Saturday, 13 August 2016

2016 Team Video and Photos

Thanks to some excellent video work from Tina Vidmar and great photos from Tina and also Joe Wilkins who were both members of the 2016 team, we have some edited photos and video from the most recent visit to South Africa.

You can watch the video here...

and the photos here... 

 Thanks to Tina and Joe for your photo and video work  and to all the team for the caring work you did whilst in South Africa.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Leaving, Learning and Visiting - 25th & 26th of July

Yesterday was our last day at Hands, so we joined the 8am prayer meeting and met two more teams that had just arrived. One from the UK (St Andrews, Biggleswade) and the other from Germany who are visiting Hands as part of a study visit to see how communities are working with refugees. This makes us realise how hard the Hands Hospitality Team work during their busy team season.

After de-brief meetings we helped the maintenance by raking up the autumn leaves from around the compound. We then said goodbye to our friends at Hands before returning to Mercy Air.

In the evening we met with Paul and Cathy and they talked about their work; Paul as a Misson Pilot and Cathy as a Midwife. For more information on their mission work please visit: 

We were especially interested in some work that Cathy is doing in an informal settlement that is growing near to the Mercy Air farm. 

It's really interesting to hear of all these projects and their work. 

Love Rose and Ryan x

Today a small group of us went to Durban to deliver some Baby Bear parcels we had carried in our luggage. 

Baby Bear is made up of lots of people in the UK who knit baby clothes for St.Mary's hospital in Durban. Originally, new born babies were being carried home wrapped in newspaper, so baby bear was set up to provide warm knitted baby clothing. 

7am this morning we took off from Mercy Air in a 10 seater Kodiak plane wrapped up in blankets. The journey wasn't too bumpy considering the misty weather- plus we had Paul as our pilot who frequently flies to different areas in Southern Africa.

We arrived in Durban and the small airport was covered in mud. The building flooded yesterday, half a metre up the glass doors you could see the water line. Anyway, we were picked up by Thaisbo and Chris from the airport who gave us a quick tour, seeing some of the most expensive areas in Durban and then some of the poorest places and informal settlements. The contrast was very obvious and prominent.

At St.Mary's, Thaisbo took us to the Maternity ward where mothers with their tiny newborn babies were lying and we handed them the parcels according to whether they'd had a boy or girl. They were very grateful to receive them and we were grateful for them allowing us in to see their babies. 

We also visited a Labour ward where mothers were waiting to have their babies and then a children's ward. The children aged from around 3-8 years old. Most of them suffered from malnutrition or infections. We were playing with balloons that they had and I also spoke to one of the nurses who said it was fun to work there but tended to be very difficult especially in warmer weather. 

After that we left the hospital and visited the Jabulani Self-Help Centre. Sister Marco started this centre in 1988 for women and men who have little money and/or food. 

A lovely lady called Gloria greeted us with open arms excitedly saying 'come my children', referring to us. She was incredibly happy to see us and show off the site she was a part of. We saw the different workshops: woodwork, sewing, recyling and the kitchens. Usually there would be lots of children there but because of floods, mothers were worried to bring them along. There was a great energy to Gloria and she  was incredibly thankful for our visit and also thankful to God. 

We then headed back to Mercy Air and I sat in the cockpit for take off which was very instersting. 
Although a very short day, there was a lot to take in and experience. It will be interesting to see how this partnership develops. 

Izzy x

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Our Weekend Break

After a really busy seven days at Hands visiting three of their partner communities, we have enjoyed a couple of days of relaxing. While we have been doing these things (to follow) we couldn't help thinking about the people we had met and if they would ever get the opportunity to do the things we have done. The questions we have been asking ourselves are:

How do the children manage without the care workers at the weekend?

Kruger park is so close to the villages but will the children ever get to see the animals that live on their doorstep?

How much do the local communities receive from the tourist destinations as opposed to national and international companies?

We have had two very busy days. On Saturday we got up at 4am to leave for 5am and saw the sun rise over the plains of  Kruger National Park. Because it was so early the animals were very active and we were able to see:

Giraffe,             Elephants,                Impala,               Hyena,        
Zebra,              Cheetah,                  Kudu,                  Hippopotamus,
Fish Eagle,        Wildebeest,              Warthog,             Cape glossy starling,
Baboon,            Crocodile,                Tortoise,              Vervet monkey,
Rhino,               Buffalos,                 Waterbuck,           Steinbock,
Tortoise,           Cormorant,               Hornbill.

