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.


  1. Crikey! Jess you are such an amazing inspiration to me! The fact that you can even be out there and be interacting with these kids in such conditions fills me with hope for change in teh world. It's people like you, doing exactly what you're doing that is slowly changing the world for the better. I know you feel totally helpless, as I imagine many would in your situation, but I am praying for you and for all teh people you are with. Your words as I read them fill my heart with compassion and such pride that you are spending your time with them, praying for them and loving them so dearly. The love that you show each of those people, and your prayer and faith in God's goodness will change their lives more than anything. Your honesty and compassion overwhelm me! I'm always praying for you,a dn I think you are totaly fantastic
    Lizzie xx

  2. It is a unfair world Jess but at least you are doing something about it which is more than admirable. Lots of love, Uncle Mark xxxx