Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hi Everyone, 

Please will you support the Link for Life Project - in the 2013 Big Give Charity Christmas Challenge.  For every £1 donated online in the challenge period this will be matched by pledges already received from local supporters and from our charity champion.

But it’s a challenge!    The matched funds are released at 10am on
5th, 6th & 7th December 2013.  When the matched funds are all used up… we can still receive donations, but they won’t be matched!

We are hoping to receive £2,000 in online donations which will then be double up to £4000 through the challenge funders!  This will help local young people to visit our partner charities in summer 2014 and help to train young leaders for the project in the future.

Minimum donation is £5 and you can gift aid anything you give.
If you would like to help – please donate online after 10am on
5th, 6th, & 7th December 2013 at the Link4Life Project’s page at the
Big Give Christmas Challenge….

Monday, 12 August 2013

Performance poet Millie gets inspired

What happens in Africa stays in Africa:
Climbing water towers and facing down Ollie;
Ryan’s cross dressing, the bad joke jar and Rose feeling jolly.
Yes, what happens in Africa stays in Africa. 

What happen in Africa stays in Africa;
Audrey won’t be in Aldridge nor Wendy in Wyrley.
B and KG won’t be there for when we are feeling surly;
What happens in Africa stays in Africa.
What happens in Africa stays in Africa.
Nyoto’s faith and Thembe’s tears
Deprivation, exploitation and Niko’s fears;
Ryan’s revelations and Rose’s relief;
Maria’s cry for justice and Linda’s belief.
No, what happens in Africa can’t stay in Africa.  
In Britain, we don't dance.
Too reserved, how absurd
would it be to expect us to jig or jive
or even allow our timid toes
to tap to the rhythm of the drummers beat
Bread and meat of the soul
Gods heartbeat brought home

It's staccato,
not a mournful bass that beats one two at an even pace.
It's a mad rhythm, glad rhythm, make you want to dance.
Infectious as can be it will get you with one glance.
So come on, leave your English reticence
and join the wonderful wilderness dance.

Millie Swan


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Partnership and Friendship (cont)

Ruth won the prize for being the first to spot a lion at Kruger Wildlife Reserve yesterday; a cup cake. In fact strictly speaking she wasn't the first to spot it but it was her contribution which meant that we were all able to share this experience. She had gleaned from some people when we stopped for a loo break that there were some lions 15 kilometres up the nearby road; so off we went. She had listened and been willing to learn from the expertise and experience of others rather than charging off and trying to do her own thing.

I think this kind of networking and willingness to learn from others is so important. In a related kind of way I find the sense of being part of a family here enormously enriching. Today we spent time with Pastor Petrus and his wife Julia at their emerging church in Delani (see School Group blog and Kagiso's) and we were caught up in a wave of love and friendship arising from previous meetings and shared prayer. We were able to take them and Audrey and her two children on a wonderful drive after the morning service up the mountains and I listened in on a moving conversation between Ryan and Petrus. Only afterwards did I find out that Ryan had been given his name on a piece of paper some two years ago when names were given out for people to pray for and he had been praying for this Petrus ever since. Only now did he meet him and what an unforgettable meeting that was.

It is such a joy to be sharing this experience with Kagiso and Mmabatho from the Matlosane Diocese which is linked with Lichfield Diocese; to benefit from their insights and comments; to reflect on how the lessons we are learning might be translated into their contexts; to be given a wider dimension to our collective experience; to be learning and lauging and crying together........Somehow that first week in the Matlosane Diocese during which we stayed at Itsoseng and Ikakeng before coming with Kagiso and Mmabatho to experience Hands@Work helped us to prepare as we listened, shared, waited, reflected and renewed friendships.


Partnership and Friendship

Partnership and Friendship

It all started when two Dioceses (Lichfield and Matlosane),shared a mutual goal of spreading the word of God around the World. The Diocese was delighted to have Fr Philip Swan in 2011 and again Fr Richard Westwood and his wife Rose in 2012.Their visit was a turning point for our friendship as it enabled two young people from the Diocese of Matlosane (Kagiso Teme and Mmabatho Naseba)to be part of the team that went for a mission at Mpumalanga to witness Hands at Work in their calling to care for the most vulnerable children.

In our Sunday service today at Dilane, to our surprise it was not something we were expecting as such, to see how a church can be so small but so full of life. Our team which we now call a  collective, was very much blessed to be part of the service whereby Mmabatho shared a testimony about her up bringing and Rose about her friendship with friends from different parts of the world. Kagiso and Maria contributed in the sermon and shared how God want us to think and to be assured of His Love. 

