Wednesday, 27 June 2012


It's coming to the end of my time here at the Village of Hope, with only two days to go until I fly home. The goodbyes have already begun, as last Friday was the last Rainbow Smiles club before the school holidays, and our last session with the children. We threw a party, decorating the room with lots of balloons, baking and icing a cake ( with a rainbow on it, ofcourse), playing pass the parcel, musical chairs, musical bumps, face painting, and making a handprint paint picture. Kat made a lovely picture slideshow to music of the children, and I made a photo collage of them. We also gave gifts to Rejioce, to say thankyou for letting us be part of helping run Rainbow Smiles. There were mixed emotions, as one of the oldest boys was emotional which was hard to see, and he said he'd miss us very much. It's hard leaving and not knowing who is going to help takeover the club with Rejioce, and thinking about the children and their futures. It's all out of my control but I know it's in God's hands, and that He has his hand over each of the children's lives, and Rejioce's.

On Sunday I went to church with Trulene, one of the house mums. I've never seen anything like it! Many of the men stood at the back of their church, in their smart suits and shiny shoes, holding their bibles, whilst the rest of the congregation sat on benches. But they didn't sit on benches for very long at all because once the worship started, a lot of people were up dancing, shimmying up and down the aisle and to the front. People would literally run to the front and dnace round in a big circle, singing and clapping. I was so overwhelmed by the way they worshipped that it was quite hard to worship God myself. I wasn't brave enough to go up and dance at the front! I had to leave a bit early (the service can go on for hours) and so Trulene signalled to the pastor that we were leaving, and then to my horror he asked me to come up to the front. It was a big joint service of all the local coloured churches, and I was the only white person! He asked me to introduce myself, and I sqeauked 'I'm Jess', feeling ridiculously English. It was amazing though. There are so many ways to worship God, and I believe He loves all of it, like a parent loves a picture their little child has drawn them. Except that I have to admit, African worship is a very well drawn, colourful beautiful picture!

scared children looking at monkey
Since it's now the school holidays, we took the children to Monkey Town on Monday. A family of six from Texas arrived at the weekend, so we had lots of pairs of hands to help out. Unfortunatey most of the children were traumatised by the monkeys, as we were walking through caged tunnels and they were very loud with sharp pointy teeth ( the monkeys, not the children, hehe) and the lady who was showing us round kept telling us about how they can bite your fingers off. Also, a chimp starting throwing rocks at us, and he had a very good aim. However, we then went to a restaurant overlooking the sea in Gordon's Bay, and the children enjoyed their chicken burgers and chips much more. It was fun just to spend time with them, and they had a little paddle in the sea which turned into a full on drenching. We had to bundle them all, sopping wet and half naked, back into the Combi and put the heater on full to dry them off!

On Tuesday morning, the four of us girls went out with Siphile Sonke, another organisation in Grabouw which hands out food parcels to households who don't currently receive any income and runs support groups, amongst other things. I went out with two ladies and we visited some homes to hand out food parcels and see what other needs people had that Sipile Sonke could meet. The food parcels include rice, sam, cooking oil, flour, Cuppa Soup, stock etc. The first house we visited was the worst that I've ever seen during my time here. It was a cement house, and the walls were black with damp, and within several minutes of standing in there I could feel the damp on my lungs. The sink was leaking so the floor was wet with mud, and the windows in the adjoining room were broken, letting in a cold wind. A couple live there with their children, and the man was ill, lying on the sofa underneath a blanket at the back of the room. It was a desperate situation and I could feel and see the despair in the lady's eyes as the Sipile Sonke ladies carried out their assessment. All I felt I could do, which would mean anything, was to pray with them, which I did.

The conditions which they have to live in are so awful, and the cold and damp breed sickness and depression.  It's easy for me to say that there is hope, when I'm returning to my comfortable life back home, where my room is size of someone's entire house. But it's not just me who says there is hope, it's Jesus. When I prayed in that place I felt the Spirit of God hovering there, and I felt hope. That's what The Village of Hope does- bring hope! It's what countless organisations do around the world, in whatever field of work and sphere of influence they are in. God is working in the economy, in business, in the arts, in music, in international development, in advocacy, in education, in healthcare, in the government, in universities, at bus stops, on football pitches, in theatres, restaurants, clubs, offices, villages, townships, wooden shacks, mansions, cities, in the most unlikely places and ways, and sometimes in the most unlikely people.

So it's time to say goodbye. I'm excited to be going home, because I really do love it, and there's no place like home, and I can't wait to see my family and friends. But I'm sad to leave the children, the house mums, the team, the friends I've made, because I might not see some of them ever again. Life at home is so different to life here, and it's going to feel very strange at first, trying to adjust back. Then there are all the memories of what I've seen, which I hope will always remain with me and shape my choices and decisions in the work that God leads me into, whatever it is.

I know that The Village of Hope will continue to grow, and that the future will bring hundreds of new people to it in years to come. I wonder what changes will take place, and what new direction and opportunities will open up? What will happen in the lives of the people in the community I've encountered? Only God knows! These are the thoughts that are running through my mind in the these last few days.

Goodbye to The Village of Hope, to Tim and Maz and the team, to the children and house mums, to Grabouw, to South Africa. I won't forget you.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Americans

Last Sunday saw the arrival of an American team from Augusta, Georgia, whose church runs short term mission trips twice a year. 8 of the team were staying in the volunteer's unit, whilst the other 6 stayed down the mountain in Somerset West. Their main job while they were here was painting the entire baby unit!- big job as they had to move all the furniture out, and likewise we had to move all the kids out during the day! They did such a great job, and the children were so excited just to have a clean coat of paint on their walls. Personally it was a hard week because I didn't get much sleep and lost the ability to function properly ( I few times I found that I'm been staring with a glazed look at a random object for 5 minutes), but what was really amazing about this team was their love for Jesus, and how He shone out of them in the morning meeting in prayer and worship, and just generally all the time. It's so uplifting when a group of believers come together and you catch glimpses of the Kingdom of God being built, brick by shining brick. It's invisible and yet so palpable,and real.

During the time the team was here, we had to find a way to keep the childrens' hands AWAY FROM THE WALLS! Quite a task as kids like to touch everything. Thankfully we had a few sunny days, but on one rainy day we took the kids to a Play Gymn in Somerset West which we've been to before. It's always a bit traumatic trying to squidge 10 children into carseats, especially as some of the car seats have fastenings that only a puzzle-master could work out. Anyway, after one wrong turning we finally got there and tumbled inside. As usual the children loved it, and the two head house Mums ( Mommy Nettie and Francis) also seemed to be having as much fun as the children!

Mommy Francis enjoying a ball pool fight!

