Hands at Work in Africa

Diamonds in the Dust

Diamonds in the Dust from Hands at Work in Africa on Vimeo.


“Diamonds in the dust.” It’s a beautiful phrase that we have been using in Hands at Work right from the beginning of our history. -Hands at Work Founder, George Snyman

Buried in the backrooms of poor communities, these youth are truly our diamonds in the dust, and worth a lifetime of searching for and discovering them.

Following her Heart back to Africa (CAN) (SA)

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.


Transforming Hearts: The Chongs in South Africa (CAN) (SA)

Florence and Paul Chong travelled with their three children from Toronto, Canada to South Africa in March 2012. For two weeks, they exposed themselves to life on the other side of the world. Here Florence Chong reflects on "the best experience they have ever had as a family and as individuals."

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.

Making a Lasting Impact (UK)

McKenna and Maleah (left) raised funds for Hands at Work through their love of basketball. They also joined the UK team on a trip to South Africa in February.A 10-member team from Locks Heath Free Church in the United Kingdom recently returned home after a two-week stay in our South Africa offices. The group represented their church, which has been supporting a community in Belfast, South Africa for four years. They visited the community to see first-hand who their support and prayers were affecting, to encourage the care workers who volunteer there, and to gain a new perspective from the other side of the world.

During our time there we met the volunteer care workers from the local church and the orphaned children who will benefit from the funds raised here.  We joined the care workers in their daily visits to the vulnerable people in the community and quickly grew to admire and respect their commitment.”

Prior to leaving the UK, the team organized a fundraiser to benefit Hands at Work. They staged a ‘free throw’ basketball contest with a goal of making 3000 baskets over the course of eight consecutive hours. The event was successful, as 3002 baskets were made, in addition to a total of £735 donated to support Hands at Work. Upon reflecting on their experience in South Africa, and visiting the community they were supporting, Sharon, a member of the team, felt that the things they had seen and felt in their hearts would leave a lasting impact on their lives.

“There is so much that I want to take back with me. We went out [to Belfast] on Monday, and we came across this little girl named California. This little girl was so precious, like a diamond. She really shouldn’t be alive and she sang to us. Her hurt and her pain was in her singing, but she was singing that she was only bearing the pain that God had carried and that He had gone to the cross so that she could be saved. She was such a thoughtful person to meet, and God has given her life. I will take that memory back among many other things.”

The group was inspired by what they saw, and concluded their stay with a promise to share the memories with their friends at home, and eventually a return visit.

“The scope of the problem is huge in Africa, but we’re grateful that our family and friends could make a difference by contributing financially and personally to encourage the care workers and orphaned children in Belfast.”


Reflection on 2011

A look back at what made 2011 a special year for Hands at Work and our children across Africa. Mouse over "NOTES" to read about these special moments.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Cycling enthusiasts take community by storm! (SA)

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!

My-News.tv Mpakeni from Mario Kolbé on Vimeo.

The Man Who Looks and Looks and Doesn’t See

David and Jane Newsome, from the UK, have been close friends of Hands at Work for about six years. Both David and Jane are pastors and the Hands family at the Hub in South Africa recently had the privilege of hearing David speak. Below we'd like to share his timely and humble (as well as humbling) message.

This is our sixth year of visiting Hands at Work and yet we still feel very much as beginners. I was reflecting this time, as we visited communities, that I think I probably understand only about ten to twenty per cent of each encounter. I have been reminded of our first visit to South Africa, which wasn’t to Hands. We first came as a family as tourists in 2001. I had a colleague who was South African and we came with her to stay with her family. Her brother-in-law was a zoologist with the Natal Parks Board and so we spent a week with him and his family at the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park. It was wonderful, it was like having our own private game guide, taking us on bush walks every day and benefiting from his expertise. I always remember him telling me one night as we sat around a camp fire watching the moon rise, how their Zulu trackers gave nicknames to all the zoologists. One of his colleagues they called in Zulu ‘The man who looks and looks and doesn’t see.’ What an indictment and what a challenge! ‘The man who looks and looks and doesn’t see.’

