Growing up without a father is a common experience for many children in Zambia. Innocent is one of these fatherless children. Like many boys in Zambia he dreams of becoming a pilot, flying away to places he has only heard of, places that do not reflect the dire poverty in Kalende.
For the past two months, a group of individuals have come together to experience a short term volunteer opportunity offered by Hands at Work. They have come to dive deeper into who we are as well as see and understand what we do in some of the most vulnerable communities across three of the eight countries we work in.
At Hands at Work we are blessed to hear testimonies from visitors who have come to Africa to experience what God is doing. These stories of everyday people who meet Jesus in the faces of the most vulnerable for even a short period of time, tells of God’s great desire to change us so we will never be the same.
It is difficult to comprehend the struggles faced by the poor in Malawi. When it comes to education, many children dream of going to school and learning, living in the hope that they may one day succeed, get a job and escape the cycle of poverty they were born into. But for too many children in Malawi today, these dreams never come to fruition.
Perhaps being forced to drop out of school because your family simply cannot afford the fees anymore is just as heart breaking as not being able to go to school. When Lovelyn came home from school one day and realized she would not return, she felt lost and hopeless. Now, she faced the terrible prospect that her education was over.
Nokuphila is a seven year old girl. This desperately poor community struggles from a lack of clean, accessible water and, at times, impassable roads. There is also virtually no employment within the community. Her aunt immediately moved into the home to help care for Nokuphila and her disabled mother when her father passed away. With no job and no income, simply surviving was a constant struggle.
Kasongo’s story could have ended with her wandering the streets of Kikula with her siblings, desperately trying to survive. With no means of supporting herself, Kasongo began to suffer physically from a lack of food. The trauma of her father dying and the rejection of her mother abandoning her have left deep scars in this young girl.
Madeline* is a 10-year-old girl living in Chilabula, a small village 30 kilometres from the town of Luanshya in Zambia. Madeline is now in grade 2 and enjoys going to school. One day, she hopes to become a nurse so she can help people in need. When she is not at school, she enjoys playing games and collecting wild fruits with her friends.
This Christmas, Hands at Work has an opportunity for you to give to the most vulnerable children in Africa. Your gift will bless a child with access to education, basic health care, and one nutritious meal per day. A child like Chibesa…
Chibesa is a six-year-old boy who lives in Chibote, one of the poorest communities in Zambia. Abandoned by his parents, Chibesa has been raised by his aunt, Peggy, who has struggled to provide for her household of 12. She could not send Chibesa to school, and most days he went to sleep without eating. Fortunately, Ruth began visiting Peggy and quickly realised how desperate her family was for even basic support. Ruth is one of many local volunteer Care Workers who are caring for the most vulnerable in their community. She arranged for Chibesa to receive a free daily meal, access to education and basic health care. In love and compassion, Ruth has taken Peggy and her family into her heart. And Peggy, wanting to be a blessing in return, has become a Care Worker! She walks alongside Ruth ensuring many more children are able to survive, and know they are loved.
Chibesa is receiving love through Ruth and Peggy, and because of this, he has hope. Through your giving, you can support Care Workers across Africa who desire to be able to provide for the children they care for physically, emotionally and spiritually. Your generosity will not only bless others, but we believe you too will be blessed as you witness the transformation your support can make in the life of a child.
If you want to give and support the transformation of a child this Christmas, please learn more about the giving options for your country:
You may want to give on behalf of someone else. Download & Print the Gift Cards and distribute to your friends and family. With four cards to choose from, these gift cards tell the stories of Chibesa and three other children who now have hope for life and life abundantly. Through your giving, people in your life can read and share these stories, becoming a voice for the voiceless as well.
This season, may we all reflect on the birth of Jesus. He came down from heaven to be with us on earth as a human. And like so many children today, he was born into vulnerability. "And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."-Luke 2:7
Devon van Hoffen arrived in South Africa as part of Hands at Work’s September volunteer intake. From Canada, Devon has come to learn about Hands at Work, Africa, and God’s heart for the most vulnerable. Volunteers have the opportunity to walk alongside local Care Workers in the poorest of the poor communities as they visit children who need love and parental care. Here, he tells the story of one of his first home visits with a Care Worker in South Africa.
I recently did a home visit in a community in South Africa. I was greeted by an 11 year old girl with a big smile on her face. Her name was Lilian. I don’t know much of Lilian’s story but what little I do know is shocking.
Lilian is 11 years old and is HIV positive. When you are HIV positive you are more susceptible to disease, and because of her HIV she contracted tuberculosis. One of her kidneys has also failed, so she only has one left.
