Tuesday, 14 August 2012

St Mary's Hospital Durban- Monday 13 August

Richard Westwood writes...

Today was a day which involved all three of the Link 4 Life Project's partner charities.  All of the Church and Community Team were staying at the Hands at Work base ("The Hub").  Most of them stayed there to help with practical tasks (organising a donation of 2,000 shoes which had been received, and moving building materials to a different part of the site).  But also 5 of our team left early for the Mercy Air base, also in White River, to be flown by Paul Middleton to Durban - a 2 hour flight - for a visit to the hospital in activities supported by the Baby Bear Project.

The 5 fliers, were Ruth Crook, Wendy Heath, Laura Jovicich, Pauline Smith, and myself.  We felt very privileged to experience first hand some of Mercy Air's work, and also be able to visit the ' Baby Bear Hospital'.  Thank you to Andy Evans for doing all the arrangements to make the Baby Bear visit possible.

Our flight was excellent - thanks to Paul's flying expertise... (and some good weather)  The journey would have been pretty much impossible for us without the flight... 7 hours drive each way!

But thanks to the flight we were in Durban by 9.50am and were picked up by Menzi - one of the employees of the hospital.  We were glad to have his help... it took us 40 minutes to drive across Durban, to Mariannhill. the district nearest to St Mary's Hospital.  As we weaved through the streets it was clear that many of the people who live near the hospital are very poor and face many challenges every day.

We were met at the hospital by Helen, a hospital employee who helps with marketing who told us about the hospital's foundation, and it's current work.  We were amazed to find that the hospital, which has 200 beds, serves an area where 750,000 people live.  With all this information still fresh in our minds we were taken to 'Jabulani', a Self Help Centre set up by Sister Marco.  Jabulani means "be joyful"  and this seemed quite a tall order when we saw the crowd of people at the secure gates waiting for food parcels. The security measures were obviously needed, but it seemed a stark place in which look for joy.

Sister Marco with some of her team (plus visitors) at Jabulani
But when we met the people involved we soon realised, that the name was spot on!

We were shown round the different parts of the project by Gloria, an enthusiastic member of the team- and were amazed at the scope and variety of the different aspects of 'Jabulani'.    Sewing, beading, card making, carpentry, weaving, a community garden,  a creche and a feeding programme.- All of which were started from small beginnings by a German Nun, called Sister Marco.  When we met Sister Marco, we found her to be busy, engaging and clearly a woman of vision and courage.

Mathembi & Abigail busy making bags to sell

It was fantastic to see so many people whose lives were being improved by their involvement with the project.  It's a self help project, so it encourages the local people to develop the skills they have and learn new ones in order to be able to support themselves - all in a loving, caring Christian community.

It was a real encouragement for Ruth to recognise some of the material which the Baby Bear Project had sent to the hospital, being carried to the work areas ready for use by the sewing team.

Makhamahle & baby Petronella,
after receiving a Baby Bear Pack from Ruth crook

It was great meet Sister Marco but we were encouraged on, as time was short and we were still to visit the maternity section of the hospital.
500 babies are born in the hospital in a typical month and as many of the mothers are from very poor backgrounds so the packages sent by the Baby Bear Project  are really appreciated.  We were soon to have the privilege of seeing how the new mums responded.

It felt quite an intrusion going around the wards to see women who were either just about to give birth, or had just had their babies... but all of them were really grateful and surprised to receive the packs and those who opened them were delighted with the contents- a smile broke across all their faces when they unfolded the blanket to reveal clothes for their new baby.

Our time was almost gone and we soon had to leave... back across Durban, to the airport  and then in the plane with Paul back to Mercy Air base... this time with Laura as co-pilot! Which she really enjoyed.

There is much more to tell, and many more photos to show... but for now...I will sign off  and commend to you all the work done by all of our three partner charities which we have experienced during out time here.  We will soon be home and can tell the stories of those we have met in person.

God Bless