Our Response

With your help, Hands at Work has been able to mobilise the local church to respond to the unique needs the communities are facing due to the drought.

April to June 2017

Community Resilience 

This is the last report on the emergency drought relief. 

Hands at Work in Africa intentionally chooses to work with the most vulnerable people in communities that are “off the ladder” of social development. Recently and increasingly there have been new kinds of vulnerability affecting many of the communities that Hands works in, where there is very little capacity to absorb the impact of challenges like extreme weather. Drought and flooding are becoming more frequent in Africa and the global South, and are having a major impact on these communities.

During the devastating drought of 2016, one grandmother in Chinaka, Zimbabwe, who relies on subsistence farming, recalled that she could no longer work between the hours of 11am and 3pm in the summer heat. She said that it is as if “the sun is now closer to the earth”. The heat not only affected the crops, but the ability to be productive in this time. Lower productivity and loss of crops mean no food and no income for necessities such as school fees, medicine and in communities like Sakubva, Zimbabwe, rental fees for housing.

Hands at Work launched emergency drought relief efforts in 2016 in order to respond to the severe crisis. These relief efforts were met with a global response and through this, many life-saving initiatives were put into place. Thank God that rain did come and Hands at Work is overjoyed with the harvest within the communities during 2017, but the efforts of 2016 exposed the need to increase resiliency in the communities. Thanks to the generous support of many around the word, approximately 5 million Rand was raised to support the drought relief efforts in 2016.

Resilience is the ability to absorb and recover from the impact of disruptive events, such as droughts or floods. People with direct access to life sustaining resources are more resilient when a community is afflicted with dangerous weather patterns. It is predicted that this weather in Sub-Saharan Africa and subsequent drought is likely to repeat early next year in the same areas.

Hands at Work is giving communities the tools to be more resilient to the changing weather patterns, particularly in the areas of food security and safe, secure drinking water. Going forward, these plans which urgently began under emergency relief, will be continued through regular community support funds. This is the work of Hands; not just a reaction to droughts or floods. Interventions in the communities where Hands partners include ensuring access to water, access to food and safe storage for it, the retention of seed and the provision of fertiliser for next year’s input. Purchasing bulk maize early in the season prevents paying high prices later due to demand and supply, while also improving the ability to respond to local food shortages. The Hands Model, through engaging the local church, encourages community practices like Relationship Groups and integrating families with support structures through a culture of caring.

The unique model of Hands at Work is to draw near to those being cared for in their difficult circumstances. With endurance and creativity, and in our strength and brokenness, Hands stands together with the vulnerable and plays a catalytic role in developing a community’s resilience. 

During the season leading up to the 2017 harvest, rain fell in the areas where Hands is working, but many other areas still suffer – Hands at Work invite the global family to continue to pray for vulnerable people and communities across Africa.

Please join us through your local Hands office, as we continue our work to build resilience through Hands at Work’s support of the most vulnerable.


Ruth's Story

It was the middle of the night in the Honde Valley, Zimbabwe, when her husband left. He was unable to cope with the heavy burden of providing for his family, it was too much. He felt there was nothing more he could do for his wife and two children. Now living as a single mother, she was left to carry the responsibility of caring for her children alone. Ruth's hope was to make a living by buying and selling goods.

In order to do this, this mother planned to leave Honde Valley for the difficult prospect of finding even a small income in Mutare which is about three hours away. She arrived in the huge informal settlement of Sakubva Community, which is right outside Mutare, where there are thousands of people already trying to sell goods and too few people buying.

In order to get to Mutare, she used her small amount of money to take public transport. Intending to buy something in town and then sell to make a small profit, she would then buy food for her family and bring back home to the Honde Valley. This is the only plan that Ruth has. The oldest of her children, a girl of 12 years, was left behind to care for her and her sibling. The desperation that drives a mother to leave her children in order to provide for them is the same desperation that remains behind with her children. There was no food security while the mother was home. Ruth plans to be away for three weeks but can’t guarantee when she will be back because if she doesn’t sell anything, there will be no money for transport home and she could be stuck in Mutare for months. 

This is not an uncommon story. In fragile communities like this, many families are already broken up due to extreme poverty. However, there has been an acceleration of broken families due of the pressure brought on by drought. Many people in Mutare awake at 3:30 in the morning – walking to the farms which are nearly 20kms away to buy produce. After, they make the long journey back to try and sell the produce to make some money when the sun comes up. On a good day they might make $2.

January to March 2017 


Maize is growing! When seed and fertilizer was purchased and distributed at the end of 2016 in Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, Care Workers and Primary Care Givers were thankful and worked hard to plant. Hands at Work aided in the planting of seed for some of the most vulnerable families. In January the growth of the crops in Bhandeni, Swaziland were seen as a sign of God’s blessing. Josephine, a Care Worker in Bhandeni has planted maize and beans at her subsistence farm. Josephine cares for many vulnerable families who, like her have been unsuccessful with the past two harvests.