We liked the groups of Hyena (and the baby... Great photograph by Gina here...), Warthog, Hippo and Elephants...

Today we woke up to low cloud which meant that we didn't see the views from God's window and Blyde River Canyon but it was clearer at Bourke's Luck Potholes. On the way home we treated ourselves to a Gluten free pancake at Harry's.

We are writing this around a warm open wood fire. It's 8 o'clock so we are off to bed soon before another early start!

Love from us all!


Friday, 22 July 2016

Today we visited a new community called Mluti, there were four care workers looking after thirty five children, making sure they each had a hot meal every day Monday to Friday. When we arrived we split into four groups and went on home visits assisted by the care workers to meet the care givers within the community. 

On my home visit (Ellen) we met a father of two children who was trying to obtain a job so he could provide for his children, as their mother had left them and no one knew where she had gone to. It was beautiful to see a father who loved his children to the extent to which he would go to bed hungry to ensure that he provided for his children. He spoke with such pride about his children doing well in school and working hard to pass their exams. 

When we got back from home visits, we helped the care workers finish preparing the food for the kids to eat when they got back from school. When the kids arrived, we said hello’s and introduced ourselves and then sat with some boys while they tried to teach us some siSwati (the mother tongue) which took a while as we’re all really rubbish at siSwati. They then told us about their homes and school and we listened to their stories. We then served the kids their lunch of Samp and vegetables and beetroot.

When the time came for us to leave, the care workers expressed their gratitude for the work Hands at Work do and thanked us for visiting. 

So thank you readers for all your support enabling us to be here to support the inspirational women that care the most for these vulnerable children in their greatest time of need. 

Bye for now, Ellie and Gina xoxoxox

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Our Final Day in Share - Thursday the 21st of July

Most of the team aren't ready to put their thoughts and feelings into words just yet, these are just a few words from Tina:

Today was our final day at Share. A tough but great day for us all. Yesterday I met a young girl named Angel who followed me around the community. Today was the same, and although I may not know her back story, I could tell from her worn clothes and bare feet that this young girl needed love like all the children here. I let her plait my hair, tickle each other, play ball, and cuddle. I feel as though in that moment, the power of play was the most powerful.
Love Tina x

Share - Wednesday the 20th of July

A few words from members of the team ...

I have been amazed by the strength of faith that these people have, faced with such difficulties. Love Liz x

Today we were in Share again. We went on a home visit with Ruth and GuGu to visit a lady named Faith "GoGo Faith". She is an amazingly strong woman, she cares for her 3 grandsons as the parents 'aren't around' so suspect they probably passed away. She was explaining that they are all doing very well at school but as the oldest grandson goes to the high school which is far away it means he is unable to help her around the house so she struggles because of her age. She asked Andy to pray for her, she asked him to pray that she lived long enough to care for all of her grandchildren so they can do well at school and get decent jobs. I think that is an astonishing thing to ask for because she doesn't want to live for herself, only for her grandchildren so she can care for them.
Love Ryan x

Today we visited the husband of a care-worker who passed away in the past year. This care-worker was a friend of ours; a care-worker many of us know. Easily recognised as the beauriful woman who often wore a yellow Brazil football shirt. It was a privilege to meet her husband and to hear him ask for prayer that he would stay well enough to be able to support his family by collecting and chopping firewood to sell to the community.  He thinks that with the support of the CBO and with the help of his eldest daughter, he will be able to carry on.Rose

The past two days have been at Share, going on home visits with the care workers, helping prepare and distribute the meals to the children and playing with the children. Yesterday I felt a bit overpowered by it all, but not in a negative way; I just needed to sleep to process it. So today I was ready and felt I knew what to expect. We visited Lucas who was doing a very good job of providing for his six children despite very difficult personal circumstances and then we met Happy who turned out the be Lucas's niece. Back at the care point I played catch with some of the children and I tried to learn some of their names. We then had lots of fun with the parachute Liz had brought from Penkridge and I finished off getting very dizzy spinning three boys around in turns. When I said goodbye to them one of them threw his arms around me and gave me a big hug. It's those moments that you know you're doing something good.Mike

So.. we have spent two days in the community of Share making holy home visits with the careworkers, helping in preparing and serving the meal when the children came out of school. Then we spent time playing with the children. They loved the big colourful parachute! More tomorrow.
Lynne X😴

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Visiting the Community of Share - Tuesday 19 July

Today was another long day for the team and this blog post is  a composite based on texts and photos from them which they have sent during the day.  The team have headed for bed so, back in the UK, I'm passing on what they have told me.

