Walking with Wounded Children (SA)

Julia Essmann and a Joy Home-Based Care care worker exchange storiEmily Dinhira opens her Bible to Mark chapter 10 and starts teaching. Bartimaeus was blind man, rejected by his family, friends and community to the extent that his very name was an afterthought: Bar-timaeus literally means the Son of Timaeus. People knew about him. He was well-known as the community's beggar and as the story unfolds it is obvious that he was more of an annoyance than someone whose fate in life was met with compassion.

The day that Jesus came to town was no different: "When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'"

Emily pauses to ask some questions of her audience: A group of ten care workers at Joy Home-Based Care, congregated for a five-day course entitled Walking with Wounded Children. Do they know any blind people? Are the blind respected members of the community?

Care workers listen attentively to the Hands at Work course facilitatorsThe story continues and Emily talks about Jesus stopping and asking for the blind man to be brought to him, “'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him. The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.'” Why would Jesus ask such a question?

The morning's devotion sets the tone for the second day of the course. Emily, along with Betty Kasaija from Uganda and two other facilitators, presented the course on trauma to this group of care workers from a community-based organisation that Hands at Work supports.

Hands at Work believes that the local church within the community is the best vehicle to care for the poorest of the poor. Although the poorest communities may lack schools and hospitals, churches–with a long-term presence, existing buildings and volunteer groups, and a Biblical responsibility to show love to their neighbours–are almost always present. With this in mind, Hands at Work challenges local churches to partner with one another in setting up local organisations. With the help of Hands at Work these organisations support vulnerable children and families through community care-points and teams of trained, local volunteers (care workers) who visit the children at their homes.

One such community-based organisation is Joy Home-Based Care in Clau Clau, in north-eastern South Africa. Joy is an independently registered NGO and currently cares for more than 500 orphaned, traumatised and vulnerable children. Seventeen care workers, though of modest themselves, volunteer their time on a daily basis to visit the children.

Joy's care workers were split into two groups for the week's training. The two groups occupied each of the two structures on the organisation's property which lay in the shadow of the overcast sky. Not far down the road, at sister organisation Siyathuthuka Home-Based Care, another small group of care worker were receiving the same training.

Play-theraphy techniques are employed to aid care workers in their work with traumatized childrenWalking with Wounded Children is a short-course developed by Petra College for Children's Ministry. During the week preceding the training, Hands at Work staff and volunteers, including Emily, were taught in the ins and outs of facilitating the course. This week saw the practical application of what they had learnt.

The content is unequivocally geared towards children as exhibited in the child-like warm-up songs sung and games played. Yet, there is a strong emphasis on trust-based relationships between child and care worker. Using play-therapy techniques, listening and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's guidance is modeled. Care workers immediately practiced what they had learnt by role-playing in pairs. The message is clear: Spread the word! Pass on what you've learnt. 

Julia Essmann, from Germany, is a long-standing Hands at Work partner. Passionate about the healing of traumatised children, she would like to see Walking with Wounded Children implemented in all the countries Hands at Work is involved in, and in particular the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the unjust treatment of children is rife. (For more information on war-torn, north-eastern DRC, click here.

Betty is involved in work amongst street children in Uganda. Not surprising, the need for good counselling is desperately needed. The children, discarded and forgotten by society, revert to petty crime and violent outbursts out of a need for survival and an inability to deal with deep hurt. For too long, Betty feels, has the habit been to talk at the children in an effort to reform them. What is needed, is to help the kids open up: To tell their stories and to voice their hurts and real needs. The course, and herein lies the heart, is designed to enable the care worker to give the lead back to the child.

Course facilitator, Rani Beaud, explains the next activityAs the care workers were practising what they have learnt with one another, their real stories and their own hurts were revealed. Not only a bonding experience with fellow care workers and facilitators alike, this was also a healing one.

Jesus asked the blind man to tell him want he wanted, not because he didn't know, but because he values our participation in his work in our lives.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. 
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you."