Lilian lives with her mother. Her mother is rarely home, so her aunt takes care of her. Her aunt told us that Lilian’s mother is given a government grant because she has a daughter. Her mother uses this grant to buy food for herself, and doesn’t care for Lilian. Lilian’s aunt can’t afford to buy medication for her, so she has no way of getting the help she needs.
Despite Lilian’s health, she is still attending school. I would guess that she is doing well in school because of how much she understood what was going on, and how well she could communicate with us. Her favourite class in school is English. She told us that when she grows up she wants to be a nurse, so she can help other people who are sick. That answer she gave was truly amazing, because it really shows how big of a heart she has.
Lilian’s aunt gave the Care Workers her medical report, and some papers that said how much her medication would cost. The Care Workers meet regularly, so at their next meeting they can present her report and potentially budget for Lilian’s medication. They will continue to visit Lilian on a weekly basis and pray with her and walk alongside Lilian in her struggle.
You can read more about Devon’s journey on his blog: http://devonvanhoffen.wordpress.com
Hands at Work invites people to come to Africa and see the work God is doing here on the ground. You can learn more about the opportunities to come to Africa to serve, here: /come
Mncedisi Nkosi is more commonly known by his friends as Fortune. He is a teenager growing up in one of the poorest communities in South Africa. His story shows how a life can be transformed when people give what they can to the most vulnerable.
I am Mncedisi Nkosi and I am 16 years old. I was born in a small South African community where I have lived my whole life. I have a sister, Siphokazi, 6, in grade 1, and a brother, Khanyiso, 13, in grade 8. I am in grade 11 and I especially enjoy mathematics. We stay with my grandma, Ester, who has been caring for us since our mother died. I’ve never known my father.
I remember the day my life was rocked. It was November 23, 2006. I had left my mum at home that morning. She had been sick, but I felt comfortable leaving her as I thought she was recovering and getting stronger. The news I heard when I returned that day pierced my heart and the words “hospital” and “dead” echoed in my head. My body went numb. I wished I was dead too. The reality of losing my mother was too much for me to bear. I started withdrawing and having difficulties in school.
Thankfully, I already knew God during this time and felt He was always with me. He showed me love through the people He put in my life like my grandma and my Care Worker, Lillian. With time, I realised that my life was worth living to the full and joy and laughter returned.
People would describe me now as outgoing and social. I have been cared for by Senzokuhle Community Based Organisation for the past five years and have recently become a leader with the Youth Program there. I love singing and dancing and am actively involved with leading our worship times. I’m so glad I get to eat and spend time with my friends every day at the Care Point but it’s the visits from Lillian that have made the biggest difference to me. I feel cared for and know that my grandmother also feels supported in raising me and my siblings.
When I am not involved with school and the Youth Program, I am working on my own business: wedding planning and video making. I feel I have a great drive and someday wish to be a businessman in Canada, America, or England. It’s hard to believe I once wanted to end my life and although my mother will never be replaced, I am thankful for the people God has placed in my life to encourage me and help me to dream!
We thank God for knowing Fortune by name and bringing hope into his life after experiencing tragedy as a child. We thank our Father for the Care Workers like Lillian who have given their love to Fortune, becoming like parents to him. We thank Him for those who have given financial support, generously, so this young man can access education, basic health care, and food security. Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). If you would like to give to support a child such as Fortune, learn more here.
By Stephen Jo
Stephen was a part of a short term missions team that visited the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa back in 2007. He was greatly challenged by what he saw and the work that Hands is doing and has been a supporter ever since. Here he reflects on his recent trip to Nigeria where he was able to visit the children he and his friends and family have been supporting for years.
It all began in the living room of my house in Southern California back in 2009. I invited George Snyman, Founder and CEO of Hands at Work in Africa, to come and speak to a gathering of my friends. That evening, God stirred the hearts of all who were there, although many of them had never visited Africa before. As a result of that meeting, we decided as a group of eight families to support 100 orphans in the Badia and Ilaje villages of Nigeria. We started this support in January 2010 and have been doing so ever since. June 2013, after several years of supporting the orphans in Nigeria, four men from the group finally got a chance to visit the villages in Nigeria. It was a life changing trip that none of us will soon forget.
George met us in Nigeria to lead our team. On our first day, he led us on a walk through Badia, a large urban slum just outside the capitol city of Lagos. The four of us had seen numerous examples of poverty across several continents prior to this trip but the level of poverty in Badia was by far the worst. The community was composed of densely arranged plywood shacks with trash littered everywhere. There was a stench in the air from pools of stagnant water and a lack of sanitation. Thousands of people populated this slum with 80% of the women being prostitutes and 60%-70% of the children being orphans.