So it was an eventful week , and the team left on Friday morning. On Thursday evening we all went out for a meal at a lovely winery/hotel place (I don't actually know what i was because it was dark outside). I'm sure that they'll be back soon, and who knows how God will use them next in their involvement with the The Village of Hope?...

Monday, 28 May 2012

This week has been quite a challenging one for the team at Village. If you go the Village of Hope blog (which comes up if you type it into Google) you can read about Tim's experiences and feelings as the project manager, and also just simply as a human being with his struggles here in Grabouw. There have been a number of things which have happened this week, the first being that one of the little ones had to go to hospital as he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Thankfully they caught it in the early stages, as it's quite common in Grabouw with air being more damp and poor living conditions for many. He was admitted overnight, and me, Kat and Lauren drove down the mountain on Tuesday night to bring home one of the house mum's who with him at the hospital, whilst Mel had to stay overnight at her friend's and come back in the morning. Fortunately he was able to come home after several days, and he's making a good recovery- he's currently pottering around the garden in the sunshine, looking very perky to say he's been poorly. Me and Mel had taken him to Tygerberg hospital the day before for a routine appointment to do with his ears, so I think he's had quite enough of hospitals for a while!

One of the things that shocked Tim this week was discovering that the lady who I help run Rainbow Smiles, the support group for children with HIV, lives in a house the size of a garden shed, with a leaking roof and no water and electricity. I've been meeting with this woman every week for the past four and a half months, and I would never have guessed that she was living in these difficult conditions, because she's always so well-presented and she never complains. Perhaps there's an underlying assumption that I've made which is wrong, which is to think that because someone is poor means they simply won't be able to present themselves as well as they'd like to, or that they'll aspire to less because they expect less of life. Not everyone is like this, and this lady is a prime example. After seeing her house, Tim wanted to do something to help her fix her roof, which hasn't been placed properly, and so he was going to sort out the materials and pricing for it. However, a few days later, he had an email from a guy who owns a roofing company and has many many sheets of corrugated iron which he doesn't need. So God's provided us with the resources to help her fix her home, and hopefully many others will benefit from these free resources as well.

On Tuesday I went along to help out at sports in Hillside, an area of the townships which is renowned for sexual abusive and an aura of spiritual darkness. At the end of the sessions the girls and boys are divided and the sports team runs a short lesson and discussion on the theme for the week. This week we were talking about HIV awareness, and the girls answered intelligently and had obviously been educated about it at school. The boys, however, were unsettled and rude and Tim had a hard time trying to engage with them as some of them showed little respect and made it difficult. As we drove back, we stopped to collect another sports mentor who'd been running another sports session in another part of the township. He was downcast on the way to sports and told Tim that one os his school friends had been stabbed and killed. When we drew up, the children were sat side by side in a line, listening attentively as he talked, and as we watched we saw a real leader in the making. I don't know him that well at all, but I can sense that he is a person of integrity and strength who God will use to influence and lead in Grabouw and maybe further afield. Only the previous day one of his schoolfriends who was a couple of years below was stabbed and killed, yet he was still out there mentoring, trying to bring the balance back and make a difference.

I'm mainly relaying the experiences of other people in the team. In all honesty, my own experiences come with a mixture of feelings- still there is the lingering guilt and helplessness when I'm confronted with what is the reality of life for many people in Grabouw and in poor communities around the world. Also, although I've been here five months I still experience culture shock...sometimes this foreign place that I'm living and working in still feels so alien- or rather, I feel like an alien! My faith in Jesus has helped me relate and connect to the people I've met, but at other times I still feel like an observer, which is a surreal and disquieting experience. I feel that there is still much more I could do, and that sometimes my heart is still not fully engaging with all the different things I see and hear. That life here is so different that I only manage to the catch the surface with my finger tips, and just as the reality begins to sink in, I lose it and find myself once more bewildered and disorientated. I don't know whether this is normal or not!

Anyway, this week an American team  of 12 have arrived, 8 of which are staying in the volunteer's unit so it's a full house! They're going to be helping to paint the baby unit, which should be interesting as we'll probably spend most of the week trying to keep lots of little sticky hands away from the walls. I'll keep you updated!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A little adventure

Tradouw Pass
It's taken me a while, once again, to write on my blog, but two weeks ago the four of us (me, Grace, Heather and Katia) set off from the Village on a week of travelling along the Garden Route. We had a great time, and we had no major disasters (unlike the time we managed to break down halfway up the mountain pass in the pitch dark, at midnight, on the way back from a football match and the two Tim's had to come and rescue us!). One of my highlights would be the walk in Wilderness National Park, where we hiked to a beautiful waterfall and swam in it! The landscape in South Africa is incredible, and so vast and spectacular, not to mention varied. One part of our journey took us into semi-desert, with dusty orange plains and scrubland, whilst the Tradouw Pass was full of beautiful soft green mountains dappled in sunlight.

We travelled up the Route 62, stayed over one night in Oudtshoorn, and then went on to stay in Wilderness at a backpackers for four nights, before travelling onto Tsistikamma National Park. We also did some amazing things, like an safari, staying in a safari lodge for the night with two evening game drives as well as a morning one, an adventure tour in the Cango Caves, a canopy tour in the trees, and an elephant interaction at Bufflesdrift Game Reserve!

I feel uncomfortably aware of how lucky we were to go away for the week and have these experiences. With me all the time is the knowledge that we enjoy priviledges all the time, every day, that many people will never have. It makes me appreciate everything more, but I also battle with guilt and confusion.

We returned back to the Village on Sunday, minus one, as Grace left us at Port Elizabeth to continue her travels. We've settled back into Village life- Lauren, who arrived a few weeks ago, has had an interseting time with the paper shredder, which refuses to work for more than a minute, and then needs a twenty minute break! I've been spending time with the children, working on their one-to-one development time, doing the school run, planning for Rainbow Smiles, and helping out with sports. On Tuesday we went to Iraq, one of the poorest informal settlements and Grabouw. It's in Iraq that I sense the presence of God most strongly- I see His Kingdom being built there in a way I've never seen before. Some people would argue that surely, in the face of such poverty, God isn't be present, or how could He allow it? I don't know- all I know is that I see Jesus in the faces of the children, and I feel Him there. There were about forty younger children bounding around the sports area who couldn't play sports as the outreach is for 9years +, so Lauren and I took them over to one side of the pitch, wondering what we were going to do with them all! I was humbled to see that we didn't need to 'do' was enough for the kids that we were just there. We sang the okie cokie in a big circle, and then the chidren took the lead and sang their songs, and we were all dancing. It was amazing. They clamour for your attention and fight over each other to hold your hand, which is heart-breaking. They just want to be loved.

I came back to the Village, had a hot shower (it's now cold and rainy a lot of the time in Grabouw), put on some warm clothes, made a cup of tea, sat down on the sofa, and read my Kindle, thinking of the children we'd left behind who have none of these things. They inspire and humble me beyond words!

