Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Maintenance and Many Miles with Mercy Air -Tuesday 21st July

Hi everyone it’s Georgina,
 The team have spent the last 2 days helping the maintenance team back at hands @ work. Yesterday me, Richard, Ellie, Lauren and Dan the fajita man made fajita wraps and plenty of cakes to treat the team for all of their hard work maintaining and looking after the hub. Whilst we were cooking the rest of the team were outside working, raking the leaves, helping to put benches into the ground, and chopping wood.

Today all of the team apart from 4 (went to visit Durban) continued to help the maintenance team by making a path from rocks and lifting concrete slabs onto a van then off loading them at the top of the hill which almost kind of killed me but it’s ok I’m just about alive mom.
Just want to say how great I think the maintenance team are because of all the hard work they do everyday, keep up the good work J

Hi, it’s Molly
This morning we woke up at 6am to take a short flight with Paul Middleton at Mercy Air. We went around seeing a lake which was so big and we were just in time to watch the sun rise which was beautiful to see. The mountains looked incredible and I can’t believe I had the opportunity to see the amazing views of White River. We went at a speed of 210 miles/hour and I got to see how Mercy air operates and that they are doing good because they use the planes to fly to remote areas to help the most vulnerable people and I just wanted to say I think what Mercy air do it truly inspiring.

Hi its Shannon
Yesterday I went with the maintenance the team and some of the link for life team to help cut down trees with thorns the size of my head with a machete the size of me which I’m surprised they trusted me with but hey ho I helped and after we had chopped down trees and been scratched by the thorns we started to dig the holes for the bench we had me and Stacy on one side and Taran and Andy and as you can guess mine was so much better quality 

The rest of the team from many miles of travel with Mercy Air - to St Mary's Hospital in Mariannhill, Durban - which is two hours flying away  (and would have been 8 hours drive each way).  We'll let them tell thier own story in another blog post, of what has been a remarkable and inspiring day for those who were able to visit.

We have one more full day left in South Africa - and we want to make the most of it.  In the morning we will be going to a mobile clinic which Cathy Middleton helps to run at a banana farm for those who live and work there.  We will have a lot to think about by the time we come to go home.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Rest & Wonder - (and a stray baboon!)- Sunday 19 July

We arrived at Mercy Air last night and were very tired after a long but good day in Kruger National Park. So after a good nights sleep some of the team went to a local church with Paul & Cathy Middleton from Mercy Air while others explored the grounds of Mercy Air and rested.

In the afternoon we enjoyed the second part of our rest day by taking time to visit the Blyde River Canyon... And a stunning experience it was. On the way we stopped and enjoyed pancakes in a town called Graskop.
At the Three Rondavels viewpoint we were amazed at the views in the late afternoon sun. There was chance to buy some souvenirs from local sellers and we managed to avoid a stray baboon (!) who had turned up near to mini bus. It all added to a full and enjoyable day off.

We will stay at Mercy Air for the test of our time in South Africa, but have two more days of work with Hands at Work - including a feedback session tomorrow and cooking a treat lunch for the maintenance team.

Our time in Africa is going quickly and we want to make the most of it for ourselves but also for the partner charities we want to support.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A day in Kruger National Park - Saturday 18 July

Hi everyone, Ellie here! It’s been an amazing day, we’ve been driving through Kruger Park for about 10 hours. We’ve seen some incredible animals including; Monkeys, Lions, Buffalo (dead and alive), Rhinos, Giraffes, Jackal, Hyenas, Hippos, Vultures, Fish Eagle, Crocodiles, Elephant and Impala. Some amazing photos were taken- Dad you’ll be proud when you see them!- and some unforgettable sights were seen. Everyone is extremely tired here as we’ve been awake since 5AM, so I’ll end it there guys! Just wanted to say a final thank you for all of your support, and even though we’ve had a nice relaxed day we can’t forget the people that we’re here to support, and the people that you encourage everyday by reading the Blog and spreading the word of the inspirational acts people perform everyday. So, thank you!

Ellie J x

Friday, 17 July 2015

Friday 17 July - A day at Share (Nhluvuko Home Based Care)

Our day was spent at the care centre in Share where the team of volunteers feed the they care for. It's also a place of safety and where fun& games can be enjoyed.
We were able to pass on to the care volunteers the letters which we had written to them to encourage them & thank then for the work they do.

