Monday, 16 October 2017

Baby Bear is 10 Years Old! - Come and Celebrate with us!

One of Link for Life's partners, The Baby Bear Project, is 10 year's old this year.

Now is a good time for everyone involved in Baby Bear looks back and gives thanks for all that has been achieved through God's help over the last ten years.

If you have had any part in join in our ...

Ten Year Anniversary Celebration
 Saturday 4th November 2017 
at 2.30pm

 St Marks Church 
Great Wyrley

followed by tea, coffee and cakes
in St Mark's Church Hal

If you would like to display a poster for the event you can download one here 

Hope that  you can  make it - please pass the news around

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Thursday 27th - Flying back

Hello everyone and thank you for following our blog.
We have said our goodbye's to Paul & Cathy, negotiated the roads thanks to Paul at Lowveld Link and made our way through customs.
Now waiting to board BA 54 for the flight home.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Wednesday 26th - Banana Plantation

Well what a day! With our last day coming to a close, we are Braaing the night away with good company.

This morning we spent our time at the Banana Plantation seeing the other side of the story of the many women who work away from their families to provide for their families back home. Cathy and her team spend one day a week at the plantation providing basic essential medical care to the workers of the area and their residential children. The team played with the children and our brief time there put smiles on all of the little faces we encountered.

From leaving the plantation the team split into two groups to go to an Elephant Sanctuary and a Reptile zoo, the two teams had an amazing time, with my high light being reciprocation of a big sloppy elephant kiss to the neck and walking in tandem with them. We were able to touch and get a real perspective on the size of the magnificent beasts.

Love Ryan.

 Our team of Me (Harry), Bobbie, Jack, Dom and Brian visited a reptile zoo in Hazyview, although some of the group were very nervous about some of the snakes, monitors and lizards they would see the experience turned out to be a great one. After a light introduction to the zoo, only seeing a few bearded dragons and large monitors the real fun started when we came across the tarantula pen. One of the highlights of this was seeing the Brazilian Bird Eater Spider. Its sheer size was hard to comprehend even with it staring us all in the face. We then moved on to see some of the snakes the zoo had to offer. The snakes included Western Diamond Backs and Puff Adders before coming face to face with the infamous Black Mamba which luckily, we did not encounter on the roads of South Africa. The real fun for me however started when we arrived back at Mercy Air where we received a trip in two of the aircraft the charity owns. Me, Jack and Dom travelled in a plane of our own with the others travelling with Paul in a larger 8-seater Kodiak, As the avid pilot that I am,

 I jumped on the chance to fly the plane… or steer it at least. The views from the aircraft were incredible and every single one of the team loved our trips in the sky, we then landed to enjoy a final night together as a team, ready for our flight back home tomorrow.

This therefore brought to an end what was not only an incredible day but the most amazing trip of our lives. Every day has presented new challenges but together we pulled through and became stronger as a team. The people and the places will never be forgotten by any one of us and I, as well as the team are thankful for everybody for supporting us through this incredible journey, we love you all and we’ll see you very soon to tell you about the amazing individuals we have met on this trip. Thank you once again.

Love Harry


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Tuesday 25th - Last day with the Hands at Work team

I started the day with women’s prayer. We all gathered at the church, where there were women who are long term volunteers and part of new teams who had arrived. We started by identifying the praise points of the week. My praise point was that the team really connected with the children in community. Then we asked what we could pray for and I asked to pray for our team to stay connected with each other when we return home. Then we wrote down something we struggled with in everyday life and prayed that God will help us overcome this. I also prayed to be a more patient person. After this we played a game where the leader shouted out a bible verse and who ever found it first, won. These bible verses were related to trusting in God and they really helped me. The last thing we did was have a race as a gogo (grandmother). We had to balance a ‘baby’ on our backs, which was a hot water bottle, we balanced a large box on our head and then we had two large water bottles in each hand. We raced back and forth, trying not to drop everything. The purpose of this was to show that many gogos are on their own. They have to carry their grandchild, water and groceries all on their own. I massively appreciate what they do and they are amazing women.