Kagiso Teme

Saturday, 3 August 2013

A toilet is on the way...

Maria Tabou from Holy Trinity Heath Town smiles as she checks the toilet
block for size while it is still being built
The Church and Community Team are now more than half way through their time in South Africa.  They have been visiting the community of Share, near Hluvukani in Bush Buck Ridge- in the North East of South Africa. They have accompanied the volunteer care workers on Home Based Care visits, helped with the feeding programme and of course played with the children who are cared for in the care project - all of whom are children who are orphaned or vulnerable.  Another job which the Church & Community Team have been involved with in the last few days has been  helping to build a toilet at the care centre.  The local builders reckon that the toilet will be good for 50 years ! Pretty impressive!  The funds for the toilet and the fence around the community vegetable garden have all been paid for by donations from supporters of the Link 4 Life Project... So it's a big "Thank You" to all who have donated to help with the building of these important facilities.

The photo of Maria Tabou shows her sitting  in what will be the toilet - there are still walls to construct... but good progress is being made.  The toilet will be a "long drop" type of toilet - which is the best kind of toilet for the region in which Share is based - as there are no sewers or running water on hand.

Thanks to the team for all you are doing and thanks to all who who have supported or donated.

Best wishes 
Richard Westwood  - for the Church and Community Team

Day 4 - 2nd August 2013

Today we had our last home visit and I met this remarkable woman. She was very sick and yet the only thing she was bothered about was caring for her child because if she died the grandma would be the only person who could look after her son. This is why she was soldiering on and taking her medication in order to watch her child grow and go to work.
Emily, Church and community team 2013

Today we went onto a home visit to the home of Simon. He lived with his mother, Jane and his father Elijah. Also living at the house was his Uncle Mike and his nephew Jack. Simon is 15 and a few people in our group had met him a few times at the care point. His father was ill and his mother suffered with mental illness. His sister, mother of Jack, is currently working in Johannesburg. We found our home visit very difficult as there was definitely a certain degree of not wanting to talk about what was really going on due to reasons such as confidentiality and trust. My main question was as to why Jack wasn’t in the feeding program and Simon was even though they were living in the same house.
Even though it was a bit of a hard day that led to many questions, I still had a great time with our last afternoon in Share. We shall be back there on Monday but only for the morning so unfortunately won’t see the children again which I found tricky as I found myself saying bye to a lot of children for the second time from 2012 to 2013.
I truly hope I have the honour to be back in Share again one day, the positive energy and vibes you recover of the community is overwhelming and the love for the children is indescribable.

Hannah- Church and Community Team 2013

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Day 3 - 1st August 2013

Today was a day of two halves, building and being. The morning was spent helping to build a toilet, which consisted of throwing a lot of rocks into the holes around the drop toilet. The builders we were working with said that the toilet would last up to 50 years, an impressive achievement!
Next twelve beds and mattresses appeared to be put together, which took a fair amount of skill and ingenuity on the part of the men as some of the screws were less than usable. But eventually all the beds were put together and ready to be taken away by the children that the care workers had identified as needing one.
The afternoon was much more laidback, playing with the children. I ended up in a hair salon with about five girls working on my hair. I had several hairstyles, including many, many plaits and lost half of my hair in the process! I was able to have wonderful conversations with them, but I felt that the most important thing to do was just to be with the children and let them know that they were loved. I love words and language but sometimes they can get in the way of really communicating with people. Silence was important today and I felt so privileged to have been able to spend time with the children I did.
Millie - Church and Community Team 2013

The events of today are very difficult to communicate through words. This is a completely different world, one where a bed isn’t expected and where love thrives. In this community a smile and just being is enough to make someone happy.
I met a three year old girl who made me feel so loved, she started off very quiet and reserved. After a while of playing with the stones she began to smile and we danced. Her laughter was the most joyful and moving sound, it was a sound of pure happiness and life, it is something I will never forget.
I asked one of the care workers for her story, she is the youngest from a child headed family, both parents are deceased and she lives with her two sisters. The eldest is 14 and is both mother and sister. The work is so important over here; it lets children be children and is an escape from the real world. People help heal these wounds not money or materialistic items.

Ruth -  Church and Community Team 2013

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Day Two - 31st July 2013

Today was an important and troubling day.
For those of us who had visited Share before, it was a day of return, to remark upon achievements and notice how far things have come.
The children at Share were laughing, playing, fighting and singing.
For us, the first-time visitors, it was a day of new beginnings, a difficult and bewildering journey, taking one tentative step at a time.
But hope is there. Hope is when Audrey tells us these children still have family, even though they have lost or are losing everyone who has loved them.
Hope is when Hannah talks of old friends and Andy points to a fence the schools team built and keeps these dusty children safe.
Hope is knowing we will return.
Linda- Church and Community Team 2013

When we went to Share, we all introduced ourselves in a game, we had to say 2/3 things about ourselves, we told them about our family and what we like. We learnt about each other’s background, It was very interesting, we are all very different!

