I still remember the hues of vibrant rust colored dirt that coated my sandals as I looked down at my feet. I recall the blazing hot African sun beating down on my shoulders. I call to mind the enticing aroma of open air food cooking around me. Most of all I hold dear the sound of all the voices in unison singing praises to Jesus! Oh how I loved dancing with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we praised our Savior! Those beautiful memories still linger in our minds as if it were yesterday.
Julia Essman, a mom from Munich, Germany is mobilising her child's school to care for vulnerable children in DR Congo. “Ever since I visited the classrooms of my son’s school, kids run towards me wherever I go, asking about the children in Kiwewe village and telling me how much they appreciate the work..”
Jon Mycio, a student from London, Ontario, Canada is mobilising his friends to care for the poor in Africa. While Jon was serving with Hands at Work in 2011 he sowed in to communities in South Africa and Zambia and the experiences he had sowed something deep in him too.
Now his university Bible Study has committed to sacrificing student luxuries so that children in Malawi can have a better life.
David Da Costa is a musician from Mozambique, living in Australia. Him and his wife, Carly, give time volunteering for Hands at Work in Australia. Inspired by stories of desperate African communities, they wrote this song and we are giving it to you now as a free download.
Christa Roby, a massage therapist in British Columbia, Canada, volunteered with Hands at Work for six months in South Africa in 2010. Two years later, she feels an undeniable pull to return. Read her reflections as she prepares to pack up her life in Canada and follow her heart, and God’s calling, to Africa.
"For me, it's harder to be away from Africa than it is here... It’s where my heart is. After being there so much and having that time with the people there, and seeing someone who has so little, but gives so much, it just becomes something you want to be a part of, something you want to share in...It's raw, it's innocent, and it’s a deeper sense of fulfillment."
Read the rest Christa's reflections on coming back to Africa in the Chilliwack Progress.
"I soon realized that making the decision and actually doing the follow-through are two very distinct acts. But no matter how big the effort to follow-through would be, I knew in my heart I would walk it out."
To raise money for her trip, Christa hosted a charity gala in her hometown. Read about it on the Hands at Work Canada Page.
The Chong family's relationship with Hands at Work was sparked by the eldest of their children, 8-year-old Nathan Chong. Nathan decided that, in lieu of gifts for his birthday, he would raise support for orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa through Hands at Work. He raise $300 CAN for the organization, but not just that, he inspired his family to make the trip to South Africa to see the results of his efforts for themselves.
We had never thought about going to Africa, not even for a vacation. We had always financially supported missions in Africa, but we thought that going there was for the called passionate few.
Then God moved us by using our 8-year old son Nathan. It started with Nathan's 7th birthday party. Instead of receiving gifts, he raised a small amount of money for Hands at Work. From there, God led us into a friendship with Hands at Work. Eventually, God prompted us to take our three children, aged 3, 5, and 8, to visit the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa. Initially, we were hesitant, but God was increasingly clear about His intentions. We knew we’d better obey.
On a hot day in September, a group of Church Unlimited cyclists took the community of Mpakeni in northeastern South Africa by storm. Church Unlimited has been partnering with a group of Mpakeni care workers called Siphamandla Home-Based Care over the last year. The Nelspruit-based church is one of Hands at Work's key partners in South Africa. Watch the video below to find out what the event was all about!
Kristal Hoff is a high school teacher from Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada and has been involved with Hands at Work for the last three years. Her work in Malawi had inspired her to, upon her return to Canada, fight not only for the material liberty of school children in Malawi, but also for the spiritual freedom of high schoolers in Canada.
It all started when my feet were getting itchy. I had been in Africa for just over a year and a half [volunteering with Hands at Work] and then came home to teach at the high school [in Canada] I had attended: Lloydminster Comprehensive High School. My heart was still pumping hard for Africa and I just couldn't quiet myself about it. It's like that scripture where Jesus says if the people didn't speak, the rocks would cry out. I started just dreaming with a few teachers about the possibility of a partnership between the Lloydminster school and the Malawi community school. I dreamed up how it could work out: For the school to sponsor a group of 50 kids they would need to raise CA$9000 a year, which worked out to less than CA$1 per person per month. How easy! I had a few core teachers excited and then got the administration [of the school] on board.
Lloydminster is a very busy city with lots of big paychecks and lots of big dirty trucks. The dream was to see these kids see beyond the bubble of fast oil money in Lloydminster and begin to understand a bigger purpose for themselves. When I was teaching, I found that many kids have no appreciation for school anymore because they can easily quit and get a job on the oil rigs. I also found that many of the students I was teaching came from families that made it big in the oil boom and as a result never had to face suffering. It was interesting because when I thought of this relationship, I was more passionate about the transformation of the school and the student body in Canada than I was about the school in Malawi. It would be easy to find money for another source to help take care of the kids in Malawi, but I felt so strongly that it had to be these Lloyd kids.
