WF Report – December-January, 2011
I’m back in the UK now and whilst I’m gazing outside at the frosty vista and snow-laden trees, my thoughts are drawn back to the last couple of months in South Africa. Although life (and the climate!) has changed dramatically for me, both continue much the same for those I’ve left behind in hot and humid Durban.
“Touch and Teach” at Clermont
Five months down the line since the opening of the Clermont Good News Centre and activity continues at this fledgling ecclesia. During the September P2P outreach there was a surge of activity, which resulted in the grounds around the building being re-levelled by a passing JCB and the appearance of the building being improved by new steps and wall murals. It seems that the longer we spend there, the better we get to know the local community and the more accepted we become. It’s a great example of the “touch and teach” model. By getting to know individuals in the community and helping them with day-to-day living they want to discuss the Truth with us as a result of our practical demonstrations of the love of God.
There are two weekly activities that I have regularly been involved in at Clermont – after school club and gogo’s coffee mornings. After school club continues to be a success and is a highlight of the week for the local kids who look forward to it. I think the highlight of the term was the movie day. We pinned up a sheet on the wall and borrowed a projector and speakers so it was just like a real cinema. We even handed out popcorn! It was a cold and wet day and by the end of the session we had around 50 kids all crammed into the room enjoying “Wallace and Gromit”.
A few months ago the decision was made to move the gogo’s coffee morning to the street, instead of hiding in the back room where no-one can see us. This was a good move as we can now interact with passers by, who often stop for a coffee or just a quick chat. People are often surprised to hear that there’s a church there, so it just goes to show how a “street presence” helps to make us known, rather than just sitting in the ecclesial hall and waiting for people to come to us. It’s also great for the kids who love to play in the bakkie while we chat to the gogos!
Afrikhono has been rekindled in the last few months. As I mentioned in my last report I’ve been working on it in the background for several months, but recently it really kicked off. Along with the jewellery I’d been developing, two of the other volunteers had developed a new range of greetings cards and t-shirt screen printing. After several meetings to discuss how to move forward with Afrikhono we decided to run a workshop at Mariannhill once a week for four weeks. As well as teaching them the skills involved in making the products, the idea was to teach them business skills e.g. sourcing materials, products sales, so they would be totally independent and able to generate their own income. The course was a great success and attended by around 20 students who enjoyed learning new craft skills, often with background music to help get the creative juices flowing and a midday pit-stop for homemade soup and bread!
However, we found that the most difficult part of the course was in finding outlets to sell their products as well as the lack of motivation of the students and belief in their own abilities. We were hoping that cash in their hands would generate some motivation, but although we contacted every craft market in Durban and the surrounding area it seemed that none of them were interested in new producers or they were full for months to come. We ended up having a stall at the local mall in Westville and although it wasn’t that successful, the sales were boosted by generous Christadelphians, so the students had a taste of earning money for their work. Now they have the experience and skills necessary, we’ve suggested they book a stall at the Shongweni market early in 2011, where we’re sure they’ll have more success.
Holding the fort
As volunteer numbers have decreased in Durban over the last month or two, it’s been increasingly apparent that those who are left are required to continue the weekly duties of those who have left for home. It’s surprising how many weekly Bible classes, Sunday schools, youth classes and community activities have been established, so we’ve all had to take a turn at running these activities to “hold the fort” until more volunteers arrive next year, God willing. For me, it’s been great for broadening my experience and gaining confidence in some activities that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen to be involved in.
Self-sufficiency at Candu
Although I had hoped to return to Candu to set up a small aquaponics (fish and vegetable culture) system for the community, a hectic schedule in Durban prevented us from implementing the project, which was left on the backburner. As well as the aquaponics system we realised that the Candu Good News Centre would be ideal for a full environmental sustainability project, which would be attractive to charity funders. With the help of a renewable energy company in Cape Town we set about writing a detailed project description, including plans for self sufficiency in energy (solar panels on the roof) and food (aquaponics and vegetable garden). Now the initial groundwork has been completed, including project proposal and costings, it is hoped that the project can be implemented by other volunteers, once funding has been sourced, God willing.
The swing saga
I thought I’d end with a project that has been as much a benefit to me as it has to those it was aimed at. We’d started construction of a disabled swing at Happy’s school back in September and hoped to have it finished long ago. However, God was giving us a lesson in perseverance as every time we attempted to work on the swing it was hampered by changes of plan, delays, rain and wind. We persevered and by the end of November we’d completed the wooden frame. We then had just two weeks left to construct a special chair suitable for disabled kids. Although time was short and several times our path was blocked by seemingly insurmountable obstacles (e.g. welder not working, access to Happy’s school out of term time), it was a wonderful, faith building experience to find that every time I prayed about a particular problem, God solved it for us. Eventually we fitted the chair to the frame two days before I left South Africa, leaving a nice surprise for the students when they return from holidays, but leaving me even more certain that God guides my path and is always willing to help when asked in accordance with His will.