On arrival here in South Africa back in February, I mentioned to a friend back home how quickly the WEEKS were passing by. She made the comment that before I knew it I wouldn’t be counting weeks but rather MONTHS, and it is so true! I cannot believe how quickly the past couple of months have flown…and how slack I have been in getting blog posts out!
So here is the attempt at giving you a catch up on some of the highlights of the last couple of months.
Being part of the Regional Support Team (RST) here in South Africa, we support the work in South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. My role involves more detailed project support for Zimbabwe and Swaziland, which I am privileged to be involved in, and SO excited about these two countries as they have quite the focus in the coming year for some aggressive expansion into new communities. As I have mentioned previously, the need in Swaziland is desperate. Recently, I have heard the story of a community in Swaziland where the only source of water is a local river; however there are crocodiles in this river. Just trying to fetch water to survive, children in this community are regularly eaten by crocodiles. Not to mention, the gut wrenching stories of rape, incest and abuse, which are not one-off cases in isolation but rather epidemic in proportion. At the present time Hands at Work is working in 1 community supporting 75 children in Swaziland, however next year we are committed to expand our work to multiple new communities. Additionally, in Zimbabwe, we are also looking to move into a couple more new communities and also expand our reach back into communities in Mozambique, again all where the need is GREAT.
All this to say, my time in late August/September was kept busy organising trips for some of our RST members to travel to both Swaziland and Zimbabwe to walk in and explore these potential new communities. So there was trip planning and logistics to be organised, reports on findings to be written and distributed after said trips, and then working on the proposals, budgets and plans for the next steps in these communities for the remainder of this year and looking into 2014. For those of you that have been praying for me and the work here, a specific prayer request as we continue with this expansion work is that God will direct and guide us to the most vulnerable communities, that we will find and connect with the right people in these communities (those that have a genuine heart to serve the orphan and vulnerable children in their community) and that the churches in these communities will stand up, take responsibility and get involved in the solution.
A definite highlight for September was also having 2 of my oldest friends from school, Annie and Meredith, come to visit for 9 days. It was so great to be able to share my life here with them! As they arrived over a long weekend, we spent the first few days of their time doing all the fun tourist activities, which involved a lot of eating at favourite local places (including the famous Harry’s Pancakes which we might have visited twice 🙂 and trying all the fun local South African delicacies like biltong and bunny chow!). We did a night Safari in Kruger and got to spend quite a bit of time up close with a pack of lions; and also did a full day Safari in 40 degree heat, and saw loads of animals! In fact we saw about 25 rhino’s which was definitely a treat and not so usual to see so many rhinos, both black and white, very close up! We also headed up to Blyde River Canyon and the potholes, which are always spectacular and never disappoint!
But what I was most blessed by during Annie and Meredith’s visit was the opportunities to spend 3 full days in our South African communities reconnecting with kids and care workers that I have not had much chance to spend time with since our time on orientation back in February. It was also a refreshing reminder for me of why I spend what sometimes feels like long days in an office behind a computer with my head in spreadsheets all day! 🙂
I was particularly encouraged by a care worker I had the opportunity to walk with called Busie. She is a relatively new Care Worker with this particular community joining in April this year. As we walked we attempted to communicate, with her broken English and my hand gestures! 🙂 We walked to the home of a brother (9yrs) and sister (7yrs). Their mother has abandoned them, so they stay in a small one roomed house with their father. Their father works in town, so leaves early each day to travel to the city and returns late in the evening. The children are therefore left to care for themselves during the long days. Busie explained to me that the children come to her house every day for a bath, and she takes their dirty washing home to her house and washes their clothes every week. Busie has 2 children of her own, but really she has 5 children she is caring for as her own (there is a third little girl from another family she also cares for).
I tried to ask Busie why she decided to become a care worker. And let’s just say we had a lost in translation moment, but from what I could see of how she interacted with, loved on and served these kids, she really loves what she does. And all I could think was ‘she really gets this’. She really gets what it means to serve and to demonstrate the love of Jesus to our children. She even carried the smallest girl on her back to the care point after we finished visiting the homes (in 38 degree or so heat I might add!). Again, a specific prayer would be for Busie and all our care workers, that as we near the end of the year they will not grow weary in caring for our children, but rather they will be encouraged and strengthened and daily see hope in the work that they are doing.
And now we are in October…and almost to the end of October for that matter! The focus for this month and really for the rest of the year which is fast approaching is twofold: making sure we finish the year well, finalise projects and spending, and make sure we have done what we committed to our donors that we would do for the year. And secondly there is all the planning/proposal and budget writing to be done for next year! So it is busy. I spend a lot of my days at the moment in meetings. And when I am not in meetings I am trying to get the work done that is generated from all the meetings! But it’s great! I LOVE what I get to do here! We are having our end of year picnic this weekend as from the start of November a lot of the international volunteers start to head home for the Christmas period. For those that are staying through for Christmas (me!) we will work through until our offices close on 18 December. (I’ll be home instead in February for my little brother’s wedding!)
The rainy season has also started and we are regularly having some SPECTACULAR lightning storms! One of my favourite things to do in Africa is just to sit and watch the storms (and sometimes run around in the rain!) – I have not seen anything in Sydney or Australia even that compares!
Some pictures from Annie and Meredith’s visit:
With some of the Care Workers and kids at Mandlesive
Helping out with the daily feeding at Siyathuthuka
Hanging with some of my favourite girls at Siyathuthuka
Enjoying the view at Blyde River Canyon