We helped with the meal for the children and as usual there were songs, dancing and prayer... We even got to sing an English song to our hosts and teach it them ('Our God is a great big God')

We helped to serve the food and wash up and then the care volunteers gave out the t shirts which we had brought from home (these were provided by pupils at Cheslyn Hay Primary School...a big thank you to them for this)

We were able to help the children decorate their new t shirts which everyone enjoyed. To our surprise many of the children wanted to write ' Link for Life' on their shirts... Which we didn't ask them to... So it was very humbling to see that they wanted to be a part of this partnership as much as we do.
We said our goodbyes as the paint on the t shirts was still drying and headed back to our accommodation, knowing that we had been a part is a very special day for us all. What a privilege! Thank you God!
We head off to the Kruger National Park tomorrow (up at 5am!) & we are looking forward to this as a rest day after a week of community visits.

Sorry there are no photos on this post... Internet problems mean that we are doing this on a phone.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Thursday 16 July - Home based care visits in Share

After leaving our accommodation base at Wits Rural Facility we headed for the village of Share and were met by the care volunteers.  We exchanged greetings - doing our best to use the Tsonga phrases we had learned and joined them for prayer and singin before going on Home based care visits.
Each pair of students went with an adult leader and one or two of the care volunteers - to visit the homes of the children whom they care for.

Often there were tough stories to hear about the situations of the children whcih has left them orphaned or vulnerable - even though at each home we were warmly greeted and treated as honoured guests.

It was clear that all of the homes really appreciated all the work which the care volunteers do ... not just feeding the childrenm but offering a place of safety and a loving relationship which the children need... as well as checking that their home is as secure as possible and also helping them with school matters.

Each of our visits gave a differnt life story, but with similar pain and need.  It was wonderful to see the difference that these remarkable ladies are able to make in the children's lives.

Having seen the home settings of some of the children we were then able to return to the care centre to help with food preparation and play with he children - more singing dancing and laughter - and a prayer of thanks and Bible reading before the food was shared out amongst us all - the youngest children first and the link for life team and care workers last.

We left to return to our base- where we had time to reflect on what we had seen and shared in and then enjoy and eveing meal and a relaxing time of our own songs and games around a camp fire.

Much to talk about and be thankful for - we giving what we can, but it feels like we are receiving more than we are giving.

We look forward to our day tomorrow which is scheduled to be a children's treat day and we hope it will be just that.  Thanks for reading...
Written by Richard on behalf of happy and tired team  :-)

Preparing food for the children in Share
Walking with Doris and Evelyn - Care Volunteers in Share
Washing up is the same in any culture

Serving Pap and Cabbage
(Which tasted pretty good!)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Hello from our teachers - Wednesday 15 July - a greeting at Share

Hi everyone,
As we are now almost midway through our visits to the communities, we thought that, as the teachers, we would send you an update on how fantastically well we think the team is doing. We are so impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of every single student in the team.
Today we left the Hands Hub and headed to Share village where we received a warm and friendly welcome from the care workers who immediately made us feel like a part of the family. We danced and sang together, introduced ourselves and then heard a reading from the Bible in Shangan. Due to the time, or lack of it, we weren’t able to stay very long but are looking forward to going back, making home visits and sharing lunch with them tomorrow.
Highlights from the day include: Dan’s creative use of a tyre (lying in and rolling around), Taran and Ellen’s dancing (the head weave), and the whole team chipping in to play a game ( a makeshift game of bowls - tossing stones into a circle)- with one of the boys, (we’ll call him Thulane ) who is often on the edge of things due to a disability.
Overall, we are proud of and impressed by the team’s willingness to get stuck in as soon as they arrive at any location and the resilience that they have shown so far.
This may be the last time you hear from us because the pupils are desperate to share their stories with you, however, we just wanted to emphasise how thrilled we are to have such an amazing team here to share the experience with.
Dawn and Stacy

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Zwelisha, South Africa- Love in a hard place -Tuesday 14 July

Helping with food

Seriouis washing up!