Monday, 30 April 2012

The unexplainable

The weekend just gone has been an extra long one, as there was a Bank Holiday on Friday, and there's another one tomorrow! Today is still a working day, and so I've tried to keep busy and productive as I'm feeling guilty about the numerous days we've had off!

On Thursday I accompanied Grace to Cape Town to get her Visas for her travels. We ended up scuttling backwards and forwards between the South African and Mozambique Embassies, looking very harassed (which we were) as we tried to complete the ridiculous requirements of governmental bureaucracy. When we finally returned, we had a quick lunch before heading out to Sports. We drove to one of the farms, which I won't attempt to try and spell, and played some games with the kids who turned up. Some of them are young adults, and it must be very boring for them at times, because although the area in which the live is breathtakingly beautiful, there isn't a lot to do for young people. The sports team are hoping to join the children from the two different farms where the project works into one big group, so that they can mix and also because larger groups work much better.

The Elgin Valley where Grabouw and the surroundings farms are situated

Since it was a public hoiday on Friday, Grace, Heather, Katia and myself drove to Cape Town and visited the Green Market, before walking to a very long street, called (unsurprisingly) Long Street! After our meal, we were walking back down when a lady approached me, and said that she didn't want any money but could I buy her some food. It's not like it is in Britain, where it's easy to be suspicious of people who ask you for money, because here it's much more likely that someone is telling the truth about being very hungry :-(( We went to the shop and she picked up some groceries and thanked me, but as I was coming out, another man approached me, asking me the same thing. He looked just as ragged and desolate as the first lady, but I felt like I couldn't help another person, partly because I was a little suspicious, and partly because I was worried I'd have a whole line of people next. What made it worse was that he had his little girl with him.

I still find it really difficult living in SA, moving between one extreme to another, and feeling like the two are irreconcilable. We do lovely things on the weekend, like eating out and visiting a beautiful winery, but so many will never get this chance, and I feel guilty, not to mention very aware of my own selfishness at times.The injustice in the world rears its ugly head each time we pass the huge township along the N2 as we drive into Cape Town, where people are packed in like sardines in their little patched up houses, trying to hold onto their dignity and their pride. The truth is that injustice is everywhere, I just notice it more here. What's even more startling is that we're part of a human ecosystem which is saturated in it, and so even without realising we play a part in contributing to wealth of the minority and the poverty of thousands.

I know why we let it happen; because our hearts have dark places where selfishness and greed breed exploitation and discrimination. But I don't know why God lets this happen- there's no one, cohesive, encompassing answer to explain and reconcie a loving God with all the pain and hurt...but when I see Jesus, hanging on that cross, the living God manifest in a living body, I know down in my soul that God is in it all, right down to every molecule of the dirt and sweat, the tears and the blood:

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.

1 Samuel 2:8

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


It's not been a particularly action-packed few days, but I thought I'd try keep up the blogging anyway. On Friday me and Grace ran our usual pick up for Rainbow Smiles, driving through the townships and collecting the various children. The kids decorated some cup cakes that Grace and I had made, boys on one table and girls on the other, and you could tell which buns came from which table!

Assisting running Rainbow Smiles with Grace has been eye-opening, because I've caught a small glimpse into the lives of the young people who attend. As well as going through the usual growing pains of puberty (oh the joys of being a teenager :-s) they are trying to come to terms with being HIV+ positive, taking their medication, and the fear that comes with the condition. But sadly, I've only seen a tiny slither of their lives. As well as the language barrier (unsurprisingly, I can't speak Afrikaans!) there is the fact that my upbringing, schooling and surroundings have been so different to theirs that it's difficult to imagine their day to day lives- what do they do in the evening?; what's their home-life like?; what are their dreams, what are their hopes? It's difficult to reach across that divide, and to communicate openly with them. However, they still seem to enjoy coming to the sessions, and Rejioce, who directs the group, is amazing!

This week I've just been pottering around, doing bits and bobs. The four of us (me, Heather, Grace and Katia) went into the unit yesterday evening from 5-7pm whilst the house mums and the rest of the team had a staff meeting. It was chaos...with occasional moments of order! We also celebrated Heather's birthday by going for a meal at a lovely lunchtime restauraunt called Fresh, which serves delicious, freshly-produced food, for very reasonable prices.

The other day we returned a DVD to the video-rental store, and as I walked back to the car I spotted a young guy, who I'd encountered the previous week, asking for money. That time, I didn't have my purse on me so I couldn't give him anything, and it was awful because he was very thin, with haunted eyes and his face drawn in misery, and I knew he was very hungry. This time I gave him some money and asked him his name, but as we drove away I felt I could have done more, by speaking to him for longer, and praying for him. What was worse was that we'd just been out for a lovely meal, and so I had a tummy full of food. You always feel, when confronted by the enormity of the problems, that you could do more, but at the same I know I'm not Superwoman, just Jess. It's difficult to know where to drawn the line between being brave enough to reach out to people and help them, and on the otherhand using discernment in how you help them. He's in my thoughts and prayers often.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The swing of things

I've settled back into Village life following Mum and Dad's departure, and I'm enjoying again being with the children and trying to work constructively in the unit. This week I've planned some more weekly activities, including making some sparkly spiders with the children out of pipecleaners, glitter glue and foam. I also tackled some drawers in the unit which had turned into a jungle of papers and random bits and bobs.
On Tuesday, the four of us girls went along to Grabouw Day Hospital to help the Community Policing Forum (CPF), and organisation which Tim is involved with. We handed out soup in the TB clinic, where people come to receive their medication, some daily and some weekly, depending on their reliability to take their pills on time. I learnt quite a lot about TB, such as the fact that if if the course of medication for initial TB is not taken properly, the disease can then progressively degenerate into Multi-Drug Resistant TB, from which there is no hope of treatment or recovery. TB medication is also best taken with food to help the drug to be absorbed into the body, so the CPF is running a soup/food parcel scheme to encourage people to take the drugs with a meal. Grabouw has one of the highest rates of TB infection in South Africa, which is heartbreaking because it is a preventable disease. The Day Hospital now caters for a town of 60,000 people, whereas only fifteen years ago Grabouw only had a population of 50,000. So it's stretched to its full capacity, daily.
The soupy/rice concoction!