Love Molly

Today was our last day at the Hands at Work Hub. We arrived early and our first task was maintenance. Herman wanted us to rake up all of the leaves because in the spring they provide a hiding place for snakes. This proved to be a long and tiring task! Some of us raked the leaves while others scooped them up into the net and dumped them. As a reward, Herman took us on a short drive in his truck. When we returned Herman explained that he would be going into town so we took a picture with him and said our goodbyes. This was tough but it felt more like a “see you soon” than an indefinite “goodbye.” We were then handed over to the communications team, Celine and Daytona. They had created a photo scavenger hunt and we had to run around the Hub taking the required photos. It was clear that we were all competitive and there were many scowls at the winning team (Jack, Bobbie and Alison) and Celine for torturing us! Once we had completed the scavenger hunt, it was time to say our goodbyes. This was the hardest part of the day in my opinion. The people that we had got to know felt like a family away from home. They will truly be missed. We made sure to get photos for reminders but it was clear to us all that we were in each other’s hearts and like I said before, it felt like we would be seeing them again very soon…

Love Dom

Monday, 24 July 2017

Monday 24th - De-brief at Hands at Work

Today we started with community worship where we were introduced to more of the Hands at Work family. They welcomed us and we sang songs and prayed for our journey and other teams who are coming soon. There was another team who had just arrived from Biggleswade. We gave them some advice about the communities they were about to visit and they were very friendly.

Next, we had our last debrief with Charissa and Herman. We had a beach ball which had multiple questions on about the visit and when we caught the ball we had to answer one of the questions. My question was ‘what bible verse has had an impact on you?’ My response was in James 2 there is a verse that says you can’t have faith without deeds. This really spoke out to me because a lot of people claim to have faith but do nothing to support it. So, when I am home I want to do more for people and to be a better Christian.

Another question was, ‘What made you laugh?’ Ryan’s response was that a boy in Mluti remembered him and came running up to him immediately. Ryan was so happy that their friendship had blossomed but what made him laugh was that he remembered Ryan’s name. The boy called Ryan, ‘Jackie China’. This made Ryan’s experience in Mluti even  more memorable.

Love Molly

In my last debrief we talked to Charissa and Herman and it was by far the best debrief that we have had while being on this trip. We had to play a game where we threw a beach ball with questions written on it and threw it to each other around the room and then we had to answer one of the question. The question that I chose was, ‘Why did you come to Africa?’ This question was very hard to explain within the debrief but my answer was that I haven’t had the easiest life and I have had multiple occasions in my life that I have been told I can’t do something or that I would never be able to achieve something but after each of these occasions my mom has always told me that I can achieve it and do whatever I put my mind to. Even when I say I can’t do something she always tells me that I can do it and when the opportunity came up to come to Africa I told my mom that I couldn’t cope with going to Africa and I couldn’t deal with the different aspects of life within Africa and once again she told me that I can do anything that I put my mind to and this gave me the motivation and the courage to come on this trip and experience the amazing things that I have experienced and as I explained within the debrief, I wouldn’t have done half the things in my life that I have done and achieved without my mom telling me that I can do it.

Today we also visited Chimp Eden and it was amazing. To see the work that staff do with rescuing the chimps was amazing and getting to know all the information like how chimps share almost 98% of the same DNA as human beings was amazing and listening to some of the appalling situations that the chimps have been through and how they are getting better because of this sanctuary was amazing. The whole team talked about when you get told by family members and friends that this trip is a once in a life time opportunity, you take it on the chin and just agree with them but when you are actually out here and when you have experienced the things that we have experienced it really does start to sink in that this is a once in a life time opportunity and the whole team would like to thank everyone that has supported us on this trip and gave us all the motivation and courage to do this we really do appreciate.

Love Jack

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sunday 23rd July - Blyde River Canyon

Today we started the day by getting some groceries from the supermarket for our evening meal.  Trying to accommodate everyone’s tastes and come to a consensus was a challenge to say the least. We then set on our way to Blyde Canyon, stopping on the way at Harrie’s Pancakes for breakfast, yum! Everyone was very happy with their choices and the sugar overload.  We had a look in the shops afterwards, the African wares are colourful and fun. After dragging Molly out of the shops because if left to her own devices she may have bought everything in the shop, we got back into the minibus - although we must say she is very good at haggling.

Back on the road we headed for The Pinnacle which is a 100ft tall pillar of granite; the views were fabulous. Next, we headed for God’s Window so that we could look out from the top of the escarpment across the surrounding landscape in all its glory.  We had to climb quite a lot with the help of hundreds of steps. This was great though as we could burn off all calories from the pancakes and milkshakes. The views were spectacular and the camera does not do it justice.

Next on our tour, Brian our tour guide for the day, took us to the three Rondavels that are at the other side of the canyon and are three natural round formations which look like the traditional Africa huts. Finally, we headed for Bourke’s Luck Potholes, these are a series of natural geological formations and are made up of inter connecting pools.  The potholes occur where the Treur River joins the Blyde River at the start of Blyde River Canyon.  Jack, Harry, Molly and Ryan bravely paddled in the very cold water, although Ryan did manage to split his shorts in the process.

