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 week...it'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.