Saturday, September 18, 2010

P2P Gauteng Team - Tired but warm hearts

Thursday 16 September 2010

At 9.30, after our morning meditation at Aphiwe Commuity Centre, 27 enthusiastic African ladies came in to participate in the crèche course.  There are many crèches being run within the township to care for babies-6 year olds, as many mothers have to work to support and feed extended families that live with them.  The crèche leaders have little or no money and in most cases, no experience whatsoever.    The crèches are often just a squalid room or tiny house and are generally run by women who eke out a living caring for other people's children.  Their idea of looking after children is to get them to sit for hours on end in a colourless room, totally without stimulation. .  The 6 week crèche course run at Aphiwe by Christadelphians aims to teach crèche leaders all the basic skills to run an educational facility.  These skills obviously flow on to the children and prepare them for school.

Leona Scheepers opened the class with prayer and after some wonderful Africa singing got 3 creche leaders to give their weekly course outlines.  It was obvious that whilst this was a newly acquired skill for many of them, that they understood the need for structure to the day and week with educational outcomes. 

Following this Sue Russell spent a very fun 40 minutes teaching the group action songs such as "follow the leader" and "what's the time Mr Lion".  There was much hilarity but once again it became obvious this was a most useful resource for them all.

A 40 minute craft session came next where we showed them how to make one educational craft – a clock with movable hands and a fun craft activity – a coloured bee made from strips of paper.  Sam, aged 13 ran bee making activity, her first intro to teaching a class!  A photo shoot of the finished products and big wide African smiles followed.

Following lunch we accompanied Leona in the distribution of food parcels comprising items such as maize, rice, soup, sugar, salt and various tinned items.  Families required assistance with food had been identified and listed by a  trained African volunteer social worker named Elizabeth.  14 parcels of food were given to needy mothers with children and the gogos (the very elderly grandmothers who often look after babies and support entire families).  These were waiting patiently in the shade of a thatched shelter by a fuel station.  The looks of gratitude were humbling and many of them shouted and waved to us as we left to distribute the last 8 bags to individual houses.  We were soon to realise the extent of the need for food is overwhelming.  One house we visited had 5 adults, 3 babies under the age of 1 and 1 18 year old physically and intellectually handicapped girl living in it.  The size of the house they lived in was no bigger than the size of westerner's large lounge room and there was no electricity.  Two of the babies slept in a tiny cardboard box, really only big enough for 1 baby and the smell of urine pervaded the room the 18 year old girls was in.  There are no facilities for disabled children, no wheelchairs, no prams and even if there were, they could not afford it.  However the spirit of these people are both brave and amazing in their resilience, optimism and thankfulness.  As we said to many of them, thank God, not us.

One gogo resigned herself to the fact "she was going to be shot" when we wanted to take a photograph of her receiving her food parcel but then gave us a big, toothy grin, pleased at her joke.

The whole distribution of food parcels was supposed to take about ½ hour but, as the saying goes in South Africa, "expect the unexpected" and 3 hours later we finished. We were tired but the warmth of these wonderful people is reward in itself.  Many of these people gain an awareness of the Aphiwe Centre and subsequently, once their basic needs have been met, start to attend regular bible instruction classes or send their children to the Sunday school classes held there.  May the God of heaven richly bless the ongoing work being done at Aphiwe.

- Sister Julie Maycock

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