Youthful Perspective (CAN)

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.

Some classes are held under a tree at this Malawi community school, a far cry from the school in LloydminsterIt 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.

Kissing camelsLloydminster 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.

In the words of Adam: A beautiful transformation (Part Two) (SA)

I have all but forgotten what a lie-in feels like: Early mornings, late nights and everything in between spent under the scorching African sun, makes for a pretty exhausting couple of weeks. 6 o'clock starts aren’t as much a problem as having to endure, daily, the nagging from those I live with as to why I don’t join the sunrise jogging team! Every evening we spend an hour or two in someone’s home talking through the day’s events as we try to process the things we’ve seen, heard and experienced.

It has been quite draining physically, emotionally and spiritually. And yet, whilst I have found myself exhausted, I get up in the morning not because I have to, but because I know God has something new in store. Every day I am walking not only into the lives and stories of the world’s most broken people, but also deeper into the heart of the Father. It is an adventure through and through: exploring the heart of God. Living in cross-cultural community, encountering people in the most distressing situations, being invaded by the lives and stories of those you would otherwise never hear of, all of this offers God the most amazing opportunity to teach and to transform you. But nothing can prepare you for the kind of transformation that takes place through three days spent living in an orphaned household.

Volunteers in Action

Earlier this year on our facebook fan page we asked you to share with us photos and reflections of your time with us in Africa. There was an outpouring of responses and here are some of them. To learn more about volunteering, click here. To read about Adam Bedford's (UK) experience of the six-week orientation programme, click here.

In the words of Adam: The whole point is relationships (SA)

Are you considering volunteering with Hands at Work? Have you ever wondered what it feels like to jump into a completely new cultural experience? Adam Bedford, a 22-year-old university graduate from the UK, shares about his experience of the six-week Hands at Work orientation programme for new volunteers. He lives at the Hands 'village' in South Africa.

I first touched down on African soil in April 2010 in beautiful rural Zambia. At the time I was halfway through my studies and the thought of visiting Africa, let alone moving there, was little more than a romantic dream for the distant future. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, a free ticket to Zambia landed in my lap.

The church that my parents were leading had come across an organisation/charity/family - I wasn’t sure what it was back then - called Hands at Work. In the hope of identifying a community they could support they decided to send a small group of five to Africa and asked if I would consider being a part of the team. I don’t remember having to think about it for long.

The two weeks spent in Zambia left an impression on my heart that would leave me restless for a long time. I had stumbled upon God’s heart for the world’s most vulnerable people and discovered this wild group of Christians committed to transforming Africa in His name.

A Peculiar Work, a Letter from Lynn

What a peculiar work we’re a part of!

A new group of international volunteers has arrived with us at the Hub in South Africa and yesterday I heard how one of them struggled to raise funds to come here: he sold his few possessions to pay for himself to come serve the poor in Africa. Of course it had been scandalous to his friends and family, but he was convinced it was part of God’s calling for his life.

That conversation came after I’d spent the morning with a team of care workers in a Bushbuckridge village near the South African border with Mozambique. Sitting with the care workers, one of them a woman in her mid-forties, had explained to me the impact that her husband’s death had on her life: she was left to care for six children (only four were her own), she has no job and she’s battling serious health issues herself.

This is My Story (SA)

Elvis Mahlanya, a self-portrait

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.

A Dire Dilemma - Sam Shin's impressions (SA) (US)

Full-time UK volunteer, Catherine Clarkson, with the Shin kids as they serve chicken feet and broth at a South African care centreSam Shin, his wife Shua and their four children have been a part of the Hands at Work family for the past six weeks whilst this church-planting family have been on sabbatical. They desired to "rest in Christ" and to expose their children to the reality of life for orphans and vulnerable children in Africa.