An informative flip-chart about TB

After a few hours at the Day Hopsital we still had quite a lot of food left over, so Tim drove up to Iraq, one of the poorest townships in Grabouw, where we handed out the remainder of the food to the children. We dropped in at a creche, which I've been wanting to visit for some time. It's constructed, like the majority of buildings in Iraq, out of corrugated iron, and the walls inside comprise of opened out cardboard boxes. It's approximately 12 feet by 10 feet, and there's usually about 20 children in attendance, looked after by a lovely lady, her grandchildren and another man. It's quite dark inside, and the pungent smell of stale wee and damp greets you as you step through the doorway. But there are also lots of little beautiful, excitable children, with brown shiny eyes, who also greet you, wanting to take pictures with the camera and to sit on your lap.


wooden platform outside the creche

I've tried to be informative about what I've seen, but the emotional and spiritual effects are really what I want to write about. I think volunteering or working for a charity at grass-roots level can sound really quite heroic, but in reality it's different. I've found, to my discomfort, that my emotions have not responded the way I expected them too. The cold, hard, drudgery of poverty and sickness fills me, not with overwhelming compassion or love, but with a helplessness and depression, and above all a bewilderment about how to respond next. To witness the hardships here and then to return home, and for those memories, people and experiences to slowly fade from my memory as time passes and life settles into a more comfortable pattern, cushioned by so many privileges, is not what I want. But faced with the enormity of the problem, it's difficult to know which way God wants each of us who comes here to go, and how to respond. Ultimately it's not our sole individual efforts but the collective efforts of a community working for Jesus that matters, but a community is made up of individuals who each have their part to play. What part do we  play next?! And even after being here for over three and a half months, I still experience a strange feeling of disconnection when I leave the corrugated iron, pots and pans, the bustle of people, chickens, dogs, the dust, sickness, and colours behind to return to the comfort of The Village. God is equally present within both, yet I struggle to reconcile these two vastly different ways of living out life. I expect it'll be even more difficult to do so when I return home. These are the thoughts that run through my mind regularly.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


For the past few weeks Mum and Dad have been out in South Africa visiting me in the Village of Hope. It was lovely to have them here with me, although very surreal at the same time as I've been used to seeing them only on Skype with thousands of miles between us. They really embraced South African life and had an amazing time exploring the beautiful landscape, as well as getting to know the children, staff, volunteers, and the project leaders and their friends and family who also came out over Easter.
On Tuesday 3rd we took the children to the Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. There ended up being 9 children and twenty five adults, and I don't know who was more excited! The children loved seeing the jewel-bright fish flitting through the water in all their different sizes and shapes, and it was a great interactive place for children with lots to see and do.

One of the little girls entranced by the fish!

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During the rest of the week the girls did some other Easter activities with the children, making little Easter baskets and eggs which were then filled with chocolate on Easter Sunday!

Easter festivities!

A very shy bunny

The idea was to 'ration' the chocolate that the children received, as there was loads, but unfortunately I think the spirit of frugality wasn't exactly embraced! It rained all of the Easter Sunday, so we had a very wet braai which Tim prepared in the wood shelter and which we all ate in the children's unit.

Another highlight was the Thembacare service which Tim, Maz, their family, friends, Kat, Pauline  and me, Mum attended, alongside the usual group of Themba nurses who gather every Wednesday afternoon for worship and prayer. Thembacare, if I haven't already explained, is another Thembalithsa project, and is a medical unit and hospice for people in the community suffering with TB, HIV and cancer. The women hold such a deep musicality within them, when they praise God you can feel their souls and the Spirit of God reverberating in the room.  It was an honour to gather with them to worship.

On the first Saturday that Mum and Dad were here, a group of us visited Robben Island. After a pretty choppy boat half and hour boat ride across the to the island we were taken on a guided coach tour around the main sites, before joining our tour guide around the Maximum Security Prison, a man who used to be an ex-prisoner on the island in the 70s. Robben Island is closely associated with Nelson Mandela ofcourse, who was an inmate for nearly two decades, but it functioned as a prison from the 1600s when the Dutch settlers arrived. It was used to isolate severely marginalised groups who posed a risk to society such as those suffering with leprosy, the mentally ill, and in more recent times, political activists. We were shown the solitary confinement house; the limestone quarry where the prisoners were forced to work, and which later became known as 'The University', a place where the men pooled their ideas and where their visions and aspirations were fed by their shared fight against racial, political and economic injustice ; the tiny cells, barely 8 by 7 feet, which until 1975 contained no beds.

Nelson Mandela's cell

South Africa's political history over the last fifty years is a myriad of racial prejudice and tension, most of which I can barely apprehend, but from living in this country for several months, it's clear that there is so much more work to be done. The vision that many of the political prisoners were working towards  was one where there would equal economic opportunities for all- where skin colour would not determine the opportunities a person has in life. I believe it is only God who can bring this vision to the 'Rainbow Nation' in it's entirety, and He is already doing so in many ways. However, the change that is required needs everyone, and not everyone is willing to change!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Peace descends

Oh dear I don't think I've got the hang of blogging- I think it's supposed to be short regular updates rather than fortnightly essays! Well anyway, last week was the Germans final week here, so the Village was a hive of activity, with the whole team beavering away from early in the morning until late at night in their attempts to complete the house they have been building for the last six weeks. It's an eco house, and they've done a great job and put in many many hours of hard manual work. I'm not sure whether the bits of grass sticking out of it are there on purpose or not, but it looks pretty cool. The house will be most probably be used to accomodate volunteers and hopefully it will free up some space in the current volunteer's unit. After one final braai/party on Saturday they left in the dribs and drabs over the weekend, and now it feels very quiet.

Perhaps the peace is also more noticeable because last monday there were riots in Grabouw. There were intiially some riots several weeks back over a school for black children, but last week the issue was tension between the black and colored community. The 'blacks' speak Causa whereas most of the 'coloured' speak Afrikaans, and there is a division between the two communities which I'm afraid of oversimplifying by my limiting understanding... but I think part of the mistrust and tension is residue from the apartheid era, where coloureds were given more priviledges than the black community because of their lighter skin tone. The roads were blocked and the police were out on mass, but I didn't witness any of this as we stayed at the Village all day. It was oppressive knowing that there was violence going on down the road from us, not because we were worried for our own safety (because the Village sheltered at the top of the valley, and is protected by gates, and by God!)but because of our concerns for the people of Grabouw. Since then there hasn't been anymore trouble, but it once again raises awareness of the fragile relations between different races. Riots such as these reinforce the idea that the townships are dangerous and crime-ridden, but the reality is more complicated. Many people smile and wave as you drive through the community, and they are just ordinary people living out their lives. There's a family who we drive past every week when we pick up the children for Rainbow Smiles, who sit outside their house playing dominoes!- mum, dad, aunties, uncles, children, grandparents, and friends. The townships are vibrant, buzzing, close communities, and as with any other community, there lies within a minority of people who express their frustration through violence. The violence and crime is more prevalent and noticeable however because of SA's history :-(

Since then it has calmed down, and the Easter holidays have arrived. The children are off school, so we're trying to keep them entertained with easter activities and some outings. Yesterday they made bunny ears which they enjoyed, although the little ones weren't so keen on wearing them and one little tot accidentally sat on hers. Squashed bunny ears. This morning we took the children to an indoor play area which they loved. I put one of the baby boys in the ball pool and a minute later I could only see two round eyes peering back at me over the balls! Last week Grace and I also took the Rainbow smiles children to the country club, where we played some games and spent time together, which was fun. We're still bumbling along with the club as best we can, but the children really enjoyed last week and we're trying to make it fun for them.

