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!