Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Some reflections as we prepare to head for home

As our time here draws to a close, we have plenty to reflect on and to think about as we travel back home.

Relaxing at Mercy Air

Of course, arriving home, while it will be lovely to reunite with our friends and family, it will be a shock to arrive in an alien world to what we have become used to (plus it will take a while to adjust to the freezing temperatures of good old England!) We have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves here in South Africa, although our experiences have challenged us emotionally, but we understand that we must take these stories home with us and advocate for the people that we have met, whose stories would not otherwise be heard. The girls have grown closer, and are able to share both hardships and jokes. These memories and friendships will remain with us forever. This trip has not only educated us, as we became enriched with an unfamiliar culture, but has helped us to appreciate the things in life that we may take for granted. 

Working at the Plane Wash!
Yesterday, following Women’s Prayer we travelled to Mercy Air and were almost immediately thrown into work. We cleaned a plane, painted a house, and did some maintenance work on it. Once we had settled in, we explored the stunning grounds, having fun on the rope swing and later enjoying some ball games in the swimming pool. In the evening, we had some beautiful fajitas, prepared by the hardworking Gina and Libby. Once we had washed up, we headed to Paul and Cathy’s house for a presentation about their life and work at Mercy Air. Sadly, Cathy was busy delivering a baby and unable to attend. Following the talk, we were all shattered so headed straight to bed. 

Our farewell Braii ( BBQ)
Today, we visited a mobile clinic that is open every Wednesday morning, it is also a bar by night and a church on Sundays. The clinic wasn’t very busy. and we decided to sit with the nurses while they were with patients and listen to what they were saying. What shocked us was the lack of privacy and cleanliness in this place, compared to the surgeries and hospitals we have back home. This was very motivating as it encouraged us to make people aware of these problems, Later we played some ball games with the children before heading back home. We had our lunch before a debrief. Georgia, Amelia and Millie all played in the pool for while before heading back to pack our suitcases. Finally, to end the day nicely we had a Braai (barbecue) and headed to bed.  

Millie, Libby, Georgia and Amelia

Monday, 26 February 2018

Hands at Work Stories that will stay with us...

Here are some of the stories that have stuck with us over the past week:

Libby’s Story:

There is a story that really impacted me on my last day at Mafambisa. When playing the parachute games with the children on the Kids day at Mafambisa, I saw a little boy around the age of 1 standing on the edge of the circle, not joining in with the game. I went over and tried to talk to him, he came across as very shy and isolated. I picked him up so he could see what was going on with the parachute. I took him with Me and Liz to set up the finger paints, whilst doing this I put him on a chair, he didn’t move until I had finished. Once again, I picked him up and sat down on the chair with him. Within the space of fifteen minutes he was fast asleep in my arms, I took him inside the church and lay him down on a mat to sleep whilst I helped the children with finger paints.

One of the Hands people that had come with us, Dan, told me about him and his story. Elton* is 18 months old, his Mum left him just before he turned one to go to Johannesburg to work and live with another man. She only comes back for one day a year, around Christmas to see her children and say hello. That is all. He lives with his eighteen year old sister and her two children without anyone else to care for them, they have no other family they are in touch with.

Dan, however, is there for them. He visits their house once or twice a week to make sure they are okay and are still safe. This gives Elton hope for his later life. Without Hands at Work and all their supporters, Dan wouldn’t be there to keep them safe.
That is Elton’s* story.

Millie’s story:

Obviously, over this past week of community visits I have faced a lot of emotional challenges, however something that especially impacted me was the story of Victoria*. She is a mother of four, who lives in a house that lacks security and has lots of problems, such as leaking roofs and cracked, broken windows. Since theft is prominent in her area, she and her family are at risk of getting broken into and robbed. However, she can’t afford to fix these problems herself, despite the inconvenience and danger they put her family in.

These living conditions are polar opposite to the ones that I have grown up with, and I sincerely hope that she and her family remain safe at home. For me, home is one of the places I feel safest. I cannot imagine the idea of living somewhere that lacked basic security essentials, such as a door that locks.

Luckily, the Hands at Work team are aware of this problem and plan to provide Vicky with what she needs to ensure she and her family are safe at home. 

Georgia’s story: 

A few days ago when we did the children's day I met a girl called Teresa* she was a lovely girl she spoke really good English. Whilst we were there me and Teresa* made two paintings for each other. I did a painting of me and her with lovely messages and I did a painting with a flower on it with our names on it, she did a picture of me and her, she put things like "I love you Georgia," "good bye everyone." She also put "love you so much my friend good bye Georgia.” When at the end we had to say good bye I played one last game of catch, gave her a massive hug and finally I got on the bus. I really didn’t want to leave but I was happy I left with some good memories and she knows there is someone that cares about her. 

Amelia’s story: 

When it was community prayer on Friday we prayed with the care workers and care givers, then we did home visits. I met this lovely lady called Gogo Sierra*. She was so kind and welcoming. We needed Harmony* translating for us that day. She had told us about her pain and suffering. A part of the story got me when she started getting upset, she told us about when she lost her husband around two years ago. The family had blamed her for his death and had kicked her out from the house along with their kids. She was left stranded, nobody to turn to in her hour of need. After a few weeks, she went to collect his pension that was split between his ex-wife, current girlfriend and herself. After trying to get her life back on track, she was hit by another emotional obstacle, her daughter had been murdered. This, along with the grief of her husband passing, had caused her to go back off track for the second time. She had lost faith from the suffering and the pain, but Hand’s at Work had helped her back on the path of God. She was left with more questions, but God, and the frequent prayer meetings, had helped her find the answers that she was looking for. 