 Hi everyone it's Georgina! Had the most amazing time with the most amazing children today in a village called Zwelisha. I can't believe how inspiring and selfless the care workers are and am so proud to be here to support them all. Today we did a home care visit and I met a 15 year old girl who was so clever and funny, it's hard to believe she is the same age as me because of how different our worlds are. 
 We were able to pray for her and her life, which I don't normally do but it felt nice because of how much she appreciated it.
I also met a lot of young children who seemed to think we were all ginormous climbing frames which made them so happy and was so funny to be apart of

Can't wait to visit the next village and continue having such an amazing time with all of the team.

The care point at Zwelisha

Hey guys it's Ellie here! We're all having an amazing time and have met some incredily inspiring people. We went on our first home visits today, and were able to see the conditions in which the children live and who they live with. Today a samll team and I visted a 15 year old girl. She lives with her aunt and uncle, and is currently participating in many of the Hands at work camps and care  centres. It was amazing to hear how much the centres mean to her and how much impact the work we're doing is having on her self confidence and social skills. 
After the home visits we played and socialised with the children at the care centre, watching them being able to act as children and play with other individuals their age was emotional. Being part of a team that enables these children to forget about whatever worries they have to return to at home, means so much and really gives purpose to what we are doing- and seeing results has provided a visual motivation boost within the whole team. 
Finally, I'd just like to say how appreciative I am for such an amazing, supportive team that encourage each other to surpass their expectations of themselves. We may have only known each other for a few months but these guys really do feel like family! 
Thanks to all you guys for your support by reading this and your constant donations and words of supports! .......... HI MUM AND DAD!!! 
Ellie  x

Monday, 13 July 2015

Siyathuthuka - Compasion and Care- Monday 13 July 2015

Link for Life with Children & Care Volunteers at Siyathuthuka
Making new friends
It's Shannon and Lauren here,had a great experience today meeting the people from Siyathuthuka.We met the care workers that work in the village and got to listen to their stories. we sang for them but they showed us up with one of their worship songs which overwelmed us emotionally. Even though many of the children couldn't speak english they still welcomed us and we couldn't believe how upbeat they were. Two girls plaited our hair and told us their stories and then we were led to 'pray' - we danced and sang in a huge circle. At the end of the visit we saw how many of the kids needed a hug and wanted to stay friends even though we were only there for a short time.

Hi, it is Molly here. I wanted to just express my feelings about a child I was with today at the care point. His name was (I'll call him) Themba and didn't speak to me at any point in the day. He was about 5-7 years old and when I went up to him he just wanted a hug. I didn't know the reason why or the situation he was in however I held him for a while and in that time it allowed me to reflect that this boy has nothing and just wants a hug and that was just the right thing for him, he didn't need anything else but time to feel apreciated and it made me realise I don't need all the things in society which surround us but the attention and help of the people I love.

Taran's Team
Helping out
Richard writes...
As well as all that Lauren, Molly & Shannon have said... it's worth mentioning that Ms Allen scored 2 goals in a males vs females football match - Perhaps a premier league contract awaits? 

Pictured  left is Taran with some of the football friends be made - a stunning 2 hours of football and through the relating with the boys like this he showed he cared for them... so that they knew they are important to him

At right is a photo of some of the team lending a hand with washing up.

Siyathuthuka home based care is supported by Hands at Work - 75 vulnerable children are cared for and visited in their homes and fed by a dedicated team of 7 remarkable volunteers.  They are the heroes today... and tomorrow and the day after...  and the day after that...
This is why partnering with Hands at Work is so important... Hands give the support and encouragement and funds which the care volunteers need to be able to keep doing what they do.  It is a work of compassion and love for children in real need - and we are all invited to step up and share in the work - here and now and when we get home too.
Many other special moments today from today but they will have to wait until we get home.  All of the team have done wonderfully today - everyone who has helped or encouraged them to get here can be  really proud of them.  Well done everyone - & thank you God for allowing us to be on this journey with the special people we have met today. 

Disclaimer- these views and thoughts are those of the team members who have written and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of  Hands at Work in Africa  or the Link for Life Project.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

were here now no need to worry

Hi everyone Dan here we have arrived in South Africa i can't belive that im here it is unbeliveable the minibus was a little bump and it draged but we all had fun and I had fun taking photo's of some amazing views of South Africa speak to you soon Dan

Minion Taran Here :)

Hi Link for Life followers, Taran here. Just a quick update to say that we all arrived well and are really enjoying the hospitality from the rest of the Hands at Work family! I'm so glad that i have such an amazing team around me as i feel like we all bring different qualities that can make a difference. Can't actually believe that I'm actually here in South Africa! And although the journey was a bit of a task, I feel that the journey has only just begun!!!! :)

Arrived safe and well!!!

