The Story of Houtbos Community
The community of Houtbos is located in South Africa in a mountainous region near the Swaziland border. Many residents have come from Swaziland seeking a better life, but without proper identification papers, children are not able to finish their education and in turn, find jobs. There is a lack of sufficient employment in Houtbos and many people survive by ploughing their own fields for food, which often yields a limited profit. If there is food to sell, people have to walk down to the border, but those opportunities, too, are limited. There is little access to clean water, as the water that is available is in a dirty river, shared with the animals.
The effect that HIV/AIDS has had on many of the families in Houtbos Community is substantial. Child-headed household are common as parents have either passed away from HIV/AIDS or left to find work in other areas.
Children currently supported: 50
Number of Care Workers: 8
coordinator name: Nelisiwe
Distance from Local Office: 15KM
Ma Nesta, one of the volunteers in the Oshoek Local Office, lives in Houtbos Community and attends the local church that Hands at Work is involved with. It is through this relationship that Hands at Work started walking in this community.
Many of the children attending the Oshoek Care Point, which is about 2kms from Houtbos, were living in Houtbos area but struggled to attend regularly because of the distance. Additionally, when it rains, the children are unable to go to the Care Point because of road flooding.
When the Oshoek Local Office team started walking in Houtbos Community, they recognised the immense vulnerability within the community. Through the mobilisation of the local church, they were able identify the most vulnerable children within the community. Several of the children from the Oshoek Care Point started attending the Houtbos Care Point, enabling them to be closer to home and have the ability to play regularly at the new Care Point.
Through the support of Ma Nesta’s local church and the chief, who helped mobilise local volunteer Care Workers into action, the Houtbos Community Based Organisation (CBO) was formed. In November 2017, 50 of the most vulnerable children in Houtbos Community began attending their local Care Point where they could receive a hot, nutritious meal and support with their education and health care.
A metal structure was transported from a nearby community to use as a cooking shelter. The church has graciously allowed the Care Workers to use their property as the Care Point. In 2017, two toilets were constructed, enabling the children and Care Workers to have safe hygiene. A Maranatha Workshop is being planned for the Care Workers.
In 2019, due to a change in Government policy, children who do not have proper legal documentation to attend school will no longer be permitted. The Hands at Work local office teams in Hazyview and Oshoek are working hard to make plans for the children and families this will directly affect. Hands at Work is seeking to understand the increased vulnerability our children face, not only due to the lack of education and regular routine, but in their day-to-day living. Hands at Work sees the Life Centre in each community as an opportunity to facilitate the growth and development for each child affected. Programs to facilitate learning, skills and development will be introduced at our Life Centres over the course of the first few months of 2019, allowing each child to have a place where they feel loved and a sense of belonging.
Bhekizizwe* is a seven year old boy who has experienced much heartache in his young life. When his mother passed away, his father left home one day in search of work and hasn’t returned. He went to live with his grandfather who sadly didn’t have the means to care for him. One day, one of the local volunteers from the Houtbos CBO found Bhekizizwe wandering alone, wearing torn, dirty clothes, and saw the vulnerability in his eyes. Care Worker Nelisiwe welcomed Bhekizizwe into her own home and began to love and care for him. At first, Bhekizizwe, accustomed to being alone, wanted to isolate himself and did not want to interact with anyone. But slowly, the love and care shown to him by Nelisiwe began to change his life.
The Hands at Work office in Oshoek currently supports nine Community Based Organisations, which exist to care for the most vulnerable in their communities. The office provides training, networking, and encouragement to those Community Based Organisations like Houtbos. It also gives administrative support, including helping with funding proposals, monitoring and evaluation, bookkeeping and reporting to donors.