She started attending the care point, along with her grandchildren. She is now doing well and has a long, tough journey, but has stayed strong through it all. She now looks after three of her grandkids and her other daughter is staying with her, plus her two kids. Some of the children had been failing due to their loss, but she was determined to get them back on track so that they have a great life. She aspires to go back to school and get her old job as a teacher. She had said that the Maranatha workshops, that Hands at Work run, helped her overcome her grief and become the strong woman she is today. 

*Names have been changed. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the contributors and not Link for Life project or Hands at Work in Africa.

Kruger National Park - 26 Feb

Today (Monday 26th Feb)  was an amazing experience, but had started a little too early for our liking. Our day started around 4.45am, which was when we left for Kruger. We had left so early, to make sure we got to the park early and could get through security by sunrise. The first twenty minutes of searching for animals proved unsuccessful, however soon after Libby spotted some monkeys and baboons, getting us all very excited. Soon, she picked up the nickname of Hawk Eyes due to her excellent animal spotting, even when they were camouflaged. There were lots of false alarms (the lions we saw turned out to be piles of sand) but we soon saw more animals, including many impala, some really large elephants, zebra and vervet monkeys.

Sleeping Lioness!
We stopped for a snack and toilet break around mid-morning, which helped us feel more refreshed from the early start. Once we were back on the sandy roads of Kruger, we kept our eyes peeled for any sign of wildlife, big or small. After another few hours, we stopped off for lunch and a shopping break. The food was very much needed to keep us energised (although Millie had already got through several naps during the morning). Libby and Millie ate their chips in the company of many monkeys, who were very brave and were swinging around all over the picnic benches. One particularly cheeky monkey stole a women’s sandwich and began to eat it!

After a brief shopping spree, we headed back onto the track, meeting a very large elephant who followed us down the road! From a bridge, we saw some hippopotamuses and crocodiles, as well as some rhinos, waterbucks, warthog and wildebeest in the distance. We were also lucky enough to see a lounging lioness, as she lazed on the grass next to the road. We were beginning to get disheartened about spotting a giraffe, and it wasn’t until the very end of our day that Georgia spotted a group of giraffes, both young and old which were too busy chomping leaves to take much notice of us. Also, we spent a bit of time at Lake Panic, where we had to be silent for the beautiful birds around us (however the hippos didn’t seem to stay quiet for very long, before bellowing away). We also spotted some wild dogs and then a family of hyenas. Despite the adult hyenas looking absolutely terrifying, the cubs were adorable and were fighting with each other.

Hyena !
Overall, it was an exhausting yet fantastic day which really was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Yesterday was a more relaxed day to end the week nicely. Although it was nice to enjoy some down time, it was a good chance to reflect on the stories from the past week. We went to a local shopoing area called  Casterbridge for some food (and a chance to spend some more of our money!) Once we had arrived, we sat down at the Magnolia Cafe, unexpectedly Paul and Cathy Middleton  (from Mercy Air where we will be staying on Tuesday)  were there too so it gave the students a chance to introduce themselves. Here we had a delicious lunch and then had a chance to do some Sunday shopping.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

A children's treat day in Mafambisa

Today was our last day in Mafambisa. It was truly dedicated to the kids and making them all feel very loved and cared for. To start with, there were only about six kids so we threw a ball across a circle. When more of the children came we turned the game into volley ball. When the children got tired of this, we moved on to some parachute games like fruit salad. After that, we played more games with the children : follow me, duck duck goose and river dam. They all enjoyed this, especially because they laughed at us because we couldn’t speak Siswati.

Libby, Liz, Val and Rachel set up some finger painting for the younger children, they drew hearts and wrote their names. This allowed the children to communicate with us by expressing themselves through their masterpieces, despite the language barrier. Later on, we got the bubbles out and all the children loved blowing them and trying to pop them. Rachel then shared a Bible story through a game and then all the children recited the Lord’s prayer before running over to receive their sandwiches we had made for them the previous night. 

Soon after we had all finished eating, it was nearly time to say our goodbyes, so we all took photos and Millie had a very long hug with Lala (she didn’t want to let go). Mr Leonard had a polaroid, and all the children were very keen to have a photo taken together, and they all wanted to take a photo home with them. After another few minutes, Mr Leonard practically had to drag the students away from the children, as they had all grown attached to them. Once everyone was on the minibus, we set off, some of us getting very emotional as we waved the children goodbye. We had five minutes of quiet and reflective time, which was much needed. 


Finally we arrived back at the Hub, and had a debrief with Jen, who hosted our team. We each shared our worst and best moments from out trip so far, although the highlights outnumbered the negatives! We also discussed how we were planning on acting as advocates when we arrived home, and which stories had impacted us the most.   

Georgia & Millie

*Names have been changed. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the contributors and not Link for Life project or Hands at Work in Africa.