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 :-)