Sadly, the road trip came to end all too quickly and we had to set off for Mercy Air to cook the evening meal and wash up. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Saturday 22nd - Kruger Park

We woke up at 4am for an early start for our visit to Kruger National Park. Having arrived at Numbi gate for when it opened, we made very short work of finding the first of the Big 5, spotting some lioness in the grass.
We spotted most of the animals that we wanted to see; elephant, rhino, hyena, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo, crocodile, baboon, zebra, turtles and a wide variety of birds including vultures. We took loads of great photo's and look forward to showing them when we get back.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Friday 21st - Share

Over the last couple of days, I’ve spent my time with this young girl who was living with just her mom because her dad left them when she was just a baby. She was amazed by the colour of my hair and immediately wanted to braid it. We spent the day talking and getting to know each other’s different lifestyles. She had the biggest smile on her face and had the most amazing laugh when I couldn’t pronounce their language properly. We taught each other different games and handshakes and I feel as if she really is a friend. She started to touch my hand and she said my skin was beautiful and her skin wasn’t because of the colour. This broke my heart. She was saying how she eats with her hands and we can eat with cutlery; She thought she was below me. I then told her no matter what colour your skin is you are beautiful and I am not better than her and her face lit up. I could feel the love fill her face and for me being able to make her feel important, made me so honoured and I am so happy to have been able to connect with her.

Love Molly

When we arrived in the community, the children had already had their peanut butter and jam sandwich with a cup of tea, for breakfast. They were all in the life centre and had started their worship. This consisted of worship songs, reading passages from the bible and most important the sharing of the benefits they had gained from the Marantha workshops.  The care givers and the children shared how they felt supported by each other, the church and the work that is done at the life centre. Many of the care givers said how grateful they were for this support and the fact that they didn’t feel alone anymore.  I helped prepare and serve the food for lunch. Chicken soup, rice and beetroot.  After the children had eaten, tea and biscuits were given out while the team prepared some activities for the Maranatha workshop. With Floyds help, one of the service centre workers, we organised sack races, football and we got the children to put paint on their hands and place their hands onto a piece of paper, we then wrote their name under their hand prints.   I got everyone to sign my top as it is a great memory that money couldn’t buy. I connected with most of the children, especially the older youth leaders. Three lads who worked so hard in the community with the younger lads, helping them to understand their sins and follow the way of God.  It was sad that I had connected with these children over the past 3 days and we had to leave.

Love Bobbie

Today was the last day in the second community that we visited and it has been one of the best

feelings that I have ever experienced. The atmosphere that the team experienced within the Maranatha workshop was absolutely incredible. Everyone was so positive and happy and to see the smiles on everyone’s faces was the best feeling in the world. Everyone within the community has such a strong and positive belief and they have so much faith that he has a positive effect on everyone else and all in all this makes the whole community a very positive place. Also, I believe that the community seeing the team really take part with the singing and dancing made the atmosphere a lot more positive. When you think of Africa you have a stereotypical view of it and although that some things are similar that we thought it would look like, there is a lot more positivity and a lot of faith which is so good to see. I believe that there are a lot of problems that need to be solved within the African communities but to see the people’s faces light up when you say that you are from a different country and you want to know what their story is so that you can tell people back in another country is one of the best feelings ever and it makes our team a lot more positive and happy.

Love Jack

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Thursday 20th in Share

Today was our second day in Share, we felt that a lot of barriers had been lifted and the children were warming to us. Old friendships had been rekindled and new ones formed as the children engaged and played alongside us all. Today our meal has been by far the best with a concoction of potato, ground beef, butternut squash and pap which the team thoroughly enjoyed (although not all ate the pap). The meal was to come in useful as the hot afternoon sun baked down on our shoulders and our feet bouncing around the life centre.
 Love Harry and Ryan.

Today, we joined Share community for the second day of the Maranatha workshop for the children, young people and we arrived in time to help prepare their breakfast which was tea with jam and peanut butter sandwiches. After they had eaten we went into the building for morning worship where we introduced ourselves to the wider group and the children learned our names. (Thankfully, we weren’t asked to learn all of their names). The children were then asked to say what they learned from the previous day, which was based on sin and forgiveness.

Following this, we went outside as the children split into smaller groups to talk about relationships and their own stories. We sat outside in the shade to talk about yesterday and what we have experienced and thought so far.