There's now just six volunteers as Lance and Travis, the two Canadian guys who were here for a month, left on Monday. I'll really miss those guys as they felt like brothers- brothers in Christ, and brothers on an emotional level. Homesickness has also often hit me quite hard these last few weeks- sometimes I long for familiarity, and to be able to see my friends and family. I find myself thinking of English fields, little yorkshire pubs, sheep, and drystone walls! But I know I'm in danger of idealising home, and idealising the past. I'm learning to live in the present, let go of what has gone before, and to accept change as the place where God brings new life and growth. I know I'm very lucky to be able to have this experience and I want to be able to make the most of it.

Anyway, another long blog post. For now I'll say bye bye xxxx

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Madness and mayhem

Just to clarify, the title is not a description of the Village of Hope! It's more to give a flavour of the busyness and variety of the week. Last weekend the six of us 'youngsters' (as we are now called) went shark diving. The phrase wasn't one that inspired me with hope to be honest, and I was probably the most dubious about going. I think the correct phrase is 'shark-cage diving', which I wish was the original phrase I'd heard! It was an amazing experience. We had to be there at 8am (can't remember the name of the coastal place), and after a quick breakfast and introduction we boarded the boat and set out to sea. After anchoring about a mile out, we changed into wetsuits and eye masks, and then took it in turns to climb into a specially fitted cage half immersed in the water and attached to the boat, whilst the guides hung shark bait out the side. When they shouted 'Go!' we ducked under the water of the cage and watched the sharks swim past. It was really cool to see them up close, although I still can't say that I really like sharks, what with their massive teeth and the fact that they eat people. But when you're in a cage it's fascinating.

So after an interesting weekend, this week has been a busy one both in the unit and in the sports outreach project. The arrival of first one and then another baby boy added to the unit's numbers, and then towards the end of the week another two boys arrived, although because there isn't enough beds they sleep elsewhere and come to the Village during the day. So that brings the total number of children up to twelve. Adding to that, there's still twenty seven germans scuttling around, feverishly trying to finish the house they're building by next Friday, as well as eight volunteers, the house mums, the dutch sports students and the usual Village team.

On Saturday the Village organised a 'Sports Saturday' for all the children in the townships who regularly attend the sports sessions every afternoon. A lot of the volunteers were busy organising the day with the two sports students for the second half of the week, drawing up scoreboards for the teams who'd be playing, assigning roles, collecting resources and trying to ensure the day would run as smoothly as possible. Which it did! It was held at the country club, and the kids had a great day. There is a sense of tribalism which is tangible between the children of the different squatter camps, as people identify themselves closely with their own territory and there are divisons between the different places in the townships according to race and language. Saying that, I don't believe there was a hostile atmosphere, only healthy rivalry. The girls teams played a netball tournament, whilst the boys played football matches. The upside was that after a day of rain on Friday, it remained mostly dry on Saturday. The downside was that we all got a bit burnt, as none of us expected too much sun.

Another interesting event this week was a fundraising fancy hat tea party for Graceland pre-school, another of Thembalithsa's projects. It was held in a lovely hotel in a beautiful, lush valley, just up the road from the pre-school, and purely from an onlooker's perspective you could easily imagine it to be another priviledged hotel function of South Africa's wealthy, with everybody wearing summer dresses and ornate hats, drinking tea and eating fine food! However, it's cause was to raise money and awareness of Graceland's project, and the hotel had hosted the fundraising event for free! We didn't have a chance to buy any fancy hats, so we made our own fascinator thingies. I got a bit carried away with mine as in the excitement of ribbons and tissue paper and glitter I forgot that I would have to wear it the next day, lol!

Some of the thoughts that have been running through my mind recently are about the immensity of God. Almost daily I think of the verse 'I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.' Grabouw is surrounded by beautiful mountains, and when I feel heavy with the sight of people living in discomfort and dirt, and when instead of the stirrings of compassion my heart feels small, guilty and selfish, I look to the mountains and remember that God is mighty and it's His mighty heart that will change lives and instill hope, not my little one. He is so much bigger than we can ever imagine! I've come to one, relatively small part of South Africa where I'm seeing Him work in a totally new environment, but it's amazing to think that God is working in thousands, millions of communities, villages, towns, and valleys all around the world, and in the hearts of billions of people. And yet although the towering mountains raise my eyes up to the sheer size of God, at the same time Jesus points to the unbreakable intimacy which God has created between us and Himself. He came to earth and lived in dirt and dust like the poor of Grabouw, and in fellowship with other people...just like us.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

They've got the joy..

I've been quite busy as usual at The Village of Hope over the past week and a half. A week ago, Grace and I visited one of Thembalitsha's other project's called 'Bosom Buddies' in Somerset West. The project makes and provides goodie bags for new mothers who have just given birth. The bags contain items that we often take for granted but that for these mums are very useful and not so easily accessible: a baby gro and a little hat, nappies, baby wash etc. Volunteers go into the hospital and talk to the women who have given birth or are just about to give birth. New life is not always something that is celebrated in the local communities, and women often go into hospital alone, so part of what Bosom Buddies does is to affirm these women as new mothers, and to celebrate their baby's arrival into the world. There were some tiny tiny babies, so I was in my element. Didn't get to hold one though!

On Saturday, Grace and I ventured east over the moutains, and were confronted with a starkly contrasting landscape to what we've seen so far. The Elgin Valley, where Grabouw is situated, is very lush and fertile, with green forests and vineyards, framed by mountains. Over the other side of the mountains however, the land is pale, yellow and dry, with mile after mile of flat fields and the mountains crowned against the sky in the distance. It felt like we were in a different country. We visited what I can only describe as a cafe in the middle of an antique/food/homeware/vintage/clothes shop. It sold the most random assortment of practically everything: jam, cheese, spices, teddies, chandeliers, pots, pans, doorknobs, clothes, hats, shoes, wine, stationary, jewellery, tables, chairs, tins, woven baskets, you name it! It was amazing!