Hi everyone from Georgina. Arrived in Johannasburg safe and well and survived the mini bus journey just about. We were able to see Zebras, Rhinos, Antelopes and Ostrich's wooooo can't wait for the rest of the trip!!!!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Stacy reporting from the airport

I just want to introduce myself as the teacher from Great Wyrley. We are currently sitting in the airport waiting to go to South Africa. The team have really gelled and are currently playing card games, it is really inspiring to see how well they get on we will keep you informed. Don't forget to pray for us and our visit please? Thank you

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Why am I going to Africa with Hands at Work?

Our Link for Life Project Schools Team is about to set out for Africa.  We’ll be spending a week with Hands at Work and the communities they serve.  It’s been hard work getting all of us ready  - eight school students two teachers and two church members – we have had a year of orientation, training and fundraising  and now  we are just a couple of days from the beginning of our visit.  I think and hope that our team are in good shape to give of themselves and learn from the people we will meet.  
It’s exciting and daunting all at the same time, it costs a lot in energy, emotion and money... and the preparation has been going on for months –so why are we doing it?

Lots of us want to get involved in helping people in Africa... And there are many different motivations for doing it.

Many people feel sorry for the people they hear about, whilst for some there is a sense of injustice at the gap between their situation and the issues that many people in Africa have to deal with.

But there is often a motive which is harder for us to own up to... If we come from materially wealthy nations, we may find that we feel more 'alive' amongst people who, despite their need, welcome us. The rawness of their situation and our wish to help can give us a real sense of purpose- which may be lacking in our 'regular' lives.

So with all these motives - there are many reasons to get involved...

But before we pack our bags we need to check on a few area …as sometimes unhelpful things can find their way into our ‘baggage’...

So here are some things we need to try to ‘leave out’ of the things we take to Africa.

1. The false belief that the ways we know are best- this is especially likely to get into our hand luggage if we are someone who has expertise in our home life. We can mistakenly think that our experience and knowledge will be what people need. What we really need to do is to be prepared to listen rather than speak, and learn rather than teach.

2. Pity.  This often finds its way into our bags, even though we might think we have taken it out already.  Pity tends to lead us to dis-empower or even belittle the people we meet rather than working with them... and the people Hands at Work supports don't want pity, but partnership.

3. A fix-it mentality... When we see some of the problems in communities in Africa, we can easily think that we can quickly sort out what's gone wrong. But the problems we see often have deep and hidden roots, which need to be tackled by people who know their communities really well- our 'help' may make us feel better, but it may hold back real and lasting change.

With all these complications - we might say well why visit at all?

I think the reasons are compelling...

Passion for justice and care for the poor are at the heart of what the church is called to do as these are hallmarks of God's kingdom...

Partnership brings a blessing to all not just those who may receive what is offered.

But one of the reasons that is most pressing for me is the sense of connection with people who are materially poor. If we give from a distance we protect ourselves from the pain which others may be experiencing. When we sit alongside those in need, we are shown the issues of justice which we could easily ignore. We are confronted by our part in the unjust systems which keep the poor, poor... And, if we are prepared to, we can be led to deep and searching questions - which do not have easy answers – But as we search for answers to these disturbing questions we will find our faith is fueled and we become motivated to share the faith we have and speak up on behalf of those with no voice. 

In truth, both us as visitors and those we visit, need each other.

Will our visit be effective?  Will it bear fruit?  That depends on what we do when we get back home – the answers to these questions lie in our hands.

When we unpack our bags, we must not leave our experiences in our suitcase... For everyone's sake we need to go, and return, determined to challenge & change the way things are ... And begin with ourselves –Our God invites and compels us to do no less.

Richard Westwood
Link for Life Project
8 July 2015

Ellie Stokes South Africa visit 2015

Hi everyone! I'm Ellie Stokes- a 18 year old A-level student- and I'll be part of the 2015 team leaving on Saturday. I'm excited for the visit, but at the same time I'm extremely nervous about what I'm going to encounter. I'd also like to say a big thank you to everyone who has donated to the charity, and has helped me to raise the funds needed to make the trip possible. I'm also incredibly grateful for such an amazing team, and know that we will all support each other through tough days out in Africa. Thank you also to Rose and Richard who have gone through amazing lengths to make this trip possible, and to ensure we're fully prepared for what's ahead.