Georgia- Church and Community Team 2013

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Day One - 30th July 2013

So, we have arrived safe and well and are blogging to you now from Wits accommodation. We are all well and just come back in from a team debrief from around the fire. Almost everyone is asleep now as the most have gone to bed or crashing listening to Ryans guitar and singing very badly! Mmabatho and Ryan write today about their experiences since arriving.

Hi my name is Mmabatho and I am with the collective from Link for Life here in Mpumalanga.  I am youth worker from Matlosane diocese. It has been great meeting members from the Great Wyrley today we got informed about the wall for Hands @Work and they are doing pretty amazing work. We got to sit in the fire and debrief of all that had happened since we got to Mpumalanga and my best moment was when we got to wait for the group to arrive from the airport although I didn’t know any of them I was filled with so much joy. It has been a very wonderful time so far for me and the other member Kagiso.

Hello! It’s Ryan Bickley, a big hello to everyone in England! Hope Mom and Dad and brothers are doing well and the house isn’t too quiet without me!
Today has been a very enlightening day. During my first visit to South Africa I struggled to understand a lot of the motives and objectives of the charity and where it was going, it’s a big thing to understand, especially when so many other things are going on in life, but today we all engaged in a long explanation into what Hands @ Work is all about, and where we lie in our mission. For some of us it has been our first time for this information and we have learnt about the Hands @ Work wall.
And understanding the foundations and aims of Hands @ Work will make my time here much more efficient in what I’m doing. Especially for the people for whom this is the first time, as they go out with a clear mind, so I’d definitely recommend it for everyone who participates!

On a personal note, I have forgotten how beautiful the African night sky is, it’s much different without any pollution! Feels like a second home to me over here, we always manage to work so well as a family in the groups we go in, we have a vibrant mixture of talents and traits and everyone is so lovely, Kagiso and Mmabatho are two people I have never met before and have joined our family, and they are absolutely brilliant and devoted to the task at hand. I am so anxious to work with these people and ‘get our hands dirty’, because as Kagiso said, that is Hands @ Work.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Safe Arrival

A quick note to let concerned families and friends know that the Church & Community Team arrived safely and in good time at Hands at Work Hub in White River.  They will be leaving on Tuesday 30th to travel to the accommodation provided by University of Witwatersrand   (known locally as WITS)  which is near to the community of Share in Bush Buck Ridge where they team will spend the next 6 days.

We are looking forward to hearing some of their news as and when they are able to pass it on.

Richard Westwood - on behalf of the Church & Community Team

Two teams- one goal... a successful joining up at Johannesburg Airport 10am Mon 29th July 2013

Church and Community Team as they left Great Wyrley on 28 July
Rose, Kagiso, Revd Sam Diphokwane, Philip, Millie & Maria
After a very early start for one team (who woke up Matlosane)...
and a long flight for the other team  (who left Great Wyrley yesterday)...

- I'm delighted to report that Matlosane Team and the Church & Community Team have met each other at the car hire depot in Johannesburg's O R Tambo airport.  This was what we had planned - and prayed would be able to happen.... but often things don't go to plan... so it's really good news that they have met up as we had hoped they would be able to.

The team (now united as an enlarged Church & Community Team... have about a 4- 5 hour drive to Hands at Work near White River in Mpumalanga.  
From Left) Kagiso Teme, Rose Westwood, Mmabtho Naseba
with Tsholo - a lady from Itsoseng who has been a wonderful host
The team now also includes Kagiso Teme and Mmabatho Naseba who are young people from the Anglican Church Matlosane Diocese.  They have joined the team to see the work which Hands at Work support in communities where there is great need - especially caring for orphaned and vulnerable      children.

  We hope to hear from the team again later today when they arrive at Hands at Work

Richard Westwood... on behalf of the two teams which have now become one.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Church and Community Team from Heathrow

All checked in and ready to go. Suitcases off and guitar drama avoided! Gate due to open at 19:45 and take off at 21:00.
Everyone's fed and had a good old browse through duty free. All excited and cannot wait to get to the place we have all been working so hard for the last year to get too. Emily and Melissa Aitchison have written a little post for us as our last one from the UK. See you on the other side! 