"Nigeria and the people in Ilaje who lost their homes recently are heavy on my heart. I can't stop thinking about them," Hands at Work volunteer, Kristal Hoff, recently wrote.
In a 2006 report, the World Bank identified nine Lagos slums requiring an urgent response. Hands at Work is active in three of these slums, including Ilaje which is notorious being perched on the edge of an ocean bay and extending out over the water with homes built on stilts.
Read Kristal's thoughts on the recent developments in Ilaje below.
In 2009 I had the opportunity to visit Nigeria, specifically a community called Ilaje in Lagos. I blogged about it here. Ilaje was fascinating because half of the people lived on the land and half lived on the water in these wooden shacks on stilts.
I recently discovered that the government demolished all the homes that were on the water, leaving many families homeless and hopeless. Some have secured shelters on land but many have left looking for shelter elsewhere.
Today Elvis Mahlanya, a strapping 22-year-old, is rather known as a passionate social change-maker, than an orphan. The product of the close relationships Hands at Work volunteers forged with him, Elvis shares his story below as only he can tell it.
No one can tell this, only me. I am Elvis, the eldest son of the late Sinah Mahlanya who was basically a single parent. She passed away in 2004 when I was just 15-years-old. In her absence I had to take over responsibility for my younger brother, Africa, who was just 13 and my sister Tebogo who was just 6 years old. I had to make sure that I could address their needs all by myself. Everything from fetching water down by the river and providing food for us became my responsibility. Most of the time I had to ask help from my family members or friends. I remember being scolded and shouted at by my own uncle as I tried to advocate for my brother who needed school shoes. His were torn in such a way that he could not wear them. Some days he just went to school barefoot.
Six-year-old Sipiwe lives with her grandmother in rural and remote Susu*, a community nestled in thick, African bush about 40km from the mining town of Kabwe in Central Zambia. Susu is an extraordinarily poor, under-resourced and spread-out community isolated from Kabwe and its education institutions and health facilities. It takes the residents of Susu about three hours to cycle to town to buy even the most basic of supplies.
But one thing Susu is not lacking in is initiative. Local leader, Sunday, with the aid of a band of volunteer care workers and Hands at Work, birthed new hope for the community: Susu Home-Based Care. In the short few years that the organisation has been running, Susu has started to transform. The community now boasts a profitable hammer mill, a vegetable garden watered with water extracted from the earth through a borehole and the beginnings of a three-roomed school building. (Undeterred by the absence of infrastructure, the community school – run entirely by volunteer teachers – currently has its classrooms in the church building and under trees.)
James Moreland (in photo on right with friend) ran the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2011. At the age of 18 years, 1 day and 20 hours, he became the youngest person ever to have run the Edinburgh Marathon. Below is his story of about why he decided to do it and the trials and triumphs along the way.
Last November while sitting in a Saint Andrews pub on the east coast of Scotland, my friend and I made a deal to run the May 2011 Edinburgh Marathon together. Now, my friend was a runner; I was not. I kept myself reasonably fit—a 30 minute jog around St. Andrews would be more than sufficient for me—but forget about a gruelling 26.2 mile (42.1 km) annihilation around the Scottish capital!
I first heard about Hands at Work through my mum Judith who travelled to South Africa to witness the work out there. Seeing her return really compelled to help was actually quite infectious, and after reading through the Hands at Work webpage, I too came to really respect the work that is being done. To me it felt like a perfect demonstration of Christians showing others–especially the poor and needy–God’s love and compassion for them, putting into practise one of the two commandments Jesus highlighted: love your neighbour as yourself. It’s a brilliant display of Christian ‘brotherhood’ as people come together—local churches offering love and support and oversees volunteers using their giftings to serve. I can’t emphasize enough how inspired I was by Hands at Work and I found God really challenging me to give and serve more, which is ultimately why I felt running the marathon to raise money for Hands at Work was a perfect opportunity to support the work. So I would run the marathon for Hands at Work, and I would do it in less than 4 hours.
As the northern summer is now in full swing, so is our busy season of teams and visitors. This week we’re featuring the Forge, a church partner from UK who is serving with Hands at Work in Zambia right now. Read about their experience here and follow them as they blog and tweet.
Have you recently visited Hands at Work? Would you care to share about your time with us? Comment on this post, connect with us over Facebook or one of our other social media and share with us and your friends about your experience.
Here are some easy ways how:
Facebook Fanpage – Become a fan, leave a comment and post your photos to our wall.