On Sunday, a group of us attended a little church in the township called The House of Prayer, on invitation from one of the Thembacare nurses. It was held in a room at the bottom of a house, and the six of us comprised about half of the congregation. The electricity was down, so the band couldn't use the keyboard, but I've never heard worship like it. The women sang with such power, rawness and intensity. They welcomed us and involved us in the service, asking us to give our testiomines about how we gave our lives to Jesus. The presence of the holy spirit was overwhelming in that place of worship. Materially these people have a lot less, but spiritually, they have the unspeakable, deep joy of knowing Jesus, and of being released into the abundance and fulness of life which He brings. They are poor in the worldly sense, but so wealthy in the Spirit! You rarely witness this in Western culture. It's not that they are simply happy- happiness is dependent upon circumstances, and their circumstances are often difficult. Instead, it's the fact that their hope is rooted in the unshakeable love and grace of God in Jesus Christ, and this instills a joy within each person which is unchanging, and which radiates from them :-)

This week I've helped the house mums implement the 1:1 development activities for the children, spent time with the children and have prepared with Grace for the Rainbow Smiles club on Friday. There are now nine volunteers, as the weekend brought the arrival of Katia, followed a few days later by Heather. We're all the same age, and all sharing one room. It's quite a squeeze! But so far it's working well. I forgot to mention that I borrowed Emily's fairylights a while ago, so our room is so pretty! My bunkbed is splurge of pinkness, although thankfully no one seems to mind.

Anyway, I could write more, but I'll save it for my next entry as I've got the school run soon. Love xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Time flies

Woopsie, I haven't written for a while! I feel like time is going very quickly. I can't believe that in a week or so I'll have been here for 2 months. Over the past week and a half I've been carrying on with my day to day duties- planning activities, working on a development chart for the children, spending time with the children and the house mums, picking up the children from school, helping plan Rainbow Smiles, and assisting running the Friday afternoon session. We had another birthday in the unit last week, as one of the little girls celebrated her fifth birthday, so I was also busy planning some party games for that :-) She ended up receiving two cakes, and two dolls! The German team bought her a cake as well as the one we had got for her, and they also sang her Happy Birthday- the german version. She stood there with big eyes and her mouth wide open.

Over the past couple of weeks some new volunteers have arrived- , Niall, a retired GP from England, and Lance, Travis and Andy from Canada. Andy is Tim's cousin and was only here for a week, but Travis and Andy are staying for a month. At the weekend me, Grace, Niall, Lance and Travis went to Cape Town and climbed Table Mountain. It felt like a giant had built the steps up to the top, they were so big and steep. Unfortunately for the guys we had to go 'Jesspace' as I wasn't feeling too good. But the view from the top was amazing. We also went to the beach and made sandcastles.

One memory that has come to my mind is when Grace and I stopped at a large cafe before we picked up the kids from school. We were hungry and we had food in the fridge at the unit, but we ended up guiltily sharing a cake outside in the patio area overlooking a lawn. Ten minutes later we drove into the township to pick up the kids. The contrast couldn't have been greater; the cafe was full of primarily white people enjoying lunch with glass of wine, whilst the township was hot and dusty and we were noticeably the only white people in sight. I don't want to oversimplify the situation: it's not that white, coloured and black people never mix or that there's absolutely no overlap between their worlds. But the wounds of the apartheid are still very raw, and it's evident that different worlds are still co-existing together with little interaction between the two. It's a bizarre feeling to move between them.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Beauty from ashes

I don't want my blog to simply be a big splurge of all my feelings and emotions (!) but I'd still like to be honest about my experiences here in Grabouw, and this week I've been experiencing a lot of turbulent emotions. When you're away from a familiar environment, and you're distanced from your support network of family friends, you can be painfully stripped down to the essentials of who you are, and what your purpose is. I have felt very vulnerable at times, a little bundle of insecurities and fears, and yesterday I was weighed down by the intensity of my inward struggles. I've found it frustrating, because I so want to concentrate on the need of the people here, and on pressing into God's dreams and purposes for The Village of Hope and Grabouw, but I've felt like I'm hindered by my own personal battles. However, I'm realising that there's no use berating myself about the way I feel. God uses the whole of each person, including the dark, frail broken parts, and he will turn ashes to beauty.

Anyway, this week has been as busy as ever. On Monday we held a birthday party for a little boy who has just turned 2. Big boy! All the adults ended up standing around aimlessly whilst the children pigged out on a birthday party feast. The funniest part was when they started doing happy little jiggly dances in their seats, whilst eating!

One of the little girls is still at hospital, as she needs to be sorted out with both her TB and HIV medication. Hopefully she'll be back home soon :-) All the house Mums are as funny and lively as ever. I'm loving getting to know them; I think they're incredible women, and having worked part-time in childcare, I have real admiration for them as they're on 12 hour shifts. They love to laugh! They even laugh at half 6 in the morning, although I just don't know how they have the energy to make any noise at all at that time. The house mums work shifts- 3 on a day shift, 2 on a night shift, and then they rotate, so in total there are 10 main house mums. Mel, a long-term volunteer, helps manage the staff for the children's unit, so she has her hands full.

There are currently twenty german students on site, building a new accomodation block, and every morning they drive up the track and arrive in convoy through the gate in their different coloured cars. It's like a travelling circus, except a bit more civilised. Having another building will mean there is more potential for the exisitng space i.e. extending the children's unit or making another office. They're working hard and it's interesting to see the framework of the building slowly rising from the ground.

Ok, that's about all I can think of for now. My love goes to everybody back home. I love you and miss you xx

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Change and a challenge

This week has been a busy one. Monday saw the arrival of a new volunteer called Grace, who'll be at the Village of Hope for 3 months. It's really lovely to have another girl my own age, as I've spent quite a bit of time in a house full of men! No offence to men ofcourse :-p She's settling in well and she's sharing the room I'm in, so I'm geting to know her :-) We've both helped out a couple of times in the sports work, and I really enjoyed Thursday's game of hockey with some kids who live on a nearby farm. I was on the winning team and have discovered that I actually quite like hockey, even if it does mean getting hit by long sticks. The children were well-behaved, and it's a blessing to be able to spend time with them and have fun together.

Today, the three German guys who have been living here departed to their new accomodation about ten minutes away, where they'll join the rest of their team. I'll miss them trundling around in their big man boots, eating their rather interesting and sloppy Weetabix/milk/fruit breakfast, and trying to imitate the Yorkshire way to say 'butter'!

This week I also found myself teetering uncomfortably on the brink of taking responsibility for the group run for HIV+ young teenagers, called Rainbow Smiles. There is no one to take full ownership of the programme, and although I'm not really a natural leader, I've decided to run it with Grace, and in the meantime try and work out a way to sustain the project in the long-term. I believe it's important to the children who go, and hopefully we can continue to make it enjoyable for them.