Hi it's Em and Mel, we are feeling a bit nervous but excited as well can't wait to get to South Africa, can't believe this is actually happening we are so happy that as we put lots of hard work into this and now we are going.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Latest News from the Matlosane Five (and growing)

The Matlosane Team are Philip & Millie Swan, Maria Tabou, Rose Westwood (all from Lichfield) and also now from St Peter's Itoseng, Kagiso Teme 

The group are currently staying with members of the church at St Peter's Itsoseng - Where Father Sam Diphokwane is the Priest ( and Archdeacon of the North of Matlosane)

Tomorrow they will travel to Mafikeng which is in on the northern border of South Africa with Botswana.

The Matlosane Team( L to R )Rose, Kagiso,
Father Sam Diphokwane, Philip, Millie & Maria
Here are some encouraging points which the the  Team sent in a e mail earlier today (Thursday 25th July) ...

·         Meeting with the Youth Group who showed us their community and sang and danced our way along some of the local streets in the township of Itsoseng as the sun set

·         Realising how similar issues are govt coming up with new initiatives, youth unemployment and getting young people interested in church

·         Conversation - getting a sense of the pain in the difficult stories in past times in South Africa under Apartheid and how these people are an example to the world of living with forgiveness and moving on with resilience and courage

·         The privilege of experiencing township life amongst people who were just moved out of their homes in Lichtenburg to a new site some 40 kms away. 

·         Listening to the head of a neighbouring middle school speaking with such wisdom and compassion about his school and bemoaning the endless new initiatives coming down from the government

·        Concern showed by the Head Teacher that some of his learners did not eat at home and often missed school because of caring for siblings. In many cases parents had died or had had to leave the village to go where there was work in Johannesburg. This reminded us of the work Hands at Work do with orphans and vulnerable children many hundreds of miles away in Bushbuckridge where we will be next week

·         Getting to know Kagiso Teme, the youth leader who is joining is on the White River Hands@Work visit; rejoicing in his deep commitment to Christ and the way he already feels part of our ‘collective’. Mmabatho, the girl from nearby Zeerust will be joining us on Saturday

·         Benefitting from the generous hospitality of Archdeacon Sam Diphokwane, appreciating his hard work and thoughtfulness and realising afresh how demanding the experience of coming over to Lichfield Diocese last year must have been.

·         Seeing Maria speak to the excited school children at an impromptu outside assembly and seeing them engage with her message of how much God loves them individually

·         Such an encouraging and delighted response to our feeble attempts at speaking the local language of Setswana, as we try to say Dumela (hello), Kea leboga (thank you) ,………

·         Hearing from a distance the inspiring worship of the ecumenical gathering of the Mothers Union (MU), all the women with their bibles and a deep love of God’s word; passing a card on from MU members at St Barts, Wolverhampton as we try to set up a link. This is within the wider initiative of making a M.U. link between our Dioceses. 
RRichard Westwood - on behalf of the Matlsoane Team

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Day Ten

The day started with a shared breakfast with George Snyman where he talked about the ethos of Hands at Work, our impact on the community and some suggestions of what we could do on our return to the UK. His words were very inspirational and made people consider how to spread the word and how to get more involved in Hands. Some of these suggestions included remembering people’s names and stories and talking about them when we return. This is good as it almost makes the stories more real and if we show a photo of the person it will put a name to a face which should encourage people to become actively involved in supporting Hands. After this we had a group debrief with Kristi and Dan. We were asked to consider things such as ‘what’-what has affected us, ‘so what’-why it affected us and ‘now what’-what we are going to do now.
The team with Kristi, our much valued contact at Hands

 This debrief helped us to put everything into perspective and, consider what we will take from the trip and, it made us realise how life changing this trip truly is which hopefully will mean a difference has and will be made. As soon as the debrief had finished we had to say a final goodbye to Hands, which felt odd as in a way it was where our journey started and ended, so it was rather emotional. After leaving Hands we made our way to Mercy Air, which is meant to be a place which integrates us back to normal society. We were shocked to see how amazing the surroundings were, with a pool, games room, trampoline and massive houses between us. When we reflected we appreciated the beauty of the surroundings but also felt guilty for having this luxury when we believe it would have been much nicer for the Care Workers to experience it instead.   Nic and Amy, Link for Life Schools team

Day Nine

Schools team and carers at Share
We spent this morning saying our last goodbye’s to the care workers. To say thank you for their hospitality, we put on a little show. This included many English hymns such as “Come on and celebrate” and “Kum baya”. We also made 2 skits which were to humour the care workers. Our skit included a representation of our “experience” in Kruger National Park. The care workers truly loved our impression on the animals, especially Amy’s warthog. Barry and Brian did a skit which included them dressing up as care workers and doing what they would do. This included sweeping, carrying a baby on their back and carrying fruit on their head, all at the same time. Let me just tell you that the fruit was sellotaped to Barry’s head and still fell off. After our skits, we washed their feet just like Jesus did for his disciples. They loved it. One Care Worker specifically said “this is luxury”.

