at the care point our team visited the children’s homes. Peter lives with his grandmother, Betty. Simon is now married to Sindi and they have a daughter. Simon was our driver on a few occasions. He shared that tobacco is no longer grown in that area, but only fruit, so things have improved since the year 2000. A huge timber plantation now exists, supplying wood for the locals and for export.
The overseas volunteers, care workers (who cook the food), the orphans and other vulnerable children all share lunch together – their only meal of the day – after school. We enjoyed chicken legs and necks, beetroot and gravy, samp, beans, and pilchards – all with the staple corn porridge called mielie meal. Delicious!
Mandela Day is celebrated on Nelson Mandela’s birthday. He was a freedom fighter known around the world. Every citizen gives 67 minutes of their time to do community work on that day, as did the youth we saw on that day at one of the care points. The 67 minutes relates to how many years Nelson Mandela was in prison. It was an emotional time as the children sang special songs to Nelson Mandela, their (and our) hero. It was an honour and privilege to be in South Africa on such a special day. Soldiers were seen fixing fences, and school children picked up debris from the streets as part of their 67 minutes.
My Perth church – Heart City Church – in partnership with Sunbury in Victoria, co-partners to support the Pfunani community and orphans in the Welverdiend area, which is in South Africa near the Mozambique border, close to Kruger National Park. Our team traveled there for a day. What an exciting time to be in our own special village – Pfunani – where we mingled with care workers and children. One hundred children are supported at this particular care point. We now share our resources with them, we remember them in our prayers, and we know we are all very special friends. We were made very welcome at Pfunani.
Part of our program whilst we were at Hands was getting to know everyone, playing games with the children, hoeing the ground in preparation for seedlings to go in, digging holes to put old tyres into the ground, and painting them before we did so. These tyres are used for seating or doing back-flips over. I, myself, did not try to do a back-flip!
We pampered the over-worked local care workers by massaging their feet and hands, and painting their nails, chatting with them and getting to know them. We participated in Holy home visits, cleaning, praying, listening, and sharing craft ideas.
It was not all toil and travel. Our team visited the nearby Kruger National Park and other places of interest, were finally debriefed at a steak restaurant, as well as being invited to the long-term volunteers’ homes in the village for evening meals. It was such a blessing for our team to be at the Hands village. We loved every moment!.
The overseas volunteers only got a glimpse of the wonderful work Hands does in the South African community and beyond. All expressed a desire to return again sometime soon as it was such a wonderfully rewarding experience. The time there went by too quickly. The best thing I learned was that we ought “to live simply so that others can simply live”.
Story by Daphne Drew