As the children’s groups finished, we went up to dish out the meal, which Harry and Ryan have described. The afternoon playing with the children was such fun and you could feel that they just want to be loved as they clung to our hands and stared into our eyes.


As the main driver, it would be fair to say that the driving has, at times been a little challenging. The pot holes here cavernous but the off roading has been a lot of fun! We’ve been entertained along the way with singing  and funny stories but we’ve also had some quite times on the way home reflecting on the day, the stories we’ve heard as well as thinking about the children we’ve connected with.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Wednesday 19th July

Today we visited another of Hands partner communities. Upon arrival, we helped prepared the food for lunch and washed the dishes. The children were involved in their Marantha workshops.  A group of the younger children came out of their workshop and were given a page each from a colouring book to colour. We were advised to try and connect with these children, this was difficult because of the language barrier and they were engrossed with their outstanding colouring. It was only when the colouring stopped and the care workers started singing a hymn that had us all joining in a march around the property that the ice was broken and we were able to connect with the children and play.

We were quickly overwhelmed by the attention the children sought and the eagerness of them to interact with us. Even though it was difficult to talk to them it was the universal language of care and love that they understood. The most difficult group to reach today were the teenage girls.  The Hands at work volunteers explained that even they find it difficult to connect with them.  However, it was pleasing to see that our two teenage girls, Molly and Bobbie reached out and we saw a great connection between them and they talked for a very long time.  There were a number of older boys too, some of these were training to be junior care leaders.  Their English speaking skills were fabulous and made it so much easier for us to communicate.  They played football with Dom, Harry and Jack and led the prayers and hymns prior to lunch a strong make role model for the youngest children to observe.

Jack, Harry and Dom watered the many vegetables that the care workers had planted. They also served lunch, Dom attempted to stir the pap but was laughed at by the care workers because he wasn’t as strong as he thought he was! A number of us helped the care workers wash up after lunch before playing some more with the children. We then said our goodbyes before travelling to our accommodation in Witz.

Ryan, Alison, Dom, Jack & Harry

The community that we visited have been taking part in a Maranatha workshop all this week. On Monday and Tuesday, this was for the care givers. The workshop gives them a chance to talk through their life stories, as Hands at Work have found that this helps them to heal wounds. The care givers are often family members who look after the young and vulnerable who the care workers help to support.

Today and Thursday are the workshops for the youth and young children with each age group having different sessions.

Writing the blog under beautiful African starlight.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Tuesday 18th at Mluti

Today I went on a home visit with Brian and Alison and we visited a girl and her gogo (grandmother). When we arrived the grandaughter was washing the clothes and her gogo hanging the washing.  I went over to the girl and offered to help wash her clothes. She was so grateful and it was so nice to be able to help. Whilst I was doing this the rest of the team helped grind the corn. However Katherine, the care worker we walked with wasn’t happy with their work and kept taking over. When crushed, the maze becomes pap and it is much cheaper to grow and make the pap than buy it in a shop. We then swepped her house so she had one day rest from that job. She asked for us to pray for her granddaughter in school and also for security over her house. I will be praying for them and if you could pray for their challenges and pray they can overcome them.

Love Molly

Our home visit was to a small family of a mother and two children. We found that the son had a profound impact on us. He was 18 years old and it was obvious that he had big dreams. He is currently on school holiday but he couldn’t wait to get back to studying! He is currently studying Business, geography, English, Maths, Siswati And Tourism. Eventually he wants to travel the world. We all found it so inspiring to hear and from his athletic ability it was clear to see he was a very talented and intelligent individual. We sat with him and his family and it was so comforting to see that they appreciated us just being there. I’m sure that he will have a bright future if he receives the support and attention he deserves.

Love Dom

Our home visit today was to a family who lived up the valley, after a brisk 20 minute walk we arrived at the family’s house. Upon arrival we were greeted with open arms and chatted about the family and their situation. They told us of the family’s troubles; as they were from Mozambique they were unable to gain South African documents in order for them to apply for grants and support. In light of this they are selling African beer which give the family a small income. The mother explained that their house was too small to house the entire family (5 Children and 3 Grandchildren) so they live in the community with other friends of the family.

The youngest of the children lived with them but the mother explained that the child had learning difficulties which inhibited his ability to go to school, as he was made to leave at the age of 15 after completing just two grades of school. Although she reported he had been making improvements in his general ability to do things which left us on a high note.