Just as we set off to leave, some of the children turned up at the care point. This made us all very emotional as we had to say goodbye all over again. 

Petros and his family
After our emotional goodbyes we met a man called Petros and his family who we shared a picnic with in Delani. He was a very inspirational man as we learned about his life experiences. We also discovered how he helps the most vulnerable people in his community and tries to get them involved with the church to stop them turning to sex and drugs. His church is only temporary and therefore is simply a wooden structure. They are planning to build a concrete structure but there’s no set date to when this could possibly be done. They have made all of the bricks using concrete, water and sand. It was amazing to see what people can do when they have a set goal in mind. Petros can’t tell the volunteers when their church will ever be finished and yet they continue working to build bricks. We then returned to the village at Hands where we shared in a hamburger evening and music entertainment by Ryan and Nik.  Nic and Amy, Link for Life Schools team

Day Eight

Today we took part in worship at 'Churchablaze' which was very different from our normal church service. It included lots of people shouting and crying over other people. Also, there was no specific “leader” to the service but it seemed to be lead by many people all taking over swiftly from each other. It was very emotional for the people in the service and even for us who were only observing. The service went on for 2 hours and contained many songs, all praising the Lord. While one person was preaching, there was another person translating for us into English. We found this to be quite a large barrier as the preacher would often not stop to let the translator complete the sentence. Therefore we ended up only understanding half of the service. Overall it was a very unique and memorable experience. After the church service, we decided to spend the rest of the day around the pool. Let me add that it was a cold pool, hence the “around” rather than “in”. Nic and Amy, Link for Life Schools team

Day Five, Six and Seven

Sorry that we have not been posting for a few days, we ran out of data and couldn't find anywhere to get more credit........ not surprising as we are in the middle of rural South Africa.
We are at hands now and struggling to post using the intermittent Wifi at the village. Please excuse us if it is a few days before we post again...... Brian

Day Five
Niamh and Ryan write...
Today was entertaining; we spent the day at Kruger National Park.
Our alarms went off at 4:45 this morning (even though certain people didn’t get up *cough* Ryan *cough*), as Kruger opens at six. It was R204 each, which works out at only about £14.

We saw giraffes, elephants, hippos etc. Most of the day was spent starting and stopping as we photographed the wide variety of animals. This had a very rewarding feel to it, as we had to concentrate on every part of our surroundings to get the animals we wanted.

Due to not reading instructions, we arrived at the secondary gate at 5:31. The gate closed at 5:30. Oops. This meant that we had to pay for an escort to drive us the hour out of the park. On the way out, we finally saw the lions we had searched for all day, and they performed when we needed them to, a whole pride came all at once and were lazing around on the side of the road. Can we just say not many people get to see Kruger in the dark, let alone with an armed escort!

It was a wonderful day in the park and the late leaving was due to being so caught up in our surroundings, and a long time spent buying gifts in the gift shop. Just to say that the armed escort out of the park was so that the wardens could ensure that we didn’t endanger any animals, so we were in no real danger......Brian

Day six - Community, Beth, Aimee & Jordan write...

We set off at 8:00 AM for another day in the community. Today was special, not only because we got to bring the children toys to play with, but it was also our final day where we would see the kids. When we first arrived we joined in with worship and songs with the care workers, we then started work on painting the tires we had buried on Wednesday. 
"Tyrehenge" painted!!!!!
Some people also helped by finishing to build the fence we had started previously. Beth & Aimee helped with the cooking by slicing beetroot in our hands(which stained) like the care workers showed us and preparing part of the meal. After a few hours of playing with the children it was sadly time to say goodbye. It was quite emotional as its unlikely we’ll ever get to see the children again, it was especially hard because some of us had became very close to certain children. 

