Preparing for Your Time in the Community
When entering a new culture it is important that your dress is suitable and respectful of the people you will be visiting. Traditional African culture requires females to wear a long, loose fitting skirt (calf length and below) when going into the communities. Tight and revealing clothing is not advised. If cold, females can wear tights or pants under their skirt. It is acceptable for women to wear trousers when joining the building team or shorts on the Hands at Work campus. For men, long trousers must be worn when in communities or visiting a community church. It is good to have nice clothing for different outings and church, etc.
It is important to be VERY modest with jewellery, as you do not want to be a target for thieves during your time in Africa. Also, wearing too much jewellery can separate you from the people in the community as you may be seen as even more different to them. This can make it difficult to connect with people in the community.
High levels of unemployment and poverty lead to issues with theft and safety. It’s important that when walking around, you dress appropriately (i.e. minimal, non-flashy jewellery) and you don’t display expensive equipment (i.e. Keep cameras out of sight, etc). Do not bring valuables unnecessarily into the communities (i.e. passport, plane tickets). Carry minimal amounts of cash and keep it hidden or in a money belt.
When visiting the families and children, it can be overwhelming to see so many needs around you. There are times when visitors feel led to give a gift to a patient or family. With our work there are priorities/goals for our Community Based Organisations (CBO) that they have set and want to achieve. The CBO is working towards “Building the Wall” of protection around their orphaned & vulnerable children. There are many opportunities to contribute toward this “building”. Hands at Work’s first priority is to join the CBO to achieve this. We want you to give if you feel led, but to follow the correct process of giving via Hands at Work to the CBO.
We don’t want to create a sense of dependency and expectation of handouts and gifts from all foreigners that come around. We are all about serving our community and empowering them to help themselves as well as those around them. No gifts are to be distributed while in the community. Do not promise gifts to the community either while you are there as this creates the same challenges. Please consult the leadership if you would like to leave behind a “brick” to be given via Hands at Work Service Centre staff.
People Asking for Money
Poverty is a huge problem in Africa and you may come across people in the street asking for money as a consequence. It can be quite distressing to be confronted by poverty, particularly when it is young children or very elderly people. If you are stopped on the street it is best not to give anything as you may soon find yourself surrounded by more people asking for food or money. If you are being harassed seek help from your Team Leader. In some cases it also fosters a dependency on handouts, holding some people back from pursuing work.
In the Community
When 3 Essential Services begins in a community, children gather daily at a Care Point to receive food and care. In recent years Hands at Work has began the push to transform these Care Points into Life Centres. The very word Life Centre speaks of the purpose – to bring a taste of shalom, of life and care to this community and its orphaned and vulnerable children. We dream for our Life Centres to embrace a ‘culture of care’. In the below diagram, it’s possible to see how different elements come together to form this culture of care that we want to surround our vulnerable children in. As our local offices, Regional Support Teams and International teams regularly visit communities, they work alongside Care Workers to support them in developing this picture into a reality.
Holy Home Visits
A Home Visit is beneficial, not just in understanding the external needs of a child, but in spending time to engage with a child’s hurting heart. Although Home Visits may carry a high personal cost of time, emotion, and energy, they are the gospel coming to life and bringing transformation.
At Hands at Work, the foundation of our care is Holy Home Visits.
Visiting an orphaned child in their home is to act on behalf of the absent parent. During that visit, the opportunity is given to a child to put aside the stresses of home, of responsibility, and just be a child. Home visits demand time, and can only be effective with the right desire of heart: the choice to go, and the willingness to get to know the child’s name and story. We know we have been adopted into Christ's family and we want to see the same realisation in our children. We cannot create a culture of changing lives through brief service. Change does not come quickly; it comes with time and commitment.
While in community, your team may have the opportunity to participate in a Relationship Group with either Care Workers, Caregivers or children. These groups provide a space for people to talk about the wounds and pain in their lives. Through sharing, healing is found and lives are transformed. Relationship Groups are particularly important as relationships with both God and with other people are the centre of the message of Jesus Christ, and of the Hands at Work family. This accompanying booklet is mainly used to introduce new people to Relationship Groups and to guide leaders facilitating the Relationship Groups. The booklet isn’t designed to be teaching material or to dictate certain steps of how to conduct a formal meeting, but rather it explains the very heart of relationships based on the heart of our Father. We encourage you to discuss this booklet with your team in order to prepare for your participation in the groups.