The weather here has been changeable- hot for several days, and then overcast and even rainy for another few days. At the moment it's fruit picking season, and along a nearby road leading to the centre of Grabouw there is a big apple factory. There are thousands of stacked wooden crates, giving off a delicious treacly apple smell. One of the most noticeable things about driving around Grabouw is that the concept of 'a road for cars' is not a particularly strong one. So far I've driven through a herd of cows, swerved to avoid dogs and chickens, and anxiously shooed children off the road who seemed to be just hanging out there (like you do!). On a more serious note, a little girl was knocked over on Friday by a taxi driver and there was an ambulance and a crowd of people in one of the townships. :-(

I'll write again soon. Love and hugs x

Monday, 6 February 2012


I'm trying to remember what I've done in the last's been a mix of different things. I started doing a behaviour chart with the older children- if they were good on the school run they got to choose a special sticker to put on the chart, and if they got three stickers they were allowed to go and choose some sweets on Friday! Problem is, we can't just keep giving them sweets all the time! I've fallen in love with the children, and although obviously they can be hard work, they are so special and they all have little individual personalities which are growing. One little boy who's about two years old is really coming out of himself. When I first arrived a month ago he was very quiet and withdrawn, but now he is smiling and making squealy sounds! In his little voice, he says slowly 'Bye byeeeee...see you neeeext time.'

God creates places of safety and sanctuary, physical places and spiritual places, and it's amazing to see how He is working out His purposes here. On Friday I helped run the Rainbow Smiles club for adolescents with HIV with Tim. It's hard to take over from someone else who was doing such a good job (!), but I'm looking forward to getting to know the children who come.

One things I'm learning is that although I may find it shocking and difficult to see people who have so little in terms of material wealth, the root of the need is not simply that they need a nicer house or more possessions. I don't mean to say that this wouldn't be a good thing, or to try and justify how it is that some of us live in luxury whilst others scrape by. But being poor leaves deeper marks- the lack of education, motivation, medical aid, and opportunity. I also remember reading this quote from Mother Teresa: 'The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.' When The Village of Hope is looking to place children into families, it aims to put them back into their own community, as do many other similar charities. This means that they're unlikely to gain material wealth, but this is not the heart of the matter. Instead, the aim is to place them with a family who loves them, and hopefully who provide for them by encouraging them in their education, understanding their medical needs, and spiritually supporting them.

I've now been here a month and it's gone so quickly! At a church small group meeting someone I didn't know was praying for me, and in their prayer they prophesised and said that I felt like I was riding a wild horse, but that God wanted me to stay on the horse, not get off. This is often how I've felt this first month- that I'm just about clinging on to the horse's mane,and at times I'd really like to dismount! When I've felt like this, what has kept me going is knowing that God has put me here. Although I know it's good to have confidence in your own abilities as well, I think the ultimate stronghold is having confidence in God's soverign ability to work in each and everyone of our lives.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


Hello :-) Ok, so I'm not exactly the most sporty person you'll ever meet!- but on Friday and again on Monday I joined Tim and one of the young mentors to play cricket at different townships. Despite my lack of sports skills, I actually quite enjoy going because it's a chance to meet the amazing children in the community. The Village has a partnership with a Dutch university, which involves several students coming over to SA to help implement a sports and educational programme. The next couple of students are due to arrive soon, so until they do Tim is just running an informal group which runs every afternoon.

There's always lots going on at the Village of Hope, with people busy carrying out their different roles and responsibilities. Tim and Maz do an amazing job at directing and managing the project, and they rely upon God to guide them and strengthen them in all they do. Today Maz took one of the little girls from the unit to hospital as she hasn't been very well and has been losing weight :-(

This morning I went out with the nurses from another Thembalitsha project, Thembacare, which involves going on foot into the townships and visiting out-patients with them. I didn't actually do anything, but it was good to go into the community. I also found it difficult. I don't know whether, after twenty one years of living my privileged life in England, I'm ever going to 'get used' to seeing the way people live here. In many ways it's a vibrant community, and not all the houses are impoverished- some people have TVs, music players, little gardens outside, or some tiling on their floor. However, there is such a mix of the different gradients of lifestyle within the townships that I feel as though I'm an alien who's just landed on earth- it's still overwhelming and surreal, and I can't seem to clock that it's reality, especially as I return to my comfortable bed and shower at the volunteer's unit. Some people are fine just as they are- this is their normality, and they are happy and appreciative of what they have. Yet I sometimes feel very guilty and helpless when see the very poor shack houses, especially when I just feel like I want to get far away from it. I'm comforted by the fact that our God is the same God, whereever you go, and that He will continue to change lives here in Grabouw.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The germans arrive...

This week saw the arrival of three german students who are constructing a new building for the Village of Hope for part of their university course in architecture. They'll be joined by the rest of their team (about 20 others) in several weeks, but obviously the whole team won't live here as there's not enough space! The three who have already arrived are living in the volunteers' house for now, and during the day they charge through, speaking rapid german, gesticulating and looking stressed (they are very busy). I tend to potter around looking bemused, catching the odd word like 'Tim' and 'township'. I've cooked for them tonight, to try and 'destress' them, although perhaps this isn't a good idea as I'm not exactly a master chef...(!)

This isn't related directly SA, but today I found out that Marguerita, an old lady from my home church, has died of cancer. I loved her and I know she is loved by many. She was and is an amazing lady, and she will be missed. She fought the good fight of faith, and she has finally gone home to Jesus. It's both heartbreaking and joyful at the same time. I mourn my friend, but I rejoice that she lives in God's new world, above and beyond what we can ever imagine.

So today I've been saddened, but I've also kept busy. I've prepared an activity for the children, helped Maz start to clear out a building that will be used as the german student's meeting/hang out place, gone shopping, picked up the kids from school, had lunch, played with the children, checked some office supplies, and made dinner for die Germans. Yesterday I went along to the sports project, which is held every afternoon in one of the townships. Me and Emily did some netball with the girls (I sort of hopped around and threw the ball occassionally), and the boys played football with Tim (project leader) and Tim B (another volunteer, here for 2 years!). The children are ragged and dusty with no shoes, but they're SO smiley. I made the mistake of sitting down at one point and got buried beneath a pile of children. Although I'm not sporty, I can see the difference that the sports project has in these children's lives- sport is a way of interacting with the kids, teaching them good skills, and letting know them that they are loved.

On Monday, I went with Mel to take one of the baby boys (he's one and a hlaf) to Tygerberg hospital for a check up on his ear, which he's been having problems with and had to be treated for. We had to wait for 4 hours! But he was really good, and spent most of the time playing with my notebook and pen, before finally conking out!

So that's my update for the time being. Lots of love to you all xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Loved ones, learning and life in the townships

You can tell I'm an English graduate because I couldn't resist using alliteration! Anyway, I've now been here nearly two weeks. I found the first half of this week particularly hard, because I started to feel very homesick, mostly in the morning for some reason. I really miss my lovely family and friends who I'm so close to and love so much, and I miss being with people I know and love, who know and love me. But the positive is that I know I'm really blessed by God to have special people in my life. Thankyou to everyone who has emailed or commented on my blog- your encouragement and support means such a lot to me.