Love Ryan

At the care point today we all helped by preparing the meal of rice, chicken and vegetables including grated beetroot and carrot, serving the food and washing up. The team all made Holy Home visits again as detailed above. When we got back to the Care Point we played with the children and talked to the carers. It’s amazing how strong the bonds are that you build up over two days. It was so sad to say good bye to both the carers and the children but the stories they have told us and the hugs we exchanged will stay with us forever.

Love from all of us:

Dom, Harry, Ryan, Molly, Jack, Bobbie, Jayne, Alison and Brian

Monday, 17 July 2017

Monday 17th July

Today we visited a life centre and did some holy home visits. We all agree that the high point of the day was to see how the community pull together supporting each other in times of adversity. The group split up into three groups and did three separate visits.  One of the home visits was to a home where a young woman of 22 had taken in her 3 nephews after their mother lost her life to domestic violence. The boys were clearly traumatised.  Their auntie explained that they had improved, more so since their youngest brother who is 20 months old came to live with them.  Whilst we were in the life centre we observed the 2 older boys joining in with games, prayers and singing. This was fabulous to see. Alison, Ryan & Dom

Another one of the holy home visit involved meeting a family whose mother was finding life
difficult, she has a daughter and two younger boys and is faced with mobility issues that meant collecting water was left to her children. This journey to collect the water is difficult for small children, which made us all realise of the dangers posed to the children and how they are quickly brought up to deal with adult issues. One thing stands out clearly in all of our minds after today, which is that the joy that has been shared throughout the community is incredible and the feeling the people gave us will stay with us forever even after just one day spent in community. Brian, Molly & Harry

The third holy home visit involved three other members of the team visiting a woman at her home where she lived with her five children and grandchild. When we arrived, we witnessed some people starting the foundation of a toilet that they were building and when we offered to help move some bricks that needed moving. The mother was very surprised that we offered to help them saying that we didn’t need to do that but we insisted and helped carry them across to the foundations. We also had a little sit down outside and asked questions about her life. She had six children and we were very interested in their names. When we asked we found out that all the names of the children had different meanings. For example, one name was described as meaning like ‘a light’ which meant something special to the mother considering the situation she was going through at the time of the birth. Today was a very memorable day being the first holy home visit and has had an impact on the members of the team in a very positive way and we are already feel like we are adapting to a different way of life to the one we are used to. Jayne, Jack & Bobbie-Rae

On our return from the Holy home visits, we helped to finish stirring the pap and after playing catch with the children, Dom and Harry served them their food.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

From Ryan


All is well In South Africa with the team, with a prompt landing in Jo’burg and a speedy arrival in White River, we have relaxed, eaten and settled down for the evening! Early start for all the boys tomorrow for Men’s Prayer and an exciting day ahead for us all.

It was also the first time flying for two of us. Emotions were high and there were a lot of worries but in the end we all survived!

We stopped at the services on route to White River where we saw not one but five white Rhinos! as well as  Zebra, Water Buffalo, Ostriches and Emu and that’s before we get to Kruger Park.

Love (Rhandza),

All of us here.

Nelspruit Bound

We had a fairly smooth flight and are now with Lowveld Link traveling up to Nelspruit and White River.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Saturday 15th July

Lots of hugs and kisses, a final toilet break and we're off.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Great Wyrley schools team July visit.

Only a few days to go before the Great Wyrley schools team head to Heathrow for our visit. We are all so exited to journey to the Hands at Work hub and make new friends or greet old friends for those who have visited before. A big thank you to everyone who has helped us on our journey so far, please continue to hold us in your prayers as well as our loved families who we will be leaving temporarily behind.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Bhandeni, Swaziland - Revival night, Tues 13 June and a long Walk to School, Wed 14th June

A panorama view from the Care Point in Bhandeni
 Waking up in the natural beauty of Swaziland on Tuesday 13th June was a remarkable privilege.  The border with Mozambique was a few hundred metres from the care point and the stunning sky of the night before only added to the amazement that many of us felt.  It was so beautiful here, and yet so broken.  There are many causes of Bhandeni being such a needy place- but for the people who live there, the luxury of analysing the problem does not exist.  They simply have to deal with it - they do not have the power or abilty to challenge the causes of their struggle.
The most remarkable people here are the care volunteers - who are themselves, by any standard, poor and needy.  Yet they find energy, concern and love to visit the families and homesteads of vulnerable children.  Hands at Work in Africa support these people - help them to help each other within relationship groups where there is prayer and care for one another.  Hands at Work provide food and resources to help the care volunteers feed the most needy children  - which the care workers do every day as the children return from their monster walk from school.

