Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Few Community Stories


We have now been with our team in the Kitwe Service Centre for 3 weeks. Our admiration continues to grow for them and the care workers in the various Community Base Organizations (CBOs) our Service Centre supports. These individuals serve with such joy in their hearts and demonstrate what it's like to live by faith, daily. While having so little themselves, they give so much back to their communities and are deeply invested in seeing the next generation of children and youth transformed. Relationships trump everything in Africa and this attitude is very prominent amongst the people we walk alongside.

The great thing about being a part of Hands is that there is always a strong focus on God and relationships. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, we meet with our team for one hour in the morning to fellowship in prayer, praise and worship, small group and/or sharing the Word. It can be easy to fall into a certain routine here, like any other job, and forget the real reason behind why we are here. We want to make God and the heart of Jesus the reason behind everything we do. These sessions allow us to quiet our hearts and focus our minds on what matters most. In contrast to our busy lives back home, where fellowship and spirituality often take a backseat to the hustle and bustle of life, it has been a refreshing change.

The Kitwe Service Centre is responsible for overseeing and supporting 9 CBOs in the Kitwe area, some as close as a 15 minute drive from our office, others as far away as a 1.5 hour drive. Of those 9 communities, we have visited 6 (2 of the CBOs are in the initial stages and have yet to be fully functioning). Each visit is unique, depending on the needs of the community or what special projects it may currently be undertaking. During the past few weeks, we have attempted to soak in every bit of knowledge about what our team does, what each community’s needs are, and what our role can/will be going forward.

Below are a few stories of what we have encountered over the last few weeks and how they have touched and challenged us.

Kamakonde's New School

One of the CBOs that we currently support is called Kamakonde Home Based Care. There are currently 50 orphaned and vulnerable children being cared for in Kamakonde, with the goal to increase to 100 children midway through next year. Being “cared for” means that each child is provided with the three essential services (basic food, health and education) and is visited in his/her home by a care worker at least once a week, among other things. (In a future post, we will describe “the wall” of a child and how it is used by Hands to train care workers to care for vulnerable children.)

Kamakonde runs a feeding program, 7 days a week, from its care point. In addition to the feeing program, those children who would otherwise be unable to attend school, usually due to the inability to afford uniforms or school fees, are given the opportunity to attend the CBO-operated school and to be educated by a local community teacher. At the moment, classes are being run in an extremely small hut, barely large enough to fit 10 students.

The current school in Kamakonde
Students huddled up in the small classroom
The lack of covered space has been a real challenge for Kamakonde, which has resulted in the teachers operating their classes and children being fed under a large tree that stands in the middle of the CBO's property. While the tree provides great cover from the sun in the summer, it is completely inadequate to shelter the children and the care workers during the rainy season here in Zambia (which usually starts now and lasts until March or April). Thankfully, this year, Kamakonde's donor, a foundation located in Germany called Peppercorn, has provided additional funding for the CBO to build a new structure that will be used as a school and, when necessary, a feeding point. Although not yet complete, some of the male care workers, as well as some hired help, are busy constructing the school so that it can be completed before the rainy season starts. Please pray that the school will be completed in time before the rains begin to pour!

Kids gathering under the tree to learn from Auntie Towela
The new school that's currently under construction
Byron putting his handy man skills to work!
Home Visit in Kamakonde

While visiting Kamakonde one day to check up on the progress of the school construction, we had the opportunity to do a home visit. The young lady we visited (whom will we name “E”) is a 16 year-old girl, living with only her grandmother and grandfather. Both of her parents passed away early in her life. The care workers have known E for a while and remember her being a beautiful and popular girl, full of energy. Today, E is bed ridden and suffering from HIV. Because her grandparents are unable to consistently provide food for the family, the antiretrovirals that E is taking are rendered ineffective and have actually caused her some mental distress. When we visited E in her home, she seemed barely lucid, could only speak a few words to us, and would just shrug her shoulders whenever Towela, the Service Centre Coordinator, tried to convince her to go to the clinic. We sat with E for a long time, not knowing what to say or how to even encourage her and her family. All we could do was sit and watch Towela hold E's hand, speak gentle words of encouragement to her and try to convince her to go seek medical attention. We prayed for E and, as we left her home, remember feeling very somber, not knowing how we (or anybody else) could really do anything to help this girl. She appeared so defeated, so ready to give up on life.

Zimba

In another one of our communities, Zimba, we visited the home of an old man that lived on his own. He was very sick and had been abandoned by his family. The care workers explained that, when they first found the man, he was extremely malnourished and likely wouldn’t have survived much longer had they not intervened. From that day on, the care workers decided to set aside food from the feeding point every day and visit the home of this man to check on him and to feed him. As we spoke with him, we could see how frail and weak he was, not even having enough strength to move on his own. After a short time of visiting, the group of care workers that we were with got up and got to work. They pulled his clothes down from the lines, washed his dishes and brought the man a new change of clothes. The male care workers and Byron then lifted up the man and placed him on a mat underneath the shade, to protect him from the heat, and helped him get dressed. The care workers subsequently led us inside of his house to show us the poor conditions he was living in. Above the room where he slept was a gaping hole in the grass roof. Apparently, it had rained the night before and the man lay there throughout the entire night, with rain and dirt dripping on him, simply because he could not move himself. This broke our hearts. The care workers resolved that something had to be done. We each contributed a small amount to purchase some new plastic to repair the grass roof and then a group of us set off to purchase the materials from a nearby town. Meanwhile, some of the care workers stayed behind to finish up the house chores that needed to be attended to. Witnessing the care workers care for this man warmed our hearts immensely. They receive little to no compensation for what they do. There is no tangible benefit for them to be spending their time in this way. But here was a group of people that recognized the command to love their neighbor as they would themselves, deeply caring for this man, when his family had abandoned him, and doing it with such joy in their hearts. What an incredibly powerful scene to witness.

The outside of the home
The area where the old man slept. Notice the big hole in his roof

The stories of E and the old man have remained in our hearts since we visited them. While still struggling with feeling utter helplessness on our part and hopelessness for their situations, we have come away strongly encouraged by the work that God is doing and how He is using the care workers to effectively care for individuals like E and the old man. We are coming to the understanding that not every individual we care for will result in a radically transformed life. Not every story we encounter will have a happy ending. As you read these stories, they may be easy to dismiss, simply because a positive, life-changing result may never be achieved. Please do not miss the significance of what is happening. God did not call us to care for the dying, the orphaned and the widowed because, in doing so, we would ultimately change their reality (although this can and does happen!). He called us to do so because every human being deserves to be known, to be loved and to have dignity. Every individual deserves to receive the message of hope and to know that they matter. In situations where there appears to be no hope, it can be difficult to remain encouraged. But it is prideful and arrogant to think that we, alone, can change people’s future. In times like these, we must remind ourselves that we are merely a link in the chain of these people’s stories and that, ultimately, all we can do is do our part and then leave the rest to God.

(We are happy to report that E has been going to the clinic since our visit and that the old man now has a newly-repaired functioning roof over his head!)

More Photos from the Community

Little ones intrigued by the Musungus (white people) in Racecourse!
The feeding point in Racecourse
Playing games with the little ones in Amulo
Byron's new friend in Zimba (she wouldn't leave his side!)

Diane and her entourage in Mulenga



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