As an adult member of the team, it was good to be doing something physical this year, something which will help the care centre, and while digging the post holes and repairing the fencing, seeing the others playing with the children. While working on the fence, it was a great opportunity to talk with Promotion, Nklakla, Evelin and Precious, the other care workers and Audrey and Melody and to hear their stories.......... Brian

Day Seven

Waving to ourselves in the shadows at Bourke's Luck Potholes
We spent  the day touring through Blyde River Canyon, which everyone enjoyed, and would love to have that amazing opportunity again! Visiting The Three Rondevals what such a spectacular sight! After seeing The Three Rondevals we visited Bourkes Luck Pot Holes which was brilliant, and we all had such an amazing time jumping from rock to rock...even though some people did fall in the river (Everyone but Nik only Jordan sacrificed himself...which he shouldn't have done) and then made our way to God's Window.
The day ended with Pancakes at Harries Pancakes. Mmmm! Written by Jordan.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Matlosane Team are on their way

While the School's team traveled back to the Hands at Work hub today, the second team of this year's visits set out from the UK.
Four adults from Lichfield Diocese (Philip Swam, his daughter Millie Swan, Maria Tabou, and Rose Westwood) are part of what we have called the "Matlosane Team"

Matlosane is one of the Diocese 
 of the Anglican Church in South Africa - and is twinned with Lichfield Diocese. 

The region is part of the North West Province of South Africa  and lies west of Johannesburg, stretching from Klerksdorp up to the border with Botswana... there are many rural settlements as well as townships outside the main towns (one of a number of  hang overs from apartheid which still remain).  The main industries are mining (Gold and Platinum) and agriculture although unemployment is quite high in some regions as a number of the mines have closed

During their time in Matlosane the team will stay in the homes of local church members and try to build up and develop the already good relationships between Lichfield and Matlosane Dioceses

After arriving on Tuesday 23rd the team are scheduled to visit the  Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg  before driving to Itsoseng in the North of Matlosane.

One important feature of this part of the visit is that the team will be joined by two young leaders from Matlosane (Kagiso Teme [a young man from Itsoseng] and Mmabatho Naseba [a young woman from Zeerust]).  They will then all travel together to Johannesburg on Monday 29th July where they will meet up with the Church & Community Team from Lichfield (who will arrive from the UK early on 29th).  The combined teams will then all travel to the Hands at Work Hub in White River to visit the communities with whom Link 4 Life Project are partnering. 

Kagiso and Mmabatho have been chosen by church leaders in Matlosane and their visit costs are being covered through donations received via the Bishop of Lichfield's 2013 Lent Appeal.  It is hoped that churches and communities in Matlosane can benefit from seeing some of the Hands at Work  models of home based care for orphaned and vulnerable children and then perhaps strengthen & build up the work already being done by the church in Matlosane.  So a big thank you to all who gave to the Bishop's Lent Appeal - it is good to see the funds put to work  - and there are a number of other "exchange" visits in the pipeline.

But all this joining up of teams is a week away at present... for the moment the "Matlosane Team"   will take time to visit friends new and old and learn about the joys and challenges of living in Matlosane.   If you want to know a little more about Matlosane and the church and communities there then why not visit our companion blog  and see how previous visits to our partners there have helped to strengthen links.

Thanks for reading - hopefully there will be some more detailed updates from the school team soon when the internet problems are sorted.

Best wishes
Richard Westwood

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Days 5, 6, & 7... by text message

Hi everyone...

If you have been anxious to read the next installment of the School Team's visit - sincere apologies...

They are all well - but have not been able to update the blog over the last few days as they have run out of data allowance on the internet connection they have been using.  They have been writing their blog and will hopefully upload it when they return to Hands at Work (which should be on Monday  22nd)

I have had brief updates by text from Lynne, one of the team of adult leaders, who asked me to tell everyone they are ok and explain why they have not been able to update the blog.

On Thursday 18th Most of the team had a day in the Kruger National Park and Friday 19th was another day with the community volunteers in the village of Share - working with orphaned and vulnerable children.

Saturday 20th was a rest day - with a visit to some local beauty spots and today (Sunday 21st) they were one their way to attend a local community church service in Share village.

Tomorrow (Monday 22nd ) they will have a last chance to be involved with the care workers before they return to Hands at Work in White River on Monday afternoon.

Thanks to all the team for writing so fully about their experiences and allowing us to share in their time in Africa... I know that friends and family back here in the UK are really proud of them, and  they are in everyone's thoughts and prayers.  It's likely  that the team will want to point out the remarkable work of  the care volunteers and we look forward to hearing more of their stories as soon as we can.

Many thanks to friends and supporters in the UK who have been helping and encouraging all the way.