Accommodation at WITS
Earlier today the team left the Hands at Work Hub in White River and travelled north for about two hours to the Bush Buck Ridge region of Mpumalanga in South Africa.  They transferred to their new accommodation for the next few days - a rural base of the University of Witwatersrand (more commonly referred to as WITS). 

It's basic, but safe and welcoming and only a few minutes from the community of Share which Link for Life is partnering with through Hands at Work.

Walking to a 'Home Visit'  in Share
After dropping their bags and food the team headed for Share - in time to meet the care volunteers and join them at the care point where orphaned and vulnerable children in the community receive food and care.  A visit to Share usually involves walking along hot, dusty tracks  to call on the homes of the children, who are all known by name by the care volunteers.

The walking is important - a slow pace allows chance to listen to the care volunteers, hear about the children who are being cared for and offer ecnouragement to the volunteers. It is often on the walk to a home visit that the story of the children emerges - stories of situations which would crush many of us.  But somehow, with the support of the care volunteers, the children are able to continue and to have hope.

There will no doubt be more walking and talking for the team tomorrow and there will be stories to be heard and shared too.

To the Link for Life Team, the Care Volunteers and the children we wish you well in their day together tomorrow - and pray for hope, encouragement and strength for them all.
Richard Westwood - on behalf of the 2016 Link for Life Team

Monday, 18 July 2016

Mandela day at Zwelisha - Monday 18 July 2016

After a long 34 hours traveling from Great Wyrley/Penkridge to Hands atwork in South Africa, we are happy to report that the team are settling in well at Hands, and have had an eventful and positive first working day.

From the get-go, through the people that we have already met, this trip is already looking like an unforgettable experience. Our mini bus driver (Ed) was able to make our first few hours in SA comfortable ones with his amazingly detailed knowledge of anything and everything remotely regarding South Africa. From history to his best friend’s dad’s uncle’s dog, he had an amazing ability to talk non-stop, but it was all incredibly fascinating. On arrival at Hands we were warmly welcomed by residents waiting on the steps. We settled in for the evening and shared a group meal before reflection and relaxation, followed by a long awaited early night's sleep.

Our Second day in SA (1st work day) started with a prayer session for the men within the team where we were invited to join the Hands ‘Men’s prayer’ followed by a whole Hands team prayer session and a Briefing from Carolyn Snyman ( one of the founders of Hands at Work). 

'Working with Fire'
'Mandela day at Zwelisha' -
Care volunteers, the children they care for
and 'Working with Fire'

‘Madiba Day’, July 18th, is a national celebration day for South Africans, dedicated to continuing the work of Nelson Mandela. People donate 67 minutes of their time- one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service, to help those less fortunate in their community.

Zwelisha was a community celebrating this day, and also became our team’s first contact with a Community. The local firefighter organisation ‘Working with Fire' came into Zwelisha to provide educational talks on fire safety. They also brought donations of plates, chairs, tables and also entertainment through their amazing singing. As part of ‘Madiba day’ the village of Zwelisha had an office building donated which one of the local organisations spent their 67 minutes building. 

The community spirit that was visible from our short time in Zwelisha was astounding, we witnessed the coming together of people from all around the region to support ‘Madiba Day’. Young people from the local high school spoke confidently and with passion about Mandela. The children, care workers and firefighters all joined in song and dance, it was a truly moving energy. In the space of just a few hours we had all developed some kind of connection to Zwelisha that was hard to leave behind. 

Winding down for the evening the team have all expressed their thoughts on the day and have commented on the challenges and triumphs that they have seen and felt. 

As we relax for the evening we send our thoughts and prayers home to our loved ones and look forward to what is in store for us tomorrow.

