Monday, 28 July 2014

Oshoek

Over the weekend there was a break from home based care visits and a chance to spend more time together as a team,  This has been a great thing to do - sharing and discussing our responses to the people we have met and the challenges they face.  However, today we visited the communities around the 'town' of Oshoek - a border town between South Africa and Swaziland.

So we set out around 8am for a 3 hour driver though stunning countryside with an overnight bag to transfer to Hlumu Lodge  ( a one night stopover for us to allow us to stay near Oshoek).  The communities around Oshoek are different from those in Share which we visited - each homestead is a long walk from the next - people are spread out over a wide area.... but the need amongst this area is great.

After prayers and games with children at the feeding point our team split up to join local care volunteers to  three different areas of the community.  Each group met similar challenges... they witnessed the huge distances which the children have to walk to school - sometimes 2 hour up and down mountain paths.  They met care givers with whom the children stay (often a grandparent) ... who are themselves at the very edge of getting by - and poverty at a level which we had not previously seen - homes with no water or electricity.  The weather is cold, especially at night in this area with beautiful rolling hills, reminiscent of the Lake District in England... which makes the isolation of the homesteads seem even more bleak somehow.

As we shared stories this evening having returned to our base for the night, there was a sense of amazement and sorrow for the situations and people whom we had met... But in the midst of this unbelievably hard circumstances, the volunteer care workers are not just offering a meal after school to these children (which by itself would be good) ... as well as this they are going to visit the care givers in their homes to encourage and support them so that they can keep going in looking after the children who now stay with them.  (Usually the children will have moved to stay with this care giver care because one or both of their parents have died).  Remarkably, at the care point the children were delighted to play and be with us - their joy a defiant resistance to the pressing needs and challenges which they face daily.

We will be returning tomorrow to see more of the work which the care workers do and be with them at the care point - no doubt there will be some more games and fun with the children too. We are glad to have Audrey and Simon from Hands at Work with us, as they can translate and explain to us the situations we encounter.  Audrey's role is to oversee, train and support the care volunteers and she does a great job.

We hope to be able to tell some of the story of the care workers, children and communities of Oshoek in the coming weeks - they need all the support they can get and Hands at Work is making a real difference in the lives of the children we have met.  Hands at Work  - doing a remarkable job of supporting some remarkable people,  Hopefully more to tell tomorrow
God Bless
Richard Westwood

Saturday, 26 July 2014

‘Fruit salad’ (our combined team name: a blend of different flavours)

About today... today was different from the other days. Gareth and myself (Kagiso) had wonderful morning of sharing. Our minds and hearts were deeply in finding how God is trying to communicate his word to us. We found out that we are not different from each other because we experience the hurt and injustice in different ways however they still call to us in the same way.

We talked more about Jesus that we know and guess what, it is the same Jesus who wants us to go out in the wilderness and do what he send us to do, that is to care for the poor and the marginalized. Most of us can be comfortable with our lives and not be grateful for what God has blessed us with. We all need a mind changing attitude, it is very important for us to know what we put in our mind.



We explore on our experience at Share, what came to our mind was, how can live in such a condition. Hope is the word that kept dominating our minds to say, whatever we find ourselves in, God will always be at the centre of our problems and make way for us. At the end we prayed together and ask God to continue to bless the Fruit Salad  that was our team and help us to be true to his word be a blessing to many both in South Africa and in the UK.


Kagiso Teme


 


While most of the team went to Kruger, Kagiso, Elisa, Father Edward and I (Rose) went to the Botanical Gardens. We have had a wonderful rest day; we were in awe at God’s creation, the trees and flowers, rivers and waterfalls.


We talked about how quickly our team has become one. Most of us met for the first time on Tuesday night but four days later we are able to cry, laugh and feel righteous anger together.


We are already thinking about what this experience might mean for us in our home communities…we have all been so challenged.


We turned a few heads in the supermarket; the fruit salad team is proving challenging! Kagiso and Gareth deciding which bread to buy; Father Edward and I ordering roast chickens and Gareth and Father Edward laughing about cucumbers. I asked Kagiso what the onlookers might be thinking, would they be critical of this black/white mix? No, he said, they would be wondering how we had all got to know each other. Through Christ, said Gareth.
Rose Westwood

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Hope and love to children on the edge

Today was the first full day at Hands at Work for the combined team from Matlosane & Lichfield Diocese.  Our time in the community of Share in Bush Buck Ridge, in the north east of  South Africa was very special.  It is often easy to pull back from situations which we know may cause us hurt or distress - I certainly felt that mixture of emotions ... looking forward to meeting again some of the remarkable care volunteers in Share and the children they care for- but at the same time knowing that I was going to be meeting some children in very difficult circumstances, which would be upsetting.
After a long drive along dusty roads we were able to join with the care team for introductions and worship.  It is so good that part of our team comes form Matlosane - since they were able to join in and lead the singing and dancing with great enthusiasm -if we had been all from the UK I think that British reserve might have meant that the opening worship was more subdued.  In fact the care centre walls reverberated with joyful African songs and dance with a lovely mix of Tswana, Tsonga and even English too.