The remarkable care volunteers of Bhandeni
As we woke in Bhandeni and enjoyed a cup of coffee, it felt like a luxurious thing. Perhaps it is in that context!  We met with the care volunteers as they arrived at the care point - shared needs with the help of Vusi, Lerato and Lebo and then prayed for one another.  We sang and danced to a Siswati worship song and prepared to go with the care volunteers on holy home visits.

We split into two groups, each with a care volunteer and someone who could translate into English for us and walked on the dusty, uneven roads in the hot Swaziland sun.  Both the visits our group went to had a similar setting, a compound gated with a makeshift fence of wire and branches pushed into the groud as fence posts, leading into a homestead where several groups of the same extended family lived. At the second house the three children of the home were away fetching water - a long walk with a wheelbarrow from the borehole which supplies the whole village.  The mother of the house was so pleased to see us and presented us with a plate of cooked cassava to share... this was all the more generous as earlier in the conversation we had talked about how the harvest had been for her and she had said it was not so good, and pointed to the hut which served as a grain store.  Her generosity and welcome was so humbling to receive.
Dusk at Bhandeni

Returning to the care point, we found a number of children had already arrived and were collecting their food in turn and joining in with play activities.  Some of the children were less withdrawn and less and were uncertain of us than they had been the day before, and after a while they were happy to join in with the games with the care volunteers and the rest of us. 

After the children had eaten, we too shared the  meal which they had enjoyed, rice, sugar beans, beetroot and cabbage - all eaten with fingers and all delicious.

Waiting for Revival
As the light faded and playing with a ball became pretty impossible, we moved inside the care point - which was now lit by candles and it had a carol service fell about it.  As time went on we were joined by what felt like most of the village, who came to join in Siswati worship songs, prayers and to hear a talk given by Rosanne -about how Jesus calls us to be light to the world in a dark place.  Rosanne encouraged us all to love as fully as we can, to love our neigbour and in this way to be what Jesus has in mind for us and the world.  This was all translated into Siswati- the singing and worship led enthusiastically by some of children who had been fed at the care point that same evening.
We headed for bed, knowing we would be up early to walk to school with the children from their homes to their nearest school.

Some of the children after the revival night
The next day we rose at about 4.15am while it was still fully dark to get ready and walk to meet some of the children at their homes and walk with them to school.  The rough mountain track which we had driven up two days earlier became our path, and for two hours, we walked at a very brisk pace, set by the children, to cover the approximately  10km (4 mile)  walk to school.  We were all stunned by the distance, and the terrain, and the dark - and we were doing it by choice, for one day.  The children, some as young as seven years old, do this walk every day in the dark and then, do it again in the heat of the afternoon, up the mountain track.  After leaving the children at the school gate we continued on to the Police compound where we had left our mini bus, and ate the left overs we could find in our food box, in the pick up truck which had carried out packs down the mountain.  Hungry, tired and in admiration of the children of Bhandeni, we rested before setting out for the Hands at Work hub in White River, South Africa.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Bhandeni, Swaziland - Monday 12 & Tuesday 13th June

After and excellent, but very full, weekend with the young leaders of the community of Oshoek in South Africa - we needed to get ready to go to Bhandeni in Swaziland.  Before we could prepare though, we needed to transport the young people back to their home areas.  This was eye opening.

A couple of miles up the road seemed a straightforward drive, but we then needed to turn off down dirt roads in the fading light to remote homesteads and houses.  A 20 minute drive, off road, underlined to us what a struggle these children have to get to school, and to the care poitns where they receive support from the care volunteers, including Nesta and Anita.  The care point is also where they are also the givers of support to the children who are younger than themselves. 

As we gathered at the end of the weekend we were tired and slept well - thankful for a warm sleeping bag and a good shelter - Oshoek is a place of rolling mountains and hills and the temperature drops at night.

Oshoek Dawn
An early start on Monday 12th allowed us to see a beautiful sunrise before crossing the border into Swaziland.We had been joined by Vusi, a wonderful South African worker for Hands at Work who had been doing the very hard work of forging new partnerships with needy communities in Osheok and in Swaziland.  Along with Devon, a Canadian volunteer, he had been helping to set up home based care in the community we were about to visit. So our team was a real mixture now- the blended team was now twelve... nine from Lichfiled and Matlosane Diocese plus Devon (Canada), Vusi ( South Africa) and Lerato ( a young female volunteer from Johannesburg).

  The temperature rose as we travelled east towards the border with Mozambique and the border town of Lomahasha.  We left the mini bus and trailer in a police compound for security and transferred to 4 wheen drive trucks. One of which had been driven from Oshoek by Vusi, the other was gnerously driven for us by a local young man in Lomahasha.