It was difficult walking through Badia because of the extreme poverty and the fact that there was a spiritual darkness hanging over this place. However, about a half hour into this uncomfortable walk, something unexpected happened. I saw a girl in a bright red shirt standing about 30 yards ahead of us. It was her bright shirt that caught my attention. She was looking at us and saw Peter, who is the local leader for Hands in Nigeria, standing next to me. Her face lit up with a smile when she saw him and she came running toward him. She jumped into his arms and gave him a warm hug then quickly ran off to play again. I asked Peter who she was and he said, “It’s one of your children.” That moment was like seeing a ray of light in the darkness. It taught me the impact that Hands was having on this community in just the short time we had been there.
The following day we visited the Care Point in Badia where I had a chance to meet the girl in the red shirt. She turned out to be an adorable 9-year-old girl named Rachel. She is an orphan who lives in Badia with her aunt and sister. Unfortunately, her aunt is a prostitute who works out of their one room shack. This means that Rachel and her sister are woken up and asked to wait outside when patrons visit their home at any hour during the night. It’s heartbreaking to know that there are children who have no choice but to live in this way, but Rachel’s story reflects the life of many Badia children who live in this same manner. Fortunately, there is real hope that Rachel’s story will change some day. She is enrolled in a school through our sponsorship and the Hands Care Workers are raising her in the gospel. For these reasons, I am very hopeful that the cycle of prostitution will someday end with her.
It was a blessed experience to witness how God was using our modest support to change the lives of the orphans in Nigeria. We saw how Hands was bringing hope to places like Badia where none would be expected and children without any choices had hope for a better future. Most remarkably, our partnership with Hands gave 4 Americans an opportunity to be in a gospel community with 100 African children an ocean away. None of this would be possible without the loving God who not only cares for the orphan and widow but also graciously allows us to partake in the work of caring for them too.
A group of individuals in Australia, led by the compassionate McLaughlin family, seek to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children in South Africa, and to the Care Workers who serve so sacrificially each day to build for a positive future for their community. By partnering with communities like Welverdiend, in Bushbuck Ridge, this group has seen transformation taking place in many lives. Here is just one story:
In 2009, 6 young children were devastated by the loss of their parents. The eldest girl, Busie, 15, took responsibility for their mentally challenged and mute brother, Robert, and an uncle offered to take in the four youngest siblings: Segney, Gertrude, Ronald, and Karimo. It wasn’t long before the children realized they were not going to experience the care and provision they had anticipated from their uncle. Their uncle began stealing the small government orphan grant being given to the four orphaned children. On many nights, the children went to bed without food and often went to school without adequate clothes. One by one, the children fled from their uncle to their old home.
In 2011, Busie became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. With no one to help Busie raise her daughter and siblings, and with repeated years of failing at school, Busie dropped out in Grade 8. Motivation to continue attending dwindled and the hope for a brighter future became bleak. Housework and providing meals for the family became overwhelming. The growing instability in this family’s life started to affect the other children’s school work and their teachers became concerned. Aware that the family was in need of support, the teachers asked Care Workers at Pfunani Community Based Organisation to help.
Ester, a Pfunani Care Worker began to visit the family and look for ways to support them. She helped the children to apply for a social grant which they are now receiving. Each morning, Care Workers visit the family home on their way to the Care Point to ensure porridge is cooked for Robert. During other home visits, Ester helps to ensure the house is clean, laundry is washed, and meals are cooked. Although Busie still struggles with feelings of depression, the family are discovering a new reality of hope. Not only are they fed physically, with a nutritious meal each day at the Care Point, but also spiritually and emotionally. They enjoy interacting with other children at the Care Point and attend weekly lessons led by their older peers, where issues such as self-esteem, healthy relationships, and sexual education are discussed.
Ester desires to continue helping Busie and her family to experience brighter days, to understand that they are loved and embraced as family.
The McLaughlin family and friends desired to make their partnership with Pfunani Community Based Organisation personal. They wanted it to go beyond just the sending of funds. This group are getting to know the Care Workers and children by name, and they look for creative and meaningful ways to impact their lives and the community. In 2013, they formed a team and travelled to South Africa to spend time with the people they had grown to love. During their time in the community, they worked to make the Pfunani Care Point a safe, secure and fun place for the children and Care Workers to meet.
Children like Busie and her siblings, who have battled with so much loss and rejection, now find a place of acceptance and value. The McLaughlin family and friends work closely with Hands at Work to make a positive impact in the lives of these vulnerable children. And through it, they have discovered a new reality of hope for the children and Care Workers they know by name.
Have you considered sending a team to visit Hands at Work, or joining other individuals who desire to bring hope to the most vulnerable? Find out how you could get involved with Hands at Work by sending a group of passionate people to serve on a short-term team. No skills are required, just a commitment to serve and a desire to care.