After this we split into small groups to accompany the care volunteers on home based care visits, which are a key element of the care for orphaned and vulnerable children which Hands at Work support.  In fact the children involved were mainly at school but the care workers faithfully visit the home that the children stay in, to make sure that care givers are both supported and accountable.  Being on a care visit feels hard - often it can feel like we are in the way... most of the conversation happens in another language - but experience shows that the care workers know that they are appreciated and valued as we walk with them and try to affirm them in the remarkable work of care that they do.

Each of the groups returned to the care point where some of the care volunteers had started to cook the meal for the children, while the children played in the grounds of the care centre as they arrived from school. 
The children seemed to be having a great time... and for the time that they are at the care point they are safe and cared for.  This little island of 'normality' is so important as their home situations are often so challenging.  All the children who receive care, receive it because they are amongst the most needy and vulnerable in the community- they may be staying with an Aunty, Grandmother or older sibling because of family break up or the death of one or both parents.

The care workers often walk back home with the children, along the dusty roads, so that the children know they are not alone even when they are at home - however hard that may be for them.

Our time today ended with a children playing on tyres (painted and made into a balance game) , skipping and a crazy game of football - in which Rocky, one of the Matlosane team members, showed himself to be a world class goal keeper.

Our journey back was long and dusty but bathed in a beautiful red sunset  - we were glad to arrive back at the Hands at Work Hub and enjoy the meal which had been prepared for us... there was then time to talk about the highs and lows of the day  before making plans for a return visit to Share tomorrow.

Hopefully we will be able to give our support and encouragement to the children and care workers in the time that we are with them.
Richard Westwood


(This post expresses the personal  viewpoints of Richard Westwood and not Hands at Work, Lichfield Diocese, Matlosane Diocese or the Link for Life Project)

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A full and fulfilling day in Itsoseng… Tuesday 22 July

Rose and I travelled on Monday afternoon (21 July) to Itsoseng – a township near to the town of Lichtenburg, about 100km from our base in Klerksdorp. 

We were met by Father Sam Diphokwane on the edge of the township… we thought we knew where we were going  (but really we didn’t ) and we were glad that he found us before we knew we were lost – he spotted our car, and did a neat overtaking manoeuvre, waving at us to make sure we had spotted his rescue plan.

We shared a delicious meal with Father Sam and members of his church, St Peter’s Itsoseng  – talking about the joys and challenges facing the church in our two countries… and there were many similarities.

After a good night’s sleep in warm blankets to keep out the cold – we shared a breakfast of porridge, eggs, toast and boerworst (South African sausage) – and met with Lorretta, one of the Church Wardens at St Peter’s Itsoseng, who took us to visit two schools in the area. 

The first was Reatlagile Special School, where the Principal, Josephine Morobe, showed us around her remarkable, very special, Special School.  We met a committed group of teachers all proud of their students and their achievements and the learners were delighted to meet us and show us their work – which ranged from writing to creative artwork, table decorations, napkin rings (which were up-cycled from disused metal scissors) and some delicious cakes (which we were privileged to eat later).  We discovered that Lorretta was a mentor to Josephine in her development training - a great model for making disciples- and the success of the school showed what a difference having and older mentor can make.

There was a tangible sense of partnership and a genuine love for the children on the part of the teachers. We passed a room with neatly laid out cups and chairs which looked like it was set apart for some special guests… the school had been visited by a local radio station the previous day as part of the station’s contribution to Mandela Day ( where individuals and groups are challenged to do community service for 67 minutes in remembering the contribution of Nelson Mandela).  We presumed that this mini reception was for folk from the radio station… we were amazed that we were then invited in to have tea, school made cakes and ‘say a few words’ in response to our visit.  We were happy to oblige and it was not hard to praise the remarkable effort of the teachers and learners.

 
Lorretta then took us to the primary school where she used to Principal until she retired – again there were enthusiastic teachers and learners and we had plenty of opportunities to practice our greetings in Tswana – much to the amusement of the children.  The school has about 80% of it’s learners who come from homes on social benefit – and live in the poorest area within the area - Ferdvaal  (which means 'lost)  and so we were glad to be shown the school meals kitchen ( a corrugated metal shed) in which three hardworking women produce nutritionally balanced meals for all the students.  Jamie Oliver would have been impressed.  The deputy head who took us around explained that the school now had it’s own borehole as the water supply in Itsoseng can be unreliable- just one of the many challenges that the folk who live her have to face daily – when we asked we were told that there were about 500,000 people living in the township!

