It’s hard to believe that 2 weeks of Orientation have now passed and I am staring down the barrel of week 3 already! This past week has just flown! And again has been a mixture of so many experiences/impacts/emotions. For this week I thought I would share with you some of the Highs and Lows of the week:
Relationship Building in Welverdiend: On Monday we spent the day in a community called Welverdiend (where we will spend 3 nights sleeping out in at the end of this week for our community stay – more on this later). It was just a special day building on relationships with the Care Workers and kids in this community. One of the 4 pillars of the Hands at Work model is to “know the children by name”. It has been my prayer this week that I will remember and greet all the children I meet by name. Therefore it is exciting to be spending Friday – Monday this coming weekend staying in this community and continuing to build deeper relationships.
An Incredible Young Man: On Thursday we spent the day in a community that I had not been to before called Share. My first impression of this community was the warmth of the care workers and the kids. We were totally embraced and welcomed right from the outset (Kids ran out to greet us as we arrived wrapping their arms around our legs!). One of the incredible young men I met here has totally inspired and challenged me. When you first meet him it is clear he has a physical disability (looks like cerebral palsy perhaps). However his mind is sharp and he always seems to have the biggest smile across his face. When you ask him, he does not know his own age, I can only guess perhaps 12-14yrs. He did not stop smiling, joking around, laughing and is evidently so loved by the children and care workers around him. To have a disability in Africa is often a ‘life sentence’ as such in that families will often just lock you away in a room and hide you from society. But this young man is embracing life, overcoming the odds and having an incredible attitude and so much joy through it all. Inspirational!
Foodapalooza: We have one night in the Hands Village each week, fondly named Foodapalooza, where we decide a food theme for dinner, all buy one ingredient and then have a big cook up and share a meal together. This week was Pizza night. 30 or so of the Hands Family came together for a very fun meal!
Deeper Relationships with other members of the Hands Family: There is such a deep level of openness and vulnerability amongst the Hands family which immediately brings such a deeper level of relationship. I have been so blessed by quite a number of conversations and catch ups with people this week.
Kruger National Park: For our Saturday this week we spent a very long day (from 5:30am – 6:30pm) on Safari in Kruger National Park. We are so blessed to have access to one of the finest Safari Parks in Africa only 25 minutes up the road! And we were even charged local South African rates to enter because of our long term visas (so only cost approx. $5.60!) We only saw 3 of the Big 5, the lush vegetation and long grass at the moment makes it hard to find the cats, so no leopards or lions unfortunately, however plenty of elephants, giraffes, rhino’s, hippo’s, zebras, buffalo, wildebeests, pumbas, I could go on and on… 🙂
The two more challenging moments for the week were as follows:
A very vulnerable little girl: On Tuesday we were out in one of the communities. As the children started arriving at the feeding point after school I was drawn to one of the first little girls that arrived and sat down in the shade with us. My first observation was that she was quite withdrawn. Most children will warm up to you fairly quickly once you engage with them, however as much as I tried, she did not warm too quickly at all. I was eventually able to encourage her to join me in one of the group games. After the children had eaten their meal, with the care workers we were split into groups to walk the children home. I stood close by to this little girl I had been watching so I could walk with her to see her home and find out more of her story. We arrived at her home to find out she was living with her 17 year old brother and 15 year old sister. The mother had passed away and there was not father present (perhaps absent or passed). Their house had three rooms. One room did not have a door and so was empty and not being used for anything. The second room was a tiny kitchen in the centre of the dwelling. And the final room was a bedroom which the three children shared. The bedroom contained one double bed, which the two older children shared. And my little friend slept on some foam on the floor in the corner of the room. This room had a door; however there was no lock on the door which makes this a very vulnerable place to be sleeping. Extended family members live nearby to these kids, a number of Uncles and Aunt’s. One of the Uncles lives with his family in a large house while the rest of the family members share a very small dwelling. We did not have time to talk with the extended family to find out more about the situation but something did not sit well at all in my spirit. This little girl is very vulnerable. She will remain in my prayers and I hope to be able to visit her again soon.
A Gogo dealing with a really tough situation: For a home visit on Thursday we visited the house of a Gogo (grandma) who only last month lost one of the grandchildren she was caring for. The 11 year old grandson drowned in an accident at the dam. She is still caring for the remaining 3 grandchildren, 2 older children and the youngest 9 year old boy. She is working on coping with the loss. While we could not understand all that was being spoken between the care workers and this gogo, you could see the pain on her face and the burden that a gogo of her age should not have to carry. Added to this, the responsibility of continuing to care for the remaining children and dealing with some of her own health issues. There is no doubt she is a very strong women who has experienced too much in life, carrying burdens she should not have to bear, and yet had such a beauty about her. A really sad situation, however an inspirational gogo. (On a lighter note, when we were chatting and she discovered I was not married (which is horrific at my age in African culture! 🙂) and I could not speak her language she asked me multiple times to stay at her house so I could learn the language and then perhaps find a husband! )
This week we also commenced 40 days of prayer for Africa’s Orphaned. If you are interested in joining me in prayer information can be found: http://www.handsatwork.org/newsroom/2013/2/11/40-days-of-prayer-2013.html
As mentioned briefly above, this week we head out for our Community Stay from Friday – Monday. I will get a post up about this in the next couple of days with some specific prayer points.