In a one room house in Bushbuckridge, South Africa, three orphans wake themselves as the sun rises. They carefully fold their blanket and roll up their mat. Sleep is still on their faces. With no clothes to change into but the ones already on their backs, the two little boys, Clarence, 8, and Remember, 9, go outside. They sit in the sun amid chatting ladies and chickens. They wait.
Their sister Lorraine, 14, changes into her only other skirt, her school uniform, and carefully cleans herself for school. The boys use their fingers to write the alphabet in the dirt. No one has cleaned or mended their uniforms. They will not be allowed into school with dirty, ripped uniforms, a requirement of the only school close enough for them to attend. So they practice the alphabet in the dirt outside their house while their sister gets ready for school.
The small boys will sit in the sun all day. At lunch time they will eat the few leftover pieces of maize meal from last night’s meal before it rots. They will wait for their sister to come home.
Today, like every other day, these young minds will amuse themselves with invented games and wasted time instead of applying themselves to learning. Hours will pass and turn into days and months of the same: time that should have been spent harnessing the potential of two boys with eager minds. It is this pattern of existence that will weigh heavily on who they become. And it is these most formative years that Clarence and Remember spend sitting in the dirt.
In 2008, Hands at Work entered Bushbuckridge. They have begun to mobilise the local church in this area to meet the needs of children like Lorraine, Remember and Clarence.