We returned back to Father Sam’s home for a meal with two of the team members who would travel with us to Hands at Work in Africa (Kagiso and Katlego).   There was then time to call in on Canon Father Ngidi,  a long serving priest in Lichtenburg, who was unwell  He was glad to see us and we were happy to pray for his healing and wholeness and for his wife Obertina. 

Our final call was also in Lichtenburg, to pick up another team member, Elisa, who was waiting for us at the home of the priest in her church  - Revd Elizabeth Amir.

The journey to Klerksdorp went quickly and we arrived in time for a meeting with all the Matlosane team members( Rocky and Father Edward Leboe were waiting for us when we arrived)   which included us finding out some more about each other, the placed we come from and about Hands at Work in Africa.  Bishop Steve spoke to all the team and encouraged us to journey together and come back to make a difference in our local settings. Our evening ended with a shared meal before everyone departed to their hosts for the night. 

An early start awaits us as we travel to Hands at Work, White River in Mpumalanga tomorrow and we hope to visit the apartheid museum en route.  This was a very full and fulfilling day… and in it we have met some remarkable people quietly doing remarkable things in the service of God and others…and doing it for not very much material return. 

In the UK we can easily fall into the trap of assessing things by their ‘worth’ in terms of a visible outcome or financial measure.  We have seen today people and things of great value – and that value cannot have a price tag or a quantity put on it.   We have much to learn from our neighbours in South Africa.

Richard Westwood

Monday, 21 July 2014

Almost caught up!

Share Day 04: Appreciation Day & Final Goodbyes

Hi all, it's Lex and Jenny here from the Colton/Cheslyn Hay team,

On Friday, the team and I organised an appreciation day for the children in the village of Share. Myself and Laura organised for each member of the team to have a station with an activity which the children, and the careworkers, could freely come and go from. The activities (some more popular than others), consisted of a multitude of activities including, ball games, a parachute and the ever so popular 'loom bands'. As we all expected, the loom bands were the most popular activity with all the careworkers getting involved too and as a result, led to Andy's station, ball games, being empty. It was lovely for us to see all the careworkers and the children having a good day as well as the team having fun too.

For me, the week has been amazing as I had the chance to see familiar faces once again after two years and to be recognised was even better! It was a lovely week and a lovely way to end the week.

Lex

Today has been very entertaining with all of the different activites. It was great to see all the careworkers join in with the activites as well as the children, especially the loom bands. I would have to say personally for me this whole experience has been really positive and everyone has beeen so kind to each other, which was nice to see. I hope the next week is just as good as the last week has been.

Jenny

Delani:: Petros' Church & Lunch



Today we visited Petros, Julia and their family at Delani. On our arrival at the Church we were amazed to see the developments since our visit in 2013.  There is now two piles of bricks and Petros has built an office for their administrative needs.  It is also their intention to use it as a place for prayer and possibly a cooking station before the anticipated kitchen is built.  We were then privileged to be a part of their morning worship  and it was humbling to hear how they felt about our visit.  We then  joined in their singing, praying and dancing. It was a joy to see the children of all ages take a central part in this service, which was led by Petros daughter Peace, who he called the MC (and she is only 16).

We were treated to songs by the Sunday School Choir, Youth Choir and the Church Choir.  One of the highlights was to see the dancing from them all, especially the children.

Jo taught everyone, in her own inimitable style and demonstrated how to sing and do the actions to “I lean”.  Wendy shared the Word of God which came from the heart, and Andy gave his testimony.

The service was vibrant, typically African and a joy.

We then made our way to Petros house where we had a picnic lunch with his family after a tour around his house and listening to his story and his vision for the future,   the leaders of the Community were so keen to ensure Petros stayed that they gave him a choice as to where he wanted to build his house. He has since reconfigured his house to accommodate all the possibilities of helping the community.

After a long journey, we arrived back at the Hub.

Dawn, Jo and Wendy



Sunday, 20 July 2014

A few days catch up...

Hi everyone, the Colton/Cheslyn Hay team here!

We just wanted to apologise for the lack of blog posts this week as we unfortunately couldn't find an internet connection that worked! We've done our best to inform you all of the weeks events below.

Thank you all for your patience!

Share - Day 1 & 2

Hiya everyone, it's Maisie here!

 These past two days have been both challenging and inspiring. Our first day in Share was extremely tiring after an early start and a lot of travelling but rewarding in equal measure. Meeting new children was lovely and the careworkers gave us such a warm welcome, I felt at home as soon as I arrived. Personally i found the first day diffucult (being tired didnt help),  the children at Share took longer to warm to us than the children at Siyathuthuka which I found hard. After a good night sleep I felt much better and able to face a new day and the situations  I was going to be greated with. I loved today. The careworkers yet again welcomed us in with open arms and seemed so much more relaxed around us. After a brilliant worship and dance, we got to go on the home visits with the careworkers where I met (along with Dawn and Leanne) a lovely family which consited of grandparents who were looking after their three grandchildren, as the mother was too ill to stay at home. The grandmother was so happy to see us and explained how great it is when white people visit. After a long chat where the eldest son asked me about school in England, we said a prayer for the family and headed towards the care point. After an interesting lunch of pap (mash which you wouldnt want to eat), and chickens feet, we played games with the children before saying our good byes and making our way back to Wits.