With our gear packed in and around us, we began a journey up and over a number of substantial hills, with  the road more like a wide mountain track.  There was no way that a regular car would have made the journey.  The journey took about 20 minutes and as we went on and on, we began to realise why Hands at Work in Africa had begun to work with the community in Bhandeni.  It was so far from any main area of commerce and 'development' and as we went further along the difficulties for the people living there became more obvious.  Living in Bhandeni, must feel like the country and the world has forgotten you.

Zodwa (one of the care volunteers) cleans the cooking area
When we arrived at the care point we were met by some smiling but tired care volunteers, cleaning pots and making a fire to cook the evening meal for the the fifty children who would come to the care centre, for a meal, care and play... after their two hour (!) walk back home from school along the same roads and mountaintracks which we had driven up in a 4x4.

After introductions and a shared sandwich lunch we went into the community to walk with the care workers to do Holy Home Visits, the format of which were now familiar to us... A greeting, and unhurried conversation, with he care volunteer seeking to be open to prompting of the Holy Spirit as to what the needs of the children in the family might be, perhaps practical, emotional or spiritual... but always with a view to encrouage and support - and always ending with prayer for the family.

Some of us were able to visit the son of one of the main care volunteers - Xholani (* not his real name).  He was 32 and was in bed, painfully thin, and had been suffering with an unknown stomach complaint. He had spent a week in hospital and been discharged, but was clearly still in pain, and the medication he had been given had run out and the family could not afford any more.  Sheila (who used to be a nurse) listened to his symptoms and thought he had suffered from some kind of hernia of the bowel

He was glad of our vist and brightened as we talked to him with the help of Lorato who translated for us.  We prayed earnestly with him that God would heal him and as we left could not help thinking of how any of us from the UK with similar ailments would have received good medical care through our NHS and would not have had to worry about whether we could afford the hospital stay, or the cost of transport to the clinic.

Playing in the sand and dust at the care point in Bhandeni
As we arrived back at the care point,  children had begun to arrive from school and were being fed. We chatted with them with the broken Siswati phrases we had learned and there was a mixure of delight and concern as we played with them in the fading light of the beautiful mountain setting- knowing that their need of affection and care was so real.  This was a community that seemed to have been bypassed by the improvements of life which many of us take for granted. 

RUSF - food supplement packs
 There was no electricity at the care point.  Drinking water needed to be collected from a borehole a good distance away, and many of the children were barefoot.  For the first time in any community I had visited with Hands at Work, I saw that some of the children had been given food supplement packs - provided by Hands at Work follwing hte severe drought whcih the community had suffered in 2015/16 . 

Rosanne gives a cuddle

Our heads were spinning at the questions as to why it was like this.  A mountain setting like this in Europe, with a warm climate such as this, would be a prime sight... but here was a community which had been forgotten until Hands at Work had asked in the neighbourhoods about where the most vulnerable community was.

Val makes friends

We ended the day sharing in the delicious food [Pap(maize porridge), beans, and cabbage] which the care workers had prepared for the children using ingredients provided by Hands at Work.  As we prayed together to close the day we knew we were prvileged to be amongst this fragile community as, with the unique help of Hands at Work in Africa, small but significant help was being given and change brought about.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th June - Oshoek Young Leaders Training

On our journey to Oshoek
 This weekend the team participated in a weekend for potential youth leaders in Oshoek. We set out bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6am to make the three hour journey across stunning landscapes to Oshoek. On arrival we were welcomed by sixteen enthusiastic youth, four care workers and a number of Hands at Work volunteers who would be leading the weekend. As we entered some of the youth were huddled around the stove fire eating jam and peanut butter sandwiches and a hot drink. Our first session was a fun game to learn names and with much hilarity followed by beautiful lively worship. It amazed us how fantastic worship and praise could sound with only voices and clapping.

The purpose of the weekend was to encourage servant heart leadership in youth from the local communities and care workers who serve at the local care points. The Hands at Work volunteers who delivered these sessions did this through interactive play, activities and drama. It was a privilege for us the UK/Matlosane team to come along side the youth and observe their insights on what they see at their care points and ideas of how to improve situations. The focus on the Saturday was on building relationships with one another. While the focus on the Sunday was exploring Jesus' model on servant leadership through Matthew 20:28.

Oshoek youth leaders, the Hands at Work team and us
Some games for learning trust...