We hope to keep you all updated on any progress, and to inform you of how your support and donations are making a difference. THANK YOU!

Thomas in the schools team 2015

Hello, my name's Thomas Dickinson and in a few days from writing this I will be going to South Africa as part of the schools team. I am extremely excited for the visit, no matter how much people convey their experiences onto you about this amazing opportunity it is something where you can't actually imagine what it will be like but only give an idea. I think it is for this reason I'm unsure if I have worries or not, but the knowledge of what we'll be doing would outweigh any clear worries. I have had a lot of support from everyone and every time we all meet up we become closer; I also feel fully comfortable with the people I'm going with. Also, it's been amazing seeing how people hearing for the first time of LinkForLife react in such a positive way and how many people locally are involved one way or another. It will be truly astounding, THANK YOU to all!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Lauren in the schools team 2015

Hi, I'm Lauren Griffiths and I'll be in South Africa with the school team in less than 5 days! I'm very nervous but thanks to Richard, Rose and the other adults involved I feel as prepared as I could possibly be. We'll be writing on the blog daily to keep everyone at home updated on the trip and how the group is feeling. I'd also like to thank all who have helped me go on this trip by supporting and donating to myself and the rest of the group, it'll be an unforgettable experience! 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Molly in the schools team for 2015


I'm Molly Jones and I will be going to South Africa in 9 days with the schools team 2015! I am very excited and nervous and can't wait to be there. I will be writing on the blog while I'm over there to keep you up to date on what is happening and I'm grateful for all the support from my family and friends who have been supporting me this year to helping me raise the money, THANK YOU!!!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Countdown to Schools Team 2015

It's not long now (17 days!)  until this year's Link for Life Project School's Team will be on their way to South Africa to visit Hands at Work in Africa, Mercy Air in Mpumalanga  and St Mary's Hospital in Durban ( which is supported by the Baby Bear Project).

In the next few days the team members will be writing a few lines of introduction about themselves so we can get to know a bit more about them before they set out.

The team is...

Taran Sharratt, Georgina Kerr-Jones, Lauren Griffiths, Shannon Cadwallader and Miss Dawn Allen  ... all from Cheslyn Hay High School
Dan Simpson, Thomas Dickinson, Molly May Jones, Ellen Stokes and Ms Stacy Knight ... all from Great Wyrley High School
Andy Evans and Richard Westwood, both from St Andrews Church in Great Wyrley

If you can please come along to our 'Sending Out' Service  (sometimes called a Commissioning Service)  which will be on Sunday 28 June at7pm at St  Andrews Church, Hilton Lane, Great Wyrley  WS6 6DS

You can also follow us on our visit on twitter @link4liferw  and tweets with #link4life will be fed to the blog - so...  please get involved and support us and the remarkable people we will meet, who serve people in real need in Africa...

You can support us with your prayers, thoughts and tweets, and by posting a comment on the blog.  We look forward to linking up with you in the weeks ahead - we leave on Sat 11 July from St Andrews Church.

See you soon - and thanks for your involvement in this big project which God has started in our patch.

Richard Westwood - One of the leaders of this year's Schools Team

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Living a different kind of life... how the other half live! Wednesday 25 Feb 2015 - Day 11

Brian Taberonr writes...
This morning we went to visit the mobile clinic in Kiepersol with Cathy Middleton - one of our hosts at Mercy Air.  The clinic is 'mobile' and is set up afresh each time it arrives.  The location is a banana farm!  It sounds exotic, even romantic... but the conditions for those who work on the farm are far from great.  Many of them live on the farm in very basic accommodation, and only get to see the rest of their family at  'month end' [a long weekend once a month when they are able to go to visit their families]. Many of the workers are migrant workers, with few, if any, rights and very little control over their lives. The clinic is provided free of charge by Africa School of Missions, where Cathy Middeleton is a nurse trainer.

We arrived just as the student nurses were leading worship. After a Bible reading and a short talk, both of which were in the local language for the area (Siswati), we sat with the farm workers who were waiting to see the nursing team. Cathy showed some of us around while others got to know some of the patients. 