Share - Day 3: The Greening Project

Hi everyone,

On this day we had a list of jobs that we wanted to complete, and we managed to do practically everything even though it was one of the hottest days.

First off, we carried tyres to the play area where we chose where we were going to bury them. we then began to dig holes in the impossibly hard ground with only two pickaxes and four spades between around 20 of us, our team and the careworkes. A few of us went to find rocks to put in the base of the tyres to keep them steady once we had buried them. After we had buried around 25 tyres we then proceed to paint them with the help of the children who had been gradually arriving.

During this time a couple of us had measured out and cut some chicken wire to put around the various fruit trees we were going to plant around the care point. This was a long and hard process. 

When the painting of the tyres was complete and the cutting of the chicken wire done, we set about finding places to dig to plant the fruit trees. All ten fruit trees were sucessfully planted even though we dug three holes which led to rock and  we had to start again. We were all ready to give up but finally we dug a big enough hole for our mango tree to be planted which we called Marvin. The fruit trees were planted so the care point was provided with shade and fruit in the years to come. After an interesting lunch of Pap, cabbage and beans we headed back to Witz ready for bed. We all found the day very rewarding.

Lizzy and Harriet :)


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Africa Day 1 - By Ruth Clay


After a long journey, flying over about 14 countries, we arrived safely in Johannesburg early this morning- an unlikely little group- Richard & Rose, Sam and Andrew, Gareth, Roseanne, Joe and I. Unlike the seething masses of people we found waiting at airports in Asia, this was much more orderly(!) and we quickly found our way through and out to collect our borrowed cars. Joe's highlight was being high-fived by the toilet attendant who welcomed visitors to his office!! It's mid-winter here -quite cold but with glorious sunshine. After brief stops including for a light lunch at Mugg and Bean we headed out to Klerksdorp. We talked much of the townships and way Africa was divided up under Colonial rule and then passed mile after mile of townships -sobering already to see so much material poverty. The scenery's amazing and full of contrasts from beautiful new houses with pools to - endless dry fields of gold and brown with the roadsides burned off in order to manage the land. We are guests today of Bishop Steve & Brenda Diseko & family who have made us wonderfully welcome and fed us a kind of African spaghetti bolognese and fresh out-the-oven scones and jam! Ah the joys! ( Oops yes-for those who know me well,  this won't all be about the food!!) It's amazing to be welcomed like family and then meet other friends and drink tea when they've never even met us before. Gareth and Roseanne have gone to stay elsewhere tonight and then tomorrow we part 3 ways for day 2 of our African journey. Ruth

Monday, 14 July 2014

Siyathuthuka

Our first full day in South Africa was spent in the community of Clau Clau in the home based care facility called Siyathuthuka, when translated means progression. Here, we met mama Jane who introduced us to the care workers from the community. Both the local children and the care workers were extremely welcoming. Our welcome meeting consisted of song and dance. At first this was quite uncomfortable however after the first song we were all joining in and dancing along.

We were then separated in to four groups, each with a care worker to carry out home visits.  Everyone's experiences were different but we all expressed how we received a warm welcome from the local families and how they were as grateful as we were to be there.  Even though there was a slight language barrier we were able to ask questions about the things we had seen and experienced, with pretty interesting responses. As well as being asked questions by the locals about ourselves.

We returned to the home based care facility and were greeted by a lot of excited children who we played games, sung songs and spent time with.  The care workers prepared  the food we bought and we all shared this lunch together with the children.

After this we said our goodbyes and headed back to the accommodation where we enjoyed our home cooked meal prepared by the hospitality team. Agnes's famous fried chicken with Chaklalaka and rice was a delight :)

Now time for an early night to be up and ready for our next South African experience and new accommodation for 8am.  






The Colton/Cheslyn Hay team 2014  (Lizzy, Harriet, Sharon and Leanne)

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A long awaited arrival...

Hi everyone!

Just a quick post to let you all know we have arrived, (finally!), at the Hands@Work village after a long days travelling. We were greeted by Alisha andTyler earlier this afternoon before unpacking and getting the shower we all desire so much! As we're all very tired, an early night is much needed so we shall be back tomorrow with more...

We're all safe, relaxed and ready for the events ahead of us!

Thank you all for your love and support, we shall be back again tomorrow!

The Cheslyn Hay/Colton team, x