Giving a bit of HOPE…

In September 2015 my husband, Michael, and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain covering a distance of 800km in 32 days. We passed through enclaves, villages, towns and a few cities. There we saw poor people, but they are people who live with HOPE. Most are Catholic and close to God and the church. Village life centres around the church. They have HOPE because they have fertile land and can grow food, farm cattle, chicken, sheep. etc. Most have access to clean water and even though many homes are what we deem to be ‘undesirable’, they live indoors and are protected from the elements as best they can be, through summer and bitter winters.
I have just returned from a short 6 day outreach mission trip to Khekhenye, Botswana to the Basarwa people. They are a marginalized people because of their mixed blood, but thankfully the Botswana government is trying to integrate them and recognize them once again.
They live in semi-dessert, sandy waste lands. They are suffering from the effects of devastating drought which is affecting Southern Africa. They are very, very poor. It came as a great shock to see the extent of the suffering in this ‘village’. This settlement is huge and there are many families headed by the elderly. Others are children bearing babies, so very young, inexperienced parents trying to make a living. Many live in stick homes as we in Southern Africa know the San people to live in. Others have made mud bricks and built houses with grass roofs. With the drought the roofs cannot be repaired as grass is not growing properly. With the drought there is such a shortage of bricks, but they cannot make more bricks to build houses. Some days the authorities put off water supplies altogether. We experienced this ourselves during our short stay in the village.
The Basarwa are attempting to grow sorghum, maize (corn) & makataan watermelons. They eat beans (as in red kidney beans or something similar, I think) as well. They drink the milk from their goats which manage to survive somehow. Sadly, they make a lethal alcohol which is wreaking havoc in some families and for many young people.
What a bleak picture! Could we HOPE to give these folk HOPE?
We travelled to the area with Word to Africa missionary, Kevin, and five interpreters, as well as the 81 year old pastor, Brother Senase, who the community know and trust. Kevin took along many sacks filled with a rice based meal which we could hand out while doing our daily house-to-house visits, one aspect of our mission. This gave us a chance to meet and greet and to build relationships with individuals and families. This encouraged them to come to other events at our camp site on the Word to Africa church property. Back at camp women were taught to make a big, reversible blanket out of fleece. It is knotted cleverly along the edges and does not need sewing. They loved this and 27 blankets were made and handed out.
Others were taught to use the donations of towels, curtains and linen to make garments for themselves and their children. They appreciated this as nights are bitterly cold. We also managed to make sling bags which they loved and proudly hung around their necks or shoulders!
Other activities were important meetings with the Church leaders to hear their needs. Games with the children, daily football games and teachings about story telling using a ministry tool called “17 Stories” took place. The level of education amongst the elders is very low so we identified that in future the program will be more successful if used with the children. The emphasis will be on them in future as they learn English in school.
At night movies were screened, some animation aimed at the children and other full length pictures for adults. I managed to do basic first aid for a few people and saw a great need to, in future, teach women basics along the lines of health, hygiene, basic first aid and nutrition. I am collecting bandages, plasters, etc. to supplement the first aid supplies I will again take along.
We left food donations and clothing which the Church will hand out and sell to generate some funds for a water bill that they have.
I am already gathering more supplies and donations for sewing activities. I’d like to make up a kit to hand out to women and girls which contain a basic sewing kit plus two/three garments to complete.
I am also collecting pot, pans, crockery, tins with lids, plastic containers with lids to enable food to be kept covered and away from insects. Flies are on everything without a lid. Buckets, water containers and bottles are necessary too. They cook in old jam tins at this stage.
My experience showed me that we can give these people love, recognition, advice, skills, etc. to help them to help themselves. We can show them the love of God through this interaction with them. We can teach them that they are worthy to be loved by us and by God.
I was so humbled and blessed to have this opportunity. Meeting a blind, old man who could no longer walk, who crawled out of his hut into the warm winter sun every day became an honour. Oratile, Tshego and I felt we would like to bless him with a wash. Armed with warm water in flasks we planned to wash his dirt caked hands and feet. He was so overjoyed he wanted his arms, legs and upper body washed too. We cut his nails, cleaned them and used body lotion to rub into his wrinkled skin. He giggled as we gently cared for him, saying he was so happy. We then did the same for his older sister who takes care of him. We visited them five times and were so touched, even having the opportunity to meet inquisitive members of their family. I took a picture of the 4 generations and talked to them about caring for each other.
A young girl asked to talk to me about the boredom of their lives which leads to abuse, sexual harassment, alcohol addictions and dagga smoking problems. She spoke of unhappiness and despair. She spoke of guilt, saying she hated what she was involved in. Another young woman admitted to a burden which I told her I felt she carried. She has the full responsibility of taking care of a whole family as her mother and many other relatives have died. Her daily burdens include facing a family going hungry, coping with circumstances, very little work and income available in the area, etc.
Sadly we only scratched the surface, but each group that go to Khekhenye and other similar settlements, do make a difference. This is the only way I can be part of giving these people some HOPE.
Can you help in giving a bit of HOPE in any way??
Hilary Appelgryn

If and when this Testimony has spoken into your heart, please go to the Commitment page.

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