One of the highlights of the weekend was witnessing how quickly the youth engaged and expressed very considered opinions on the change they wanted to be and see in their communities. For example, when a youth expressed their challenge around lack of equipment to play games and a team leader modelled a game that could be played without equipment for all ages, it was wonderful to see their eyes light up at the possibilities they could take back to their care point. In addition, it was a real revelation to see all the hard work that the care workers put into providing meals for the youth in their care. And again, being involved in preparing and cooking the food taught us cultural differences on how we cook the same vegetables e.g. cabbage, beetroot, butternut squash. In fact we're hoping to put some of the recipes on the blog at a later date.

Do you trust me?
Also it was good to see the youth unpack servant leadership qualities which were written on paper leaves that were then stuck on a tree that had been prepared by the team earlier. Later on in the day, the youth had an opportunity through role play showed how they might exhibit such leadership qualities at their care points. They further had discussion groups around situations which encouraged, challenged and confused them. In the final session the youth made commitments to how they will be the change in their care points and there was an opportunity for their care workers to pray for them and commission them in service, this was a very powerful moment with a true sense of the holy spirit moving. This was a weekend packed with lots of drama, fun, laughter, learning and fellowship. And, our prayer is that these youth and care workers will use all that they learnt and experienced over this weekend to grow in Christ and become the servant leaders that God has called them to be.


Friday, 9 June 2017

Friday 9th June

Friday 9th June

Today began cool and cloudy - a good preparation for our time in Oshoek over the weekend which is apparently going to be freezing!!

Friday morning is a time when the entire Hands at Work family gather together for their 'Going Deeper' session, a time for Bible study, sharing and for deepening their discipleship. This morning we as a team had the opportunity to feed back some of our experiences, with Yvonne, Val and Letlhogonolo giving a word of encouragement to the Hands at Work volunteers. Richard then shared a word on John 6:8-13    encouraging us to consider deeply the Kingdom of God and our part in building this. As the meeting ended our team and the Hands volunteers who are leading the Youth Camp in Oshoek over the weekend received prayer and commissioning.

The remainder of the day was a very welcome rest time - most of us chose to spend this searching for animals in the nearby Kruger National Park! We had a very successful search despite only entering the park at 12 noon. During the following three hours we saw warthogs, monkeys, hippos, giraffe, many species of deer and antelope, and a whole elephant family who stood only a few metres from the minibus, the babies gallivanting together!

Returning to the Hub we dropped in at the local supermarket to pick up supplies for our coming adventure in Oshoek and Swaziland and we are now heading to bed (very early!) as we are leaving at 6am tomorrow to make the long journey down to the Swazi border!

We are not sure when we will next be able to update the blog, but we will be glad of your prayers for the youth weekend in Oshoek and the visit to Bhandeni in Swaziland. 

Rosanne Wilshire

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Share - Thursday, 8th June

Share       Thursday, 8th June

Today was very demanding. We started out in the minibus to Share at 9am and
arrived  just before midday.  The temperature was above 30 degrees.
When we had been greeted with enthusiasm by the care volunteers and we had helped prepare vegetables we all shared a most free and exuberant time of worship together. 
If you would like a taste of it, you can click here listen to the singing of one of the songs we sang.

After worship we divided up into teams; one team remaining at the Care Point and
the others, in teams of two together with a Hands at Work representative to translate and two care volunteers, made Holy home visits.

Sheila and Val went with Floyd from Care (who was originally helped by Hands at
Work and is now training to carry on the work among the communities) and care volunteers, Promotion and Violet.  We visited a young woman called Constance* (not her real name)   Constance has three sons, 17, 8 and 6. Her eldest son was working hard in the garden
Yvonne helps serve food at the care point in Share
while the other two boys were at the Care Point.   We were able to talk to the mother quite easily as her English was very good.  Floyd explained to us after the visit that she had a husband in Mozambique but he was unable to come over because he did not have the necessary papers. At present they are not receiving any financial support from him.  Floyd also told us that she was very ill and that was why Hands at Work were supporting her and her family. All three sons were given a hot meal each day at the Care Point.

Rosanne makes a new friend
At 2.30 pm we joined the care volunteers and the children for a time of worship.  Lebo, one of the team gave a word of encouragement especially for the children from
2 Timothy 3: 10 - 15 exhorting them to hold firm to what they had been taught about the Lord Jesus.  They were then served with their meal which we shared with them and then it was time to leave for our long journey back to Hands at Work

After four days of visits to different communities we are very tired but we are grateful that we have been to see the wonderful work that the care volunteers do, and the vital role that Hands at Work fulfil in supporting them.

Val Cox
Sheila Bott