Lord God.... Please keep the team safe.  Help them to do their job of encouragement well and please give the care volunteers the strength to carry on  their work.  Amen

Richard Westwood

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Day Four

Yes, there is a hole!
Today we visited the community of Share again. However the experience was much different. We had no home visits, but today was a “project” day. This included building a fence and a play area. The fence was for protecting the garden that will soon be there. The play area was made up of several old tyres which were half buried in a circular shape. We named this “tyrehenge”. Nik, Amy, Barry, Brian and Kristi all
worked on the fence building for the morning but were helped by everyone else including all of the care workers. Nik’s, Amy’s and Barry’s hole digging and fence building was the best... Obviously. We decided to call it a “NAB hole”. When we started to dig another “NAB hole” we came into a big problem. Cement. This meant that our hole was unsuccessfully built. Another difference of today was that our worship was not based on their songs; we decided to teach them a little song and dance.

After the children had finished school, they came to the care point where another difference of the days was obvious. We noticed that the children were more confident around us and also that we were more confident interacting with them. We spent a lot of time in group activities teaching the children some fun games from England. They loved the hokey cokey! Amy spent a lot of time with a young girl who we will call 'Daisy' playing around and doing hair. At first the girl was very shy and did not speak much, although she was happy with a cuddle and holding hands. However, just before Amy left Share, Daisy finally whispered her name and had one last cuddle before we return on Friday. This shows how these children just need love and affection to feel more comfortable and come out their shell. Nik particularly remembers spending valuable time with a young boy we will call 'Kaden' with him sitting on her lap, giggling and laughing. While he was enjoying himself, other children joined the two, platting Nik's hair and taking many pictures on her camera. To think that they made taking pictures so enjoyable was lovely to see. 
We have treasured every moment spent with them today and can't wait to see them again on Friday. 
 Nik and Amy, Schools Team 2013

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Day Three

Beth & Aimee writes

Today was quite emotional, it was the first of our days in the community. We each split up into small groups alongside adults from the team and care workers from the Nhluvuko centre. Myself and Aimee and were in a group working with Wendy and two care workers, we visited an amazing lady named Esther. She was real inspiration. Despite losing her husband and having to care for her grandchildren due to some unfortunate circumstances she’s making the most of what she has. She’s set up her own business growing fruit and vegetables which she sells to make money for her family. She has next to nothing yet we never heard her say a negative word.
Later that day we had a shared meal with the care workers and the local children who they care for. Once again, we were all so inspired by the kids. All they want is the chance to get to act like children should, they want to play and laugh and mess around, their faces lit up purely because we gave them our time. It’s been a real eye opener, it’s impossible to imagine what it’s going to be like until you actually witness it. We’re so excited to be back tomorrow and hope it’s another successful day.

Beth & Aimee schools team 2013

Monday, 15 July 2013

Day two

The team on the steps at Hands Village

Today was long, with a lot more travelling; but finally, we have arrived at Wits (our accommodation until Sunday I think)!
This morning, all fifty to sixty current residents at Hands joined for a prayer gathering, which was a great experience.
When the prayers finished, our team sat outside for orientation, where we met Audrey, Melody and Simon. Audrey and Melody are two of the care workers here in SA, who we will be working with. After that, the team plus Audrey and Kristi made our way the couple of hours to the Care Service Centre, where we were given more information. Eventually, the team and Kristi arrived at Wits, where we settled and were given a three course meal, prepared by Thoco. The chicken was so good; especially compared to the aeroplane food. After dinner, we all sat and attempted to learn some Shangaan (the language for at Share tomorrow).
Niamh writes... It was extremely dark as we got to the Hands Hub last night, meaning that when the girls awoke this morning and opened our door, the view was really amazing. What a great start to the day! The Hands Family met at eight am for a prayer gathering. I’m really grateful we had the opportunity to join them, as this had such a great atmosphere. There was a lot of singing and dancing, as well as serious prayers. The whole team was introduced and made to feel welcome by the rest of the Family. Mom and Jake, I found your card! Thank you very much, it’s so cute. Love and hugs to the whole family, and also many thanks to all those who helped me fundraise to get here. Even with the large amounts of travelling so far, we can already tell this is just going to be amazing. We already have memories and have met some wonderful people.

Lynne writes... Love to all of the family, miss you lots. Hello to Sally.