Another challenge out here is one that I didn't expect. Being in an entirely different place away from all that is familiar can bring to the surface quite a lot of insecurities and fears (actually, loads)! At times I've struggled to believe in myself, or have doubted that I'll be any use to anyone, or have painfully compared myself to others and their abilities. But God, with all his love and gentleness and grace, is slowly showing me that for each person He has a specific dream, and that I have to trust that He has given me a completely unique path which only I can walk. It's hard to trust this when I feel lacking in qualities which I wish I possess, but I know that God is working in my heart to change the way I identify myself, so that I can love and trust Him more. As well as this, I know that ultimately it's not what we do, but what we allow God to do through us, that really matters in the end. And that belief is the heartbeat of the Village of Hope.

Yesterday I went along to a club called Rainbow Smiles which is partly run by the Village of Hope. It's a group run every Friday afternoon for children between the ages of 9-15 living with HIV. Another volunteer who's just left has done a fantastic job with it, producing an educational programme for the children and working with the local counselling centre to provide a place for them where they feel accepted and loved. I don't know whether I'll play a role in this, but it was a priviledge just to come along and spend time with children who are so brave and who keep smiling even though life can be so hard for them. Tim dropped about 10 children home on the way back from Rainbow Smiles, which meant driving for at least 45 minutes round the wiggly windy roads of the townships. I was staggered by the strangeness of it all to my own eyes, and the normality of it for the people who live there. It's almost beyond words to try and impress upon you the reality of it if you've never seen it. I'll try and take some more pictures!

Today a few other volunteers, myself and Tim and Maz went wine-tasting, as Western Cape is renowned for its vineyards. The first place we went overlooked a beautiful view, and it just once again impressed upon me the extremes of South Africa- there are two entirely different worlds sitting side by side.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


I've been in South Africa just over a week now, and the weather is hotting up! Yesterday there was a boiling breeze...which wasn't very welcome! At the weekend I went to a shopping mall about thirty minutes away with another volunteer, and then on Sunday we went to a church in Somerset West (about 40 mins drive) and then we went to the beach :-) It was boiling and I managed to get a very unusual sunburn, because I smothered myself in factor 50 suncream but missed a few places, so I now have pink splodges.

Anyway, the last few days I've been planning a weekly timetable for the children's unit, and speaking to the house mums to see how we can include some different activities into the children's day. I'm enjoying getting to know the house mums and working alongside them :-) Yesterday I went out with Tim and another volunteer to do some sports in the township. Except because it was so hot we didn't play any football ( which was good for me as I think a four year old boy could probably tackle me, such are my football skills). So we sat in the shade and waited for some kids to loiter over. It's hard to see people living in such cramped and poor conditions. To priviledged western eyes it's quite shocking, but at the same time, many people still take pride in their homes and work hard to maintain them and look after them. I even saw a pink shack the other day!! It's hard seeing people who have so much less than you, and to be completely frank, a bad part of me wants to close my eyes to it because it's difficult to see. But God calls us to open our eyes, and reach out to people, not turn our backs on them.

On a lighter note, we watched football in the pub after the beach, and passed two fish and chip shops on the way home, so some things don't change!!


Friday, 13 January 2012

Settling in

I've been at The Village of Hope five days now, and I'm starting to get to know everyone here. I haven't really been out and about that much since my visit with Tim to the township, so I'm hoping to explore in the car sometime soon. I drove the big jeep the other day, and was pretty amazed that I a) didn't crash and b) was able to work the massive gear box.
The project is made up of a team- at the head are Tim and Maz Walker, the project leaders, who oversee the whole project and also work with the other Thembalitsha projects. Then there's Mel, a long-term volunteer who helps manage the children's unit, and a family, Rob and Emily who help run the project, and their children Rosie and Isaac. And then there's two guys who help with maintenace, and other volunteers. So people have different roles- at the moment, I'm trying to find mine.
I've spent quite a lot of time with the children, helping with the house mums. I've already been called Mommmy Jess!! The children are fascinated by my butterfly tattoo, and LOVE playing with my hair. They are in the Village for all kinds of reasons- one little girl was severely neglected. It's hard to understand why , because she's SO gorgeous, but it's not my job to judge, just to help. Some are HIV positive, and others have had TB, suffered neglect and malnutrition. Despite this, they are happy and full of life at the Village.
Today I've been helping to introduce more structured play into the unit, which is something Maz wants me to do. This basically means thinking of new activities and seeing how these can be worked into the timetable and into the coming weeks. Also Mel has shown me how to do some admin that needs doing.

The oldest child, who is 11, is extremely poorly and although he only came back to the Village from hospital a few days he has had to go back :-( He has special needs and so he doesn't understand a lot of what is going on, so it's hard to see. Your prayers for him would be appreciated.

I've found this week hard, but I suppose that's to be expected. God has been my comfort and my strength through it all- my rock, my best friend, my daddy, my guide and my confidant, all rolled into one!

I'll write again soon

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Village of Hope

This is my first full day at the Village of Hope. I arrived yesterday, somewhat dishevelled, after being picked up from the airport by another volunteer. Tim and Maz, the project leaders, gave me a warm welcome, and then Emily, the volunteer co-ordinator, gave me a briefing and showed me around. The project is set on what used to be a farm, so it's quite rural. A white track takes you up to the gate at the front, and then you come to the volunteer's unit. Then adjoined to the volunteer's unit is the children's unit. They currently have ten children, eight of which I met today :-) Several of them ran up to me and hugged my knees! They are gorgeous and full of beans, and in some ways children are children, wherever they are! But in other ways these children are different, because their little lives have been so difficult.

This morning Tim took me around the town of Grabouw in the jeep, and we drove through the different townships. It's a mind-boggling mishmash of different races living side by side but living entirely segregated lives from each other. But I suppose out here it's normality, it just seems much stranger to me, coming from England.

There's three other volunteers at the moment, and then there's ten house mums, Rob and Emily and their children, and Tim and Maz. So far I'm finding it quite overwhelming- all the different sights and smells, new surroundings, the heat, the culture. And I'm also scared of doing something wrong, and that I won't be very useful :-s But I have to trust that God has put me here and so He must be able to work through me.

Anyway, I won't witter on any longer. I'll write again shortly! xxxxx

p.s seriously thinking about buying some fairylights (!) ...

Friday, 6 January 2012



So it's the day before I fly out to Cape Town, and I've been fiddling around with my suitcase trying to fit everything in! Aargh. I've never been very good at travelling light. I've had to give up on the idea of taking my fairy lights- very impractical and slightly ridiculous.
I'm feeling a mix of things- excited, apprehensive, vulnerable, a little bit grumpy (packing stress!)and underneath that, a strange sort of peace deep down, because I know that God has led me this far, and will continue to lead me onwards.
I'll write again once I've settled in :-)