In some communities, Hands at Work is still waiting for the crops, expectant that they will yield a good harvest. While Bhandeni’s neighbouring community, Msengeni, had some success, not all of the crops grew as planned. A portion of the maize here had to be re-planted and the community will wait longer for the harvest. 


During the drought crisis, Hands at Work saw the bene t of fortifying daily nutritious meals with vitamin powder. Following this, efforts have begun to include this powder as a regular additive to enhance the diet and build the resiliency of the vulnerable children being cared for. 


Sixty meters down, the drill struck water at the Oshoek Care Point, South Africa. The same happened at the nearby Beeskop Care Point. These two Care Points can now offer a steady, secure supply of water to 100 children. Sadly, drilling was unsuccessful at the Sthobela Care Point, yet each of these three communities in the Oshoek region have been equipped for rain harvesting throughout the year. Now the holes are drilled, the local Hands at Work of ce in Oshoek will purchase a generator and pump to ll the water storage containers. Many children in the area collect water from unclean streams and pooled water. As Hands at Work works to build resiliency in these communities, clean drinking water is crucial. 


At four years old, Rita* endures the struggle of not knowing where the next meal is coming from. She lives with her ageing grandmother in the community of Chinaka, Zimbabwe. It has been dif cult for her grandmother to work because she is not as strong as she used to be and to make matters more challenging, food became increasingly sparse as a result of the devastating drought that hit Southern Africa in recent years. The family would frequently go without.

Since being invited to join the Care Point, Rita’s life has turned around for the better. She receives a daily meal and her grandmother received the necessary farming inputs needed to plant a good harvest. Thankfully this year, the family is expected to harvest their own supply of maize meal. 

2016 overview

The video and report below reflect our activities throughout 2016, thanks to you and many who supported. For a closer look at the activities we engaged in per quarter, see the reports further below.

The drought didn’t cause the vulnerability to our communities.
Our communities were vulnerable before the drought but the potential impact that the force of this drought could have had on our communities, would have been detrimental if we didn’t engage with relief activities.
The work is not finished. We are still going to continue right through the year. There are still a number of challenges that we face. We work in these vulnerable communities, where there's children that we so deeply love and know by name.

October - December 2016

"The rain came but at first it came very few. It was not heavy rains. So we went and found that Gogos, some were in their fields. "


Seed Planting and Fertiliser

In November and December, maize seed and fertiliser was purchased and distributed to each family that Hands at Work cares for in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, in the hope that they would be able to start and sustain a small garden of their own. Eight families in Zimbabwe and six families in Mozambique were identified as needing help in preparing and planting their gardens due to their extremely vulnerable situations.

In Msengeni, Bhandeni and Shoka Communities in Swaziland, ploughing and planting were completed in November. A combination of small subsistence farms and larger plots were created to support the families Hands at Work cares for in those communities. Care Workers identified 13 additional families across the three communities who also received seeds and fertiliser. Many of these were vulnerable grandmothers who are connected with each Community Based Organisation.


Water Well in Macadeira, Mozambique

In the community of Macadeira, Mozambique, access to clean drinking water is a struggle - like many other rural communities across Southern Africa. In September, ground was broken for a new 20 metre well. Operated with a bucket and long rope, this well will provide safe, clean water for all 150 children Hands at Work cares for in Tariro Community Based Organisation, and their families.

A small brick wall was built around the well for safety. At the beginning of 2017, the wall will be extended further and a cover added to help ensure the safety of the children and to protect the water source. 



Purchasing Large Quantities of Maize, Rice and Beans

Rising food costs continue to be a concern in Malawi. Towards the end of 2016, a six-month supply of staple foods including maize, rice and beans were purchased for all four of the communities Hands at Work supports in Malawi, ensuring these staples are secured for the first half of 2017 for the children’s daily nutritious meals.




Rain Water Collection

Rain water collection is one of the ways Hands at Work can ensure access to clean, safe drinking water for the children. Rain gutters and water tanks were installed in Beeskop, Sthobela and Oshoek Communities in South Africa, in November and December of 2016. “Within days of installing the tanks and gutters, rain had fallen in each community and the water became available for the children to use” – Simon Mgwenya, South Africa Regional Support Team.


Meet Bester + Mary

Bester, far left in blue

Bester, far left in blue

10-year-old Bester* and his older sister, Mary*, live in the community of Matsinho in Mozambique. Bester was three years old when his father passed away. He has been the only male figure in his home ever since and he takes on the huge responsibility of caring for his family, due to his mother’s rapidly decreasing health. Bester is often responsible for finding food, water and firewood while Mary cares for their mother. Bester and Mary attend the Care Point at Matsinho Community Based Organisation where they receive a daily hot, nutritious meal and are supported with basic education and health care. In November they received seeds and fertiliser from the Care Point. Bester’s family was identified as one who needed support planting their garden due to their mother’s ill health. Rosa, one of the local volunteer Care Workers, visits Bester and Mary in their home to encourage them, supporting them in both their spiritual and physical needs.

July - September 2016

"We planted this year but we harvested nothing. Just 1 bucket of maize which we are eating now.  What you can see now is all that we have." Gogo Mavis from Honde Valley, Zimbabwe cares for her three grandchildren Tafadzwa, Onika and Lamech.  