- Lynne, Cathy and Niamh, Schools team 2013

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Departure and Day 1:
Group at Alzu listening to Chris

 “Today” was a long one; we have been travelling for 30 hours, but we have safely arrived in the village (Hands@Work) who have been amazing hosts so far and have been very welcoming. We have settled in to a warm meal and a cuppa. It has been a long day but it was all worth it.
Travelling to Heathrow, boarding and flying went smoothly, with slight delays in Jo’burg (someone forgot to pull across the tunnel).
We stopped at Alzu services on the way, where we met a lovely man named Chris, who has recently been in Mozambique, doing some charity work of his own. Chris could speak four of the eleven languages in South Africa, and gave us some advice on how to greet the people we meet and impress them in general. He was pleased to share what knowledge he had. Whilst at Alzu, we saw ostriches, zebras and rhinos etc. This was a great feeling as only Saturday we were in Great Wyrley, and then Sunday we were in the middle of South Africa, seeing these wonderful sights.
What struck us immediately as we drove to the Hands@Work hub, was the close proximity of the living of the very poor and the very rich; this came as a shock to us all and really put into perspective just how important the work we are involved in is.
Ryan writes for today(we will take it in turns)... today was a REAL rollercoaster because most of us  had no sleep what’s so ever/little sleep (in my case, Niamh had the luxury of using the most part of my room for her legs) , and to be thrown in a new country was a unique experience , as we were seeing new things and having to contend with thoughts that we have never had to consider. I am very excited to throw my self into the inner-workings and culture of South Africa.  

-          Ryan and Niamh, Schools team 2013

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Off we go! 2013 School's team sets off

It was a sunny morning at St Andrews Church as the 2013 Link 4 Life Schools Team  set off on their journey to South Africa.  They were waved off by a throng of family members and friends - and by about 12 noon all the students were in the Cheslyn Hay Mini Bus being driven by Tony Archbold (thanks Tony).

The team will be flying from Heathrow tonight to Johannesburg and then traveling tomorrow morning by mini bus to hands at Work in Africa, near White River, Mpumalanga.  They will spend one night at the Hands at Work hub, before moving to accommodation near to the communities we are partnering with - Share,  a rural community in Bush Buck Ridge in the North east of South Africa.

Chris Burton from Hawkins Sports \Club passes on
some of the football kit to Dawn Allen from
Cheslyn Hay High School before she
leaves for South Africa
The team are taking donations of baby clothes for the Baby Bear Project  and also some donations of football kit, given by Hawkins Sports Club, Cheslyn Hay  (Many thanks for these)

If you would like to follow the group's activities then please keep up with the blog and a list of their schedule is available here Link 4 life teams Prayer & Info Sheet

Richard Westwood   13 July 2013

Thursday, 11 July 2013

2 Days to go! -11th July 2013

It is less than 2 days until I go to South Africa and all the feelings are starting to sink in. Although it still feels surreal at the moment, I am hugely excited about the experience I am about to have and just can not wait to get over there. Nerves are still at the back of my mind but enthusiasm is slowly taking over. I simply can not put into words how excited and nervous I am to go on saturday. However I know that everything will be fine and so lets just hope saturday comes quickly.

Nik - Schools Team 2013

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Great Schools Team News!

The whole schools team now has all of our funds!!

Thank you to everybody who supported us along the way - we are not yet finished though!

All funds raised now are towards a new fence and toilet for a community we will visit!

 - Niamh, Schools Team 2013

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Quick update from Ryan Ball

Hi everyone it's Ryan here from the schools team, just a quick update on how fundraising is going so far. I have managed to raise the funds for the trip! Its been hard but I did it :)

 Just last month I was worried that I would be unable to raise the money and here I am now helping the others complete their fundraising having completing my own, I am so excited to go out to South Africa in just 48 days :D!

 Will keep you posted! Ryan Ball :) - Schools Team 2013

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Hey everybody :) I'm Niamh (ginger girl on the left) and this year I'm travelling to SA with the school team! We are well over half way with the fundraising now, and with not long left until the deadline!
This is very exciting and we are all extremely lucky and thankful that we have the opportunity to go and do this work. I guess for most of us, this is just the start; many will definitely end up going again in the future :)
 - Niamh
Hi Guys! For anyone who didn't see it, our Big Link a couple of weeks ago was in the Express and Star! Well done everyone involved, it was a really fun day and a great memory :-)
Hi everyone it's Ryan here from the schools team, just a quick update on how things are going from my end, so far i'm just over half way through my fundraising efforts with just over two months to go, but I remain hopeful that the funds will come in time, but anyway I'm very excited to be part of this amazing project and to be able to experience all the wonderful things that await for me in south africa while we work alongside the care workers that dedicate their lives to help others.
Yours sincerely
Ryan Ball

Friday, 29 March 2013

Sponsored 'Bike'a'thon'!


Jordan Davis and Ryan Bickley, two students who shall be going to South Africa this year, are doing a sponsored 'Bike'a'thon'. They will start at Great Wyrley to Leister and back to Great Wyrley again, at a total of 126.3miles in May! 

What would be great is if you could kindly sponsor us!

Please contact for more details and keep an eye on here for more info!