Waiting and playing with children outside the Mobile Clinic
We spent some time playing with the pre-school children outside, we played with bubbles, did some colouring and fed the children with some yoghurt. The children didn’t know us, so it was difficult to play with them but some were able to respond to us.
After a couple of hours we left the farm and returned to Mercy Air in silence thinking about  what it must be like to be a migrant worker, without documents forced to live in poor conditions with minimal pay.
After lunch, we reflected on our visit and what we plan to do when we return home and then some of us were given a tour around the facilities at Mercy Air by Paul and we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
Thato prepared a Braai (BBQ) for our evening meal after which we watched a fantastic thunderstorm.
Tomorrow we start our return journey to Johannesburg airport.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Moving to Mercy Air - Tuesday 24th Feb 2015 Day 10

Rose Westwood writes...
After ladies' prayer in the chapel at the Hands at Work hub, we said our goodbyes to the Hands at Work volunteers and thanked them for the support they have given us this week.
We stopped at the local supermarket, PicknPay so that Natalie and Becky could buy the ingredients for a vegetable chilli which they had offered to cook us in the evening. 

Mercy Air is a mission aviation charity based in White River about 20 minutes drive from  Hands at Work.  As well as the hangars, grass air strip and heli-pad they have accommodation and hospitality facilities which they use to allow missionaries from Mozambique to come to have well earned rest.  The facilities are great and the welcome warm, and we were glad of both both of these as we arrived.

 After lunch at Mercy Air we visited Lowveld Botanical Gardens where we saw unfamiliar butterflies, trees and flowers. The one in the picture has fallen from the Powder Puff tree.

Afterwards some of us relaxed by the pool at Mercy Air while Brian and Jamie went to White River to replace the spare tyre from a previous puncture.

We had a lovely meal with Paul and Cathy Middleton  (Paul is a Pilot with Mercy Air and cathey is a midwife and nurse trainer and both of them lived in Walsall before coming to Africa) and learned about Cathy's work at Africa School of Missions.
We are going to the Mobile Clinic tomorrow where Cathy trains the student nurses.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Supporting the Hands at Work 'family' at the hub in White River, South Africa

Today started with the men’s prayer group at 7am this morning which Thato, Jamie and Brian attended, this was followed at 8am by the Monday morning prayer meeting for the whole hands family. We were given the opportunity to give some feedback and reflection on our visit. Brian, Laura, Thato and Rose spoke about their personal experiences and this was followed by a moving time of prayer for the whole team.

Following this our team host Alicia led us in a final hands de-brief session where she expressed the gratitude of the Hands team and then we ended with a hymn led by Thato.

Most of the team joined Devon, Kyver, Nevermind & Betuel to help dig a trench from the workshop towards the chapel using Pickaxe, Shovel, Spades and machete for a power cable to supply the chapel. Unfortunately one of the Hands team (it wasn’t us, honest!) pierced another water pipe with a pickaxe.
Brian spent the remaining time bailing out the trench while work continued to gain access to the pipe.
Jamie's Salon

Meantime Jamie opened a mobile hair salon and treated the volunteers, male female and children to a haircut and this service was very popular.
Over lunch, Alicia helped us to think of the stories we will tell when we went home.
After the meal, we had a de-brief which focused on what changes we would make following our experiences. 

The day ended with outdoor games on the field where we played Frisbee and Bocce (an Italian form of Boules). It was good to have fun with the Hands family, and to hear their stories.
Tomorrow we will pack our bags and go to Mercy Air for the next stage of our visit.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Worship and wonder and relaxation - Sunday 22 Feb 2015 -Day 8

Rose, Ipotseng, Thato and Brian went to St Peter's, the Anglican Church in White River Church this morning  and then returned to the Hands village to pick up the rest of the team and head to Blyde River canyon.

We stopped at Graskop for pancakes and drove up to The Three Rondavels  ( a stunning view of the Blyde River Canyon) where we are pictured in the photos.