Ryan and Izzy x

The contents of this media represent the sole views and opinions of the author, not of Hands at Work or any other groups or persons.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Sunday 17 July - 2016 team arrive safely at Hands at Work Hub

Inside the Hands at Work Hub Dining Room
The 2016 Link for Life Team have arrived safely at the Hands at Work hub in White River.  After the arriving at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg there was a 2 hour wait for them as they went through the immigration checks.  From the information we have it seems there was not a problem - just a long queue!

The journey to White River from Johannesburg went well and after receiving the keys to mini bus they will use, the team had just enough time to go the Pick 'n' Pay local supermarket to buy food for the evening.  After a 30 minute drive they were glad to arrive at the Hands at Work Hub.  

The care point in Zwelisha ( taken in July 2015)
They were able to have some food , settle in to their rooms and head for bed - to sleep before the their first visit on Monday 18th to the Community Based Organsiation at Zwelisha, where some remarkable people care on a daily basis for orphaned and vulnerable children.  This is what Hands at Work in Africa do... partner with those in greatest need and walk with them.
Richard Westwood ( On behalf of the 2016 Team)

Saturday, 16 July 2016

2016 team are on their way!

The 2016 Link for Life Project team visiting South Africa left fmro Great Wyrley adn Penkridge this morning.  They made quick work of the journey to Heathrow thanks to Wolverhapmton Travel.  All checked in and now ready to fly.

The 2016 team as they get ready to set out from
Wolgarston School in Penkridge


The team is -Tina, Izzy, Ryan, Mike, Liz, Ellie, Laura, Lynne,  Joe, Gina, and leaders Andy and Rose.  They are due to arrive at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg early on Sunday Morning (17th July) and after reclaim of baggage will be met by Lowveld Link Travel, who will drive them to east for about 4 hours to White River and the Hands at Work Hub

Liz Hobbis and Mike Leonard are preparing to take a Link for Life Project visit in 2017 from Penkridge's Wolgarston High School.  We hope that this visit will help them find out lots of things that they need to know to help their visit go well next year.

If you would like to follow the visit please keep coming back here or facebook search 'Friends of Link for Life Project' or on Twitter get involved by using  #link4life and your tweet will automatically be fed on to the blog
(see right).  To follow Link for Life on Twitter it's @link4liferw

Thanks for your support and encouragement for the team - we will be thinking of them and praying for them and the remarkable people they will be meeting and serving.
On behalf of the 2016 Team - Richard Westwoo

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Charity fashion show- Ellen

Hi all! 
Myself, Molly, Tom and Georgina ( all from the 2015 team) organised a charity fashion show that was held last night and we managed to raise an amazing £505.66! We would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who bought tickets and donated to the raffle (especially Andy). All of your support is appreciated and we wouldn't be able to do what we do without you. 

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Drought in Southern Africa is hurting people we know

Africa is in the midst of a serious drought, there has been little or no rain for months so that anything that has been able to grow, has now withered in the fields. This has gravely affected the communities Hands at Work is serving because they rely on their small gardens to feed the children. Where there is food, the price has risen dramatically, so the funds that many  of us give to support the children is no longer enough.  (This is for the the 3 Essential Service of Food security, Education and Health at £15 a month) .

We need your help.  But even more than this - the people we know in Africa need your help.

Pray for water, it says in the bible When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” Isaiah 41:17 We must claim this promise from God.

(The message says “The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
    their tongues parched and no water to be found.
But I’m there to be found, I’m there for them,
    and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.)


Some of us have been fasting. This really helps to focus on the children and care givers that we know. It helps us feel a tiny bit of their pain. If you are going to do this let some of hte pople who you know at Link for Life know so that we can do it together. You might want to replace all your drinks with water for one day, replace a meal with plain rice, miss one meal for a day or cut out all hot food.


Find out more about it and then tell your friends….there hasn’t been much in the news and so people don’t even know it’s going on. You can find out more on the Hands at Work website where you will see two videos (one short and one long) explaining the situation . You could listen to this interview on the radio   (BBC Africa by David Orr of the World Food Programme)  or read about four unexpected consequences for school children of having no water.


Hands at Work UK have set up a Just Giving Page  

for people to be able to support Hands in bringing relief
to the most vulnerable children and communities directly impacted by the drought and food crisis across Africa

Please help, it is now that our partnership with Share really counts. We always said we wanted to be a Link for Life, so let’s help.

Thank you

Rose Westwood