Purchasing Large Quantities of Maize  

As the level of food insecurity grows in countries like Swaziland and Mozambique, purchasing large quantities of maize, a main food staple, helps to ensure Hands at Work will be able to continue providing a hot, nutritious meal for the children in the coming months.  

In Swaziland, a container has been purchased and sited at the local police station in the Lomahasha district. Here, Hands at Work are able to securely store the bulk quantity of maize and nutritional supplements needed for the duration of the year. 

In Mozambique, maize has been purchased through to the end of December 2016 and is being stored in a rented container in Chimoio, the local town. The container is properly ventilated to ensure the maize remains cool and unspoiled. 

Due to daily cash withdrawal limits in Zimbabwe, Hands at Work were only able to purchase and secure a larger quantity of maize for July through to September. The local office in Zimbabwe continues to work on a longer term solution to securing maize.  


Providing a nutritious breakfast to the most vulnerable children gives them much needed strength and sustains them through their day. In Bhandeni Community, Swaziland, 50 children receive nutritional supplements – in the form of a specially-formulated, peanut butter paste - 5 days a week. In Msengeni Community, Swaziland, 20 under-nourished children received nutritional supplements in July and August. These children are taking life-saving HIV medications which would otherwise be harmful if not taken with food. As of September 1st, all 100 children in Msengeni began receiving nutritional supplements daily, as food insecurity has increased due to the drought crisis. After school, children in Swaziland continue to come to their Care Point for a hot, nutritious meal. 


Working with Local Health Providers 

The local office in Swaziland has connected with nurses in Bhandeni and Msengeni communities to help assess the children’s health needs on a monthly basis. Through mobile clinics and school visits, the nurses are assessing the children for Bilharzia and other water-borne diseases. This connection with local heath care providers is vital in keeping the children as healthy as possible during this season of drought. Additional food is purchased monthly to accommodate 34 Care Workers and their 95 children.


In Beeskop and Oshoek communities in South Africa, a Geo-hydrologist has visited and marked out the locations for new boreholes. These are due to be sunk in October. After recommendation, electric boreholes will be sunk to provide more sustainable, long-lasting water provision for the communities; electric boreholes enable water to be sourced from the required 60 metre depth. 

April - July 2016


In Bhandeni Community, Swaziland, many children walk up to 2.5 hours to school each day. In previous years, they would have been able to begin this journey with food in their stomachs, thanks to simple vegetables and other crops their families may have been able to grow. The recent drought crisis has left their homes without any food.

Providing a nutritious breakfast to the most vulnerable children gives them a much needed strength and sustains them through their busy school day. Starting in April of 2016 children in Bhandeni and Msengeni communities were provided with bread and peanut butter before school. Starting at the end of July, children will receive a ready-to-use nutritional supplement every morning which also helps to treat malnutrition where it is present. After school, the children continue to come to the Care Point for a nutritious, hot meal.

Children in Matsinho and Macaderia communities in Mozambique are also receiving a breakfast of porridge and peanut butter daily. 


Seeds and Fertiliser for Late Rains

At the end of April, 140 grandmothers and 46 Care Workers and Church Leaders in Macaderia and Matsinho communities in Mozambique received 5kg of fertiliser and 2kg of bean seeds. It is hoped that the unseasonal late rain would help these seeds grow and produce food.

In Chinaka, a community in Honde Valley, Zimbabwe 45 grandmothers and 18 Care Workers and Church Leaders received bean and tomato seeds as well as fertiliser. Gogo Mangemba, one of the grandmothers in Chinaka, testified that she had never experienced such kindness. She shared that there is a God in Heaven who really knows her by name and knows her shortfalls.


Daily Water Security

In response to the lack of clean drinking water in Swaziland,  the Community Based Organisations in Msengeni and Bhandeni purchased water from the government and stored it in large containers. Each child is allocated 2 litres of clean drinking water per day for them to take home to their families.


Supporting our Care Workers and their children  

The dedicated volunteer Care Workers make daily sacrifices to serve the most vulnerable children in their communities. Many of them have been affected by the drought and lack of food security themselves. In Macaderia and Matsinho communities in Mozambique, Care Workers and their children have been temporarily included in the daily meal served at the Care Point.  Additional food is purchased monthly to accommodate 34 Care Workers and their 95 children.

Meet Sibu + Glory

At the young age of seven, Sibu* carries great responsibility within his family. Living with his grandparents and his 10-year-old sister *Glory, Sibu’s grandparents abuse alcohol and are unable to care for their grandchildren in a loving and responsible way. After attending school each day, Sibu walks 2kilometres down a mountain to collect fire wood. The drought has left the river, their local water source, stagnant and depleting. The Care Workers at Msengeni Community Based Organisation recognise the vulnerability of these children. They are dedicated to caring for them. Since the focussed drought relief efforts, Sibu now receives breakfast every morning on his way to school in addition to the hot nutritious meal he receives at the Msengeni Care Point in his community.