Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Richard – 1 Feb 2012 - Visiting the forgotten ones - Hluvukani

Tinyika, Audrey, Hector and Richard

 It was clear as we woke this morning that today was going to be really hot.  So after breakfast we lathered ourselves with sunscreen and insect repellent (who needs chanel?) and set out for Hluvukani.

We met with Audrey, Tinyika and Hector- (all Hands at Work area co-ordinators for this region) and then went to visit the homes of orphaned and vulnerable children.
But our first call was to Elsie’s home, who is the leader of care volunteers for “Clare A” (one of the villages of Hluvukani).   We were welcomed in to her home and introduced to her husband Thomas- who was unwell and off work.  He asked what we were doing, and Audrey the care co-ordinator answered in Tsonga (the local language) on our behalf.  She explained that we had come to see the great work which his wife Elsie was doing in the community, and that this work was what we believed the Bible says we should do.  Thomas was impressed and said he gave his permission for Elsie to carry on doing this work.  Though we often feel helpless on home based care visits, this was one occasion when we might have helped one care volunteer receive “licence” from her husband to carry on her work.  Yesterday we heard how some husbands of care workers are angry at their wives spending time out of the home, but not bringing in any money.

In the homes we visited there was often a grandmother figure (a “Gogo”) who tried her best to look after the children’s needs. But often they don’t have the resources themselves to provide the food (and money for school uniform) which children need.  Hands@Work provide the volunteer care workers with funds so that they can give each orphaned and vulnerable child a hot meal (Mon – Fri)  and also help with uniform.   It seems that without this help from Hands@Work many of the children would be forgotten.  In this village (Clare A) 86 children are visited by volunteer care workers and receive help through the feeding programme, when it runs.  Hands@Work does not have the funds to help all the time, so when the money is not available, the feeding programme stops.

As we walked (slowly because of the mid afternoon sun) between homes, the children were turning out from school.  It was heartbreaking to see some of the orphaned children amongst their peers.  We could sense (and sometimes see) the difficulties they face each day.  How many of them go to school hungry, because there is no food in the house?  Some have no “Gogo” and so there is no-one at home.  This makes them even more vulnerable?

The questions about all this tumble out of my mind… and even though I have seen these things before, I am stunned at the fractured and fragile nature of many of the lives of the children we have met.   Why is the church not doing more?   There are churches aplenty- with good attendance?  Perhaps it is a blind spot… and I guess that a visitor to our churches and communities could point out to us our blind spots too.

Perhaps the best thing I/we can do is to let others know about these children and to speak up for them, and give to Hands@Work so that these sort of care programmes can grow and thrive so that the children can too.  That is for the future though, not for today’s visit.

I may seem that our coming here seems to do little to relieve the situations of these children.  But I believe that it does at least one tiny thing- it does let them know that they, and the volunteer care workers who help them, are not forgotten.