The Shin family fully embraced the Hands at Work 'culture' and have taught us what a Godly family looks like. They've essentially become working limbs of this part of the Body of Christ. We will miss them when they leave tomorrow.

Below Sam shares about the hope we have in Christ. For more on their African adventure and photos, visit Sam's blog.

We made another round of visits to Belfast, a poor region in the eastern part of South Africa. And as we made our way up the home of a girl about 16-years-old, we noticed she had began to weep. She was sitting in a chair wearing knee-length, striped stockings. We sat around her as she sat there, crying. When we asked her to share her story, you could tell she was hesitant to say too much. Our group was large as my family of six was there along with Levy who is the regional coordinator, a couple of care workers and a couple of field workers.

When Levy asked if anyone had any encouragements for her, I couldn’t but say something. Hopefully I didn't speak because I felt that as a pastor everyone was waiting me to say something, but instead it was because the Lord had laid something upon my heart. I shared with her from 2 Corinthians 4: Those in Christ have a treasure in a jar of clay. Even if that jar should break the treasure is secure because God has secured it through His Son’s blood.

Running for a Purpose

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.

YouTube & Vimeo – Took some video while you were here with us? Upload to YouTube or Vimeo and tag it: “Hands at Work in Africa”

We're all on the same road, it's just a very long one (ZAM) (UK)

Oliver Westmancott is the non-medical member of a team from The Forge, UK on a short-term, well, medical trip to Hands at Work communities in ZambiaToday we visited two different schools on the same day. This begged the obvious question: How far is it between the two?

The reply was insightful: "They're on the same road, it's just a very long road."

Two schools. Both on the same road. Both community schools. This basically means that they are run by volunteers and get no money from the government, but are, crucially, free to attend.

We have to feed the kids before we deworm them. They don’t eat everyday and if a kid is properly full of worms it's not good to give them the tablets. It is worth giving that a second thought: They don’t eat everyday. It's not that sometimes they skip breakfast, it's that some days they don’t eat. At all. The food we provide gives the tablet something to work on.

The food is appreciated, but is just so temporary. It probably doesn't last much longer than our visit. Even the deworming needs to be repeated in six months. On its own it's not going to transform their worlds.

Primary Caregiver Coaching Programme

 “When my orphaned children would come to me saying they were hungry, I would say: ‘Go to the graveyard and tell your mom.’ Now I am different. I know that these kids will sometimes misbehave because they are coping with grief.” – A granny attending a Primary Caregivers Workshop. She attended her first one just 1 year ago. Today she gave her testimony.

The HIV/AIDS situation came like an unexpected storm that devastated many of the significant resources/belongings children had in their lives. Today, children are left deserted by their loved family members. There has not been a devastation of this magnitude before. The orphaned children are going through a very difficult time in their lives because while they are developing they are forced to give up their childhood and face adulthood responsibilities. This is a serious burden in the lives of these children.

George in the UK

George Snyman, Hands at Work founder, will be in the UK from 10 - 20 June. Don't miss him!

Venue: Locks Heath Free Church, 255 Hunts Pond Road, Titchfield Common Fareham, Hampshire
Date and Time: Sun, 12 June at 9AM and 11AM (both morning services)

Venue: Tea at St Andrews Landywood
Date and Time: Tues, 14 June at 5:30 - 7:30PM


Venue: Morning service at Greenfinch Church, Greenfinch Avenue, Ipswich
Date and Time: Sun, 19 June at 10:30 - 12:00PM

Venue: Forge Church, Debenham Leisure Centre, Gracechurch Street, Dehenham, Stowmarket
Date and Time: Sun, 19 June at 6:30 - 8:30PM

Is this the way to Amulo? (ZAM) (UK)

Leon Evans, a good friend of Hands and senior pastor at Zion Christian Centre in the UK, wrote about his recent trip to Zambia with Hands at Work on his blog.

"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.