Stunning view of Blyde River Canyon
We then headed down to Bourke's Luck Potholes and then Berlin falls before driving back to the village where we met some of the new intake of Hands at Work volunteers volunteers for 2015 and we enjoyed getting to know them a little and sharing a laugh.
We got back from our trip round Blyde River Canyon at 7::30pm
We had a great time and look forward to our day spent helping around the Hands at Work Hub tomorrow.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Big day - Big game - Early start and a huge tree! - 21 Feb 2015 - Day 7

We've had a really great day today in the Kruger National Park.  We entered at Orpen gate at 5:45am and journeyed down through the park to leave the park at Numbi gate at about 5:30pm.
On the way through, we visited Satara camp, this huge Baobob tree (!) and Skukusa camp and saw many animals including elephant, girraffe, jackals, zebra, vultures and YES, two lionesses. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Volunteer Care Worker appreciation day - Day 6 – 20 Feb 2015

Children and their care workers from Share
and the Link for Life 2015 Community Team
Hands at Work like teams to spend the last day of their time in the community doing something different for the volunteer care workers or for the children.

We looked at the strength and skills within the team and decided that we would spend some time with the volunteer care workers.

Some of us massaged hands and painted nails and others made bead bracelets and Jamie, who is a hairdresser by profession, offered an oil treatment for their hair.

The most popular activity by far was the bead bracelets but it was also lovely spending one to one time with care workers that we have grown to know. It was also really nice to see one of the children waiting in line to have her nails painted and for the hair treatment.
This was our way of thanking the care workers for doing such a great job and encouraging them to continue with this work. After our meal we had our last play with the children who have become more and more comfortable with us as the days have gone by.

It was hard to leave but we have taken some lovely group photographs some of which we will print off and give to the next team who will pass them on to the volunteer care workers to remind them of our visit - to let them know that we will  not forget them or the children they care for.
We’re off to bed now because we have an early start for our day in the Kruger National Park  tomorrow- (4.15am get up!)

Brian Tabernor on behalf of the rest of the 2015 Church and Community Team

Care givers appreciation day 19 Feb 2015 Day 5 -

Today we were able to take part in a special day for care givers – the women, often grandmothers (Gogos) who look after the orphaned and vulnerable children in their homes; These special days to honour and support the care givers are organised every month by the care volunteers at the life centre in Share.  Showing appreciation and care for these care givers in this way is another part of ensuring that the children who come the life centre (care point) have a network of care around them.
We helped the care volunteers at the life centre to prepare food for the care givers (Vegetables, pap, soup and chicken)and while that was cooking we sang, prayed and danced with the care givers. When the food was plated it was a privilege to take it to them. Many of these care givers were known to us from home visits we made this week or in previous years and so it was good to deepen our relationship with them. It was great fun trying to learn the Shangaan names for pap, meat and water. It was a very hot day so we were able to learn how to say “Oh it’s hot” Ka Hisa. 

A typical journey through Share
to one of the homes.
 After they had eaten we accompanied them to their home, stayed with them for a while and learned their stories. Many of these care givers are grandmothers looking after their grandchildren because their own children have died.
A typical journey through Share to one of the homes.
We all finished the day back at the care point where we played clapping and dancing games with the children. Some of the children we have got to know over the past three days are now coming up to us because they recognise us.
Back at Wits after a lovely meal we met as usual to talk about the day; this time we talked about the social situation in the communities we have visited in order to understand the lives our children are living.  
Tomorrow we are looking forward to giving the care workers the chance to have their nails painted or create bracelets, however we will be sad to have to say goodbye.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Home visits - with a 'holy' aim... Day 4 Wed 18 Feb 2015

Brian Tabernor writes...

This photos shows most of the team preparing the Cabbage, Carrots, Beans and Onions for the children’s lunch at the life centre at Share.

After worship at the local 'life centre' (or care point), we spent the remainder of the morning and early afternoon doing 'Holy' Home Visits* with the local volunteer care workers in Share and some of team from Hands at Work who are based at the Hands Service Centre in Hazyview.
Following the visits we played with the children as they came out of school until it was time for them to have their meal. We then said our goodbyes with the promise to “Sita Banana Mzuku” or see you tomorrow. 

