A new team of short-term volunteers arrived at the Hub in South Africa in February this year. Armed with compassion, humility and an open mind, they embarked on a four-day community stay to conclude their orientation programme.
The team of six returned with a sparkle in the eye and many stories: some humorous, some sad, some hopeful.
Tommy, from England, and Jon, a Canadian, spent their weekend with Silo Ngobeni in Clau Clau, a semi-rural settlement in the north-eastern province of Mpumalanga.
20-year-old Silo is only in grade 11. Since his mother died in 2008, he has been living alone in a one-room, make-shift house. On first impression life doesn’t seem too bad. Silo seems to have all the essentials: food, clothing, water, a bed, even electricity.
As the weekend unfolded, though, it became obvious that Silo is a very lonely young man. He told Tommy and Jon that often he doesn’t have anything substantial to eat for as long as a week on end. Despite the hardship, however, Silo is determined not to revert to crime. Instead he looks to God for help.
Silo wrote two short stories that he has agreed to share:
Life: Complicated, Hard, Unbelievable, Good
By Silo Ngobeni
Truly I like living in this world, but if things go like this, I won't be happy or make it through. I will be excited if God can take my hand and walk with me from this hard life. I wish things would change for me, and live like other kids in my community. If I had super powers I would like to change this world to a New World, and everyone live a happy life: physically and emotionally.
I wonder why God made us live a different lifestyle. I think is a good thing to plan for our children even if we're not educated. Life is hard, but dead could be easy. Everyone want to live in this world, but if you think about the troubles you could face in life, you could hate being in this world. Noone want to die, but you can die in an easy way. I like the words from Peter Tosh song that he said, “Everyone want to go to heaven but no one want to die.”
“Please God I need your guidance and your protection, without you in this world I am nothing. God I keep my faith in you. I know you can take me from lower class to upper class.” God! Lord Jesus! I know you won't let me suffer, go to school with an empty stomach. Please make a way for me. I promise you I will live a holy life! “AMEN.”
A strong man stands for himself, but a stronger man stands for others.
My mother: Sick, Love, Death, Strong
By Silo Ngobeni
My mother was a good person, everybody like her. I'm going to tell my children about her. Noone is gonna take mom's place to me, and no one I can compare to her. She was to love me and care for me, she was a brave woman. My mom was always want to see me happy and excited. She does whatever it takes just to see me smile.
My mother gets sick when I was very young and I didn't know that she's suffering to sickness. She was seemed like a normal person. She was suffering from cancer. In early year 2008, she's started to be very sick. I was 15 years, Mom used to tell me she's going to die one day. I doesn't understand what she mean, but it was a truth.
Nothing but the truth, Nothing is better than love, These arms won't let your heart down.
Tommy and Jon realised that Hands at Work is about so much more than providing food and shelter, it is about relationship.
My Community Stay with Silo
UK volunteer, Tommy Malster, shares his experience
We stayed in a one-roomed house with a 20-year-old guy named Silo.
Though the weekend made a big impact on me, my first impression was that life for Silo is not too bad. While his home is humble, he has a TV, a music system, a fridge and a microwave. It looks complete like a typical bachelor pad. However, over the course of the weekend we got to know his story and we realised that his poverty more internal (emotional and psycho-social), rather than external (physical).
As the weekend unfolded, the lack of interaction that Silo has with other people, family and friends, became evident. At weekends he visits his extended family, but only when he is not working. During the week, when he is not at school, no-one comes to visit so he becomes very lonely in the evenings. The one shining light is that his pastor comes to visit every weekend to have a chat. He also receives home-based care once or twice a week from the community-based organisation in his area, supported by Hands at Work. I can only imagine how that must feel: not having anyone to fully trust and tell all your problems to when you are feeling down.
It also amazes me how Silo can survive on so little money: sometimes he is forced live on R2 a week! He would really struggle if it wasn’t for the help of the feeding point from the community-based organisation.
It makes me think how very fortunate I am and really puts things into perspective for me.