Facebook Cause – Join and invite your friends to do the same. Start a new fundraising goal and challenge your co-workers or classmates to be a part of bringing healing to vulnerable children in Africa.
Twitter – Follow George as he tweets. Re-tweet your favorites and spread the word about Hands at Work.
Flickr – Are you on flickr? Connect with us and we’ll share a thousand words a hundred times over.
When high school students in Soweto started protesting for better education on 16 June 1976, police responded with teargas and live bullets. It is commemorated today by a South African national holiday, Youth Day, which honours all the young people who lost their lives in the struggle against Apartheid and Bantu Education.
In 1953 the Apartheid Government enacted The Bantu Education Act, which established a Black Education Department in the Department of Native Affairs. The role of this department was to compile a curriculum that suited the "nature and requirements of the black people." The author of the legislation, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd (then Minister of Native Affairs, later Prime Minister), stated: "Natives [blacks] must be taught from an early age that equality with Europeans [whites] is not for them." Black people were not to receive an education that would lead them to aspire to positions they wouldn't be allowed to hold in society. Instead they were to receive education designed to provide them with skills to serve their own people in the homelands or to work in labouring jobs under whites.
An excerpt from 16 June 1976 Student Uprising in Soweto
"Is this the way to Amulo?" Sounds like a really annoying song that was out (again) a few years ago. Actually, it was what I found myself saying quite a lot in a car whilst bouncing on roads, that had more potholes than road, just outside Kitwe in the Copperbelt mining region in central Zambia.
My wife, Allison, and I had just left a conference hosted by Hands at Work, an amazing organisation - actually, more of a family - who support projects all across sub-Saharan Africa that are actively reaching and serving widows, orphans and vulnerable children. Now the conference was over and we were off to Amulo for a community stay: the chance to stay with a local household and spend 24 hours with a family.
Hands at Work founder, George Snyman, is currently visiting Canada. He met up with Hands friend, seven-year-old Nathan Chong. Here he is pictured with George at the Global Outreach Conference in Toronto:
Nathan wrote to George:
Thank you very much for letting me be part of your talk today. It’s a nice picture isn’t it? I’m glad that the Lord gave me the right words to answer to your question: “Why did you do that?”
Read about Nathan's work with Hands here.
Mthandazo sits at a fire he has built for cooking outside of his small stone, mud and stick house which resembles more of a play-fort. This is where he and his 15-year-old nephew, Sipho, live. The boys’ first home collapsed during the rainy season the year before. Their new home belongs to Sipho’s mother who abandoned her son when she moved to another village. Mthandazo says he is grateful for the company and security Sipho provides, especially at night.
At night Mthandazo worries about the rats that come and eat through their mattress and about the coming rains that will likely wash away their home. He also worries because there is no door on which to put a lock to keep their few belongings safe.
Mthandazo’s elder sister passed away last year, leaving him the head of the household. His father, who was never really around, passed away a few years ago and his mother moved to work on a rural farm in 2002. Since then Mthandazo has rarely seen her more than a day month when he makes a three-hour trek by minibus-taxi to visit her.
Through all these challenges, Mthandazo has remained a strong student at school and dreams of becoming a geography teacher. He is respected in his village both by adults and his peers. When asked if Mthandazo ever gets into trouble, his care worker replies: “The only trouble Mthandazo has is with food.” The money his mother has to spare each month varies and sometimes there isn’t enough even for the taxi fare to visit her.
What an amazing year 2010 was for Hands at Work Canada! God has continued to open doors and to bring more people into the Hands at Work family, people like Nathan Chong.
Nathan is a little boy with a big heart to give. For his seventh birthday, Nathan had decided that he would ask guests at his birthday party to make a donation to Hands at Work in lieu of birthday gifts. He raised a total of 300CAD!
When Hands at Work founder, George Snyman, visited Toronto in December 2010, Hands at Work Canada arranged for him to speak at Nathan's school and the response was amazing. After George’s visit, children sent letters to George and a quilt was raffled off with all proceeds going to Hands at Work. A simple, yet profound, act of giving from one child has planted seeds that will bear fruit in many children, both in Canada and in Africa.
Dear Mr Snyman
We thank you for coming to our school to talk to us about Hands at Work in Africa. We understand that those people in Africa have scarce supplies, indeed. We understand also why we donate to Hands at Work and we hope to be able to donate more in the future.
In honor of WORLD AIDS DAY and in memory of all mothers and fathers who have passed away due to HIV/AIDS and the millions of children left behind, we are asking you to change your profile picture on facebook. In particular today we think of Dumiso (14) and Ayanda (13) in Swaziland.
Raise awareness once more that many are still suffering from the affects of HIV/AIDS but hope and healing can come through the work of our hands and the prayers of our hearts today.