To find out more, contact your local Hands at Work office:
For other countries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Hands at Work’s vision is to see the local Church in Africa effectively caring for the dying, orphaned and widowed, and unified in this mission with the Church outside Africa.
Greenfinch Church in Ipswich, UK has been partnering with Hands at Work for four years. Chris Bedford, the pastor of Greenfinch, shares his story about a special young boy who broke his heart and transformed his life – and that of his church.
“I guess there are just a few moments in life when something strikes you so hard that you feel totally powerless and useless.
Back in 2011, on our second day of home visits in the community of Chilabula, the harsh realities of everyday Zambian life hit me like a runaway freight train.
Several homes had been visited the previous day and already it was clearly noticeable was that there was a distinct lack of young men everywhere we went. All the families visited were led by women and the 20 to 45 year old men were simply missing. There was talk about how many had been lost to illness (no-one ever mentioned “HIV”). It had the potential to be overwhelmingly sad and yet somehow, it didn’t hit home too hard.
But then it happened. Having walked quite some way through the bush, we arrived at a clearing where a typical African house was located - straw roof, mud walls, surrounded by a sandy, barren area. On the ground lay an older man, unkempt and distinct, wearing a huge thick coat despite us sweltering in the 33 degree heat. He sat up but wasn’t for talking much. This old grandfather had been left to bring up four children, despite his struggle to even look after himself. His two youngest children; Chatty, 3, and Cosmas, 6, where adopted by the Chilabula Community Based Organisation. The children were not at home, so their Care Worker set off to find them. Soon, the two boys came out of the bushes into the clearing. That same morning we had played with kids who looked just the same as these children - no shoes, ragged clothes, but who played with great joy and gusto and huge smiles. However, these two were different - shoulders slumped under deadpan faces. They sat down and we tried to engage them in a game. Eventually, there was the merest flicker of a smile from Cosmas - no more than a flicker - and yet enough to stir hope in me for him. Chatty, however, was a different story. His face never changed. It was sullen, fearful and confused. I feared that there was nothing that would make him smile.
Then the harsh truth emerged. His mother had died just three months previously, leaving him with his three older siblings and a grandfather. How does a child so young even begin to comprehend where his mother is, or who will take care of him, or where his next meal is coming from? Perhaps even worse than this, where does he get hugs from and who kisses him goodnight?
This one child, Chatty, broke my heart.
Can we stand by and simply watch this happen? As Matt Redman wrote “there must be more than this”.
Mark 9:37 (Jesus speaking): “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me – God who sent me.” (The Message)
I walked away from that situation and for over two years, this little child haunted my thoughts. Why didn’t I embrace the boy? Why didn’t I just grab him and hug him? Has my own culture knocked out of me the sense to love a lonely child? Why didn’t I try harder with him? What made me sit around and simply watch?
Now in 2013, we went back to the rural village of Chilabula. We arrived at a house that I did not immediately recognize, but Burton, a local Care Worker told me that it was Chatty’s house. I was immediately both excited, and apprehensive. This time, however, I was determined not to miss the opportunity to move beyond just seeing him. I would embrace him.
We walked up to the house and I spotted Chatty, sat on the floor with his twenty year old big sister, who is also looking after her own child. This time, Chatty seemed more comfortable to visit with us.
Chatty still looks a little serious, even sullen, but things are definitely different now. Just like many other Zambian boys, he was happy to play with us and showed us his plastic bag ball, neatly banded together. Burton spoke to Chatty and asked him “Do you remember this man” at which he nodded his head in affirmation. I was blown away that he could remember me. But why should he? We did nothing out of the ordinary to help last time, and yet he remembered.
I tried to do what Dads do and I put my arm around him and tried to make him smile. It worked, and suddenly everything made a little more sense and felt worthwhile. Of course, this child was depressed and confused two years previously when his mother had so recently passed away, but today, we could see change in his life. The love, support and care that Burton and the local Care Workers have shown Chatty, along with the support of his older sister have transformed this little boy. Chatty still has a long way to go in his life and it takes a bit of time to see a smile, but the life in him is slowly emerging.
This year, Chatty broke my heart once again, but not in a hopeless, despairing way. He makes me cry, not because I do not know what to do but because I see hope in the eyes of this child and because I see love being poured into his life. I see that I can be part of making a difference for one boy, living 5000 miles away on the other side of the world.”
Chris and his church consider the community of Chilabula as part of their family, congregation and ministry. Every week, they pray for the community and the children they know by name and they look forward to the next opportunity to visit them.
To find out how you and your church can be a part of reaching vulnerable children across Africa, contact your local Hands at Work office.
For other countries please contact email@example.com