We look forward to a special day tomorrow where the care givers are welcomed to the life centre (The care givers are usually grandmothers … who are know as  ‘Gogos’ or may in some cases be an older sibling or a parent).
*[Hands at Work in Africa call these visits to the homes of the children who are orphaned ' 'Holy Home Visits' ... This might seem puzzling name, but the idea is that those who are visited (usually an older relative - perhaps a grandmother  or in some cases the oldest sibling) are deliberately given time to be listened to fully and cared for - so that they can share their real needs and hurts.  The visit will often close with a time of prayer - asking for God's help through the Holy Spirit - for the children being cared for and the, often very stretched, care giver. Listening well like this also allows the volunteers doing the visit to understand the needs of the children and carers and perhaps adapt the kind of help being offered.  Hence a 'holy' time and outcome is the intention and longing of all these visits.]

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Visiting the community of Share - Day 3 - 17 Feb 2015

Rebecca writes…
The photo above is showing Jamie hard at work helping in the Share community, cleaning up the weeds. My highlight of today was when I met a child and he is 18 years of age and he seemed so inspiring to me; as he spoke and smiled it was like nothing was bothering him and he was loving life and had no worries, he also seemed very confident and wasn’t shy to speak to new people he had just met.

Natasha (Known to us as Ipotseng) writes…
The support that was there (in the Share care point) was very amazing especially from the care workers and the team.

Thato writes…
The phrase that have I learned today was the greeting …it was ‘Avusheni’ that means ‘Hello’ in English and ‘Yebo’ which means ‘Hello to you too’.

Natalie writes…
The first thing that I was able to experience today was the Women’s Prayer. I thoroughly enjoyed it; it was lovely how there was a sense of trust expressed by everyone even though they hadn’t even spoken to some of us previously.  I liked being made welcome and have been prayed for by Hands members, it helped me feel like I was a part of something wonderful.

Day 2 - Monday 16 Feb 2015 - Siyathuthuka

Here we are in Mpumakanga ;-) Mpumalanga!

At the care point in Siyathuthuka

After spending the morning learning about all that Hands at Work do, we visited Siyathuthuka and were very warmly welcomed by the carers. Jamie, Thato and Brian helped to tidy the yard; Rose and Laura talked to the care workers and Natalie, Becky and Ipotseng helped to cook and serve the food. 

We all had fun learning new games with the children. We have had a very positive first day and look forward to spending the rest of the week at Share.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Two teams become one in Johannesburg Airport

We are delighted to say that the Link for Life Project church and community team from Lichfield Diocese arrived safely in Johannesburg and were met by two church members from our companion Diocese of Matlosane in South Africa.  The photo shows a freshly unfurled South African flag being held by the now combined team.  The Matlosane team members were brought to the meeting point by Archdeacon Sydney Moghobotla from Promosa, near Potchefstoom.  The team were then taken by mini bus (provided by Lowveld Link in White River) to Mpumalanga where they will be staying at the Hands at Work hub before beginning their community based visits.  We look forward to hearing from them as they journey together and support those in need.
Richard Westwood

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Church and Community Team Depart for South Africa

The Church and Community Team  (Rose, Brian, Jamie, Laura, Natalie & Rebecca) left on time earlier today from St Andrews Church in Great Wyrley.  They were transported safely to Birmingham Airport (thank you to Saunders Travel) and are nearly ready for take off on their visit.  We look forward to hearing about their visit through this blog.  They will b
Natalie, Laura, Brian,Rebecca, Jamie & Rose
e met in Johannesburg by two members of the church from the Anglican Church in Matlosane - so the team will be a cross cultural cocktail as they move to Mpumalanga to the Hands at Work Hub near White River on Sunday.  Their first day visiting local communities will be on Monday 16th Feb as they walk with care volunteers who care for orphaned and vulnerable children.  We will be thinking of them and praying for them. 
                                                                                                       Richard Westwood

Friday, 6 February 2015

Ready for off!

Hello everyone, we are......Natalie Holford, Rebecca Holford, Brian Tabernor, Laura Jovicich, Jamie Richards and Rose Westwood. We are getting ready to go to Hands at Work and Mercy Air next week. Here we are at our Orientation Day at St Mark's in Great Wyrley. We are looking forward to going to Share in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga with our friends from Hands at Work. We will walk with the care-workers as they care for the most vulnerable children in their community. We will spend the last two days at Mercy Air. From there we will go to the mobile clinic in Hazyview where we will see the work of Cathy Middleton who trains student nurses at the Africa School of Missions, near